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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
October 2, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
DEN at JAC* PHI at KCC* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
HOU at CIN SEA at WAS DAL at OAK PIT, CHI *Updated

Prediction: San Diego 21, New England 24

The Chargers finally come off a win this week but have to travel to the defending world champions in New England. The Patriots go into this week with even less players than before thanks to yet again a spate of injuries that is decimating their defense, including the critical loss of Rodney Harrison and starting LT Matt Light. But the game is being played at Gillette Stadium where visitors have yet to combat the magic since December of 2002. If the Patriots were to lose a home game, it would be this one. The emotional toll of losing players combined with coming off a major win in Pittsburgh sets the stage for an upset.

Update: Kevin Faulk is now out for at least a month or more with an undisclosed leg injury. Fullback Patrick Pass is expected to pick up the slack for Faulk this week.

San Diego Chargers (1-2)
1 24-28 DAL 10 Open Bye
2 17-20 @DEN 11 Nov 20 BUF
3 45-23 NYG 12 Nov 27 @WAS
4 Oct 2 @NE 13 Dec 4 OAK
5 Oct 10 PIT 14 Dec 11 MIA
6 Oct 16 @OAK 15 Dec 18 @IND
7 Oct 23 @PHI 16 Dec 24 @KCC
8 Oct 30 KCC 17 Dec 31 DEN
9 Nov 6 @NYJ . MON SAT
SDC at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 0 0 220,2
RB L. Tomlinson 90,1 20 0
TE Antonio Gates 0 80,1 0
WR Keenan McCardell 0 70,1 0
WR Eric Parker 0 20 0
WR Reche Caldwell 0 20 0
PK Nate Kaeding 0 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: San Diego finally notched a win this season and good thing too - the schedule just gets worse from here on out. Playing @NE, PIT, @OAK and then @PHI will prove a bigger challenge than what just produced a 1-2 record. The team is all healthy and the offense is sparking well but the next month will prove whether the Chargers are legitimate or just a one year wonder from 2004. So far - the jury is still out on "legit".

Quarterback: Drew Brees was flawless last week, completing 19 of 22 passes for 191 yards and two scores. He still has yet to top 210 yards in a game but with Tomlinson rolling unchecked, the need has not been as great until later in games when twice San Diego was unable to pull out a win. For the want of maybe two plays, Brees could be 3-0 right now.

Running Backs: While LaDainian Tomlinson had scored three touchdowns in the first two games, he had not rushed for more than 72 and had not caught a single pass. His averages are all safe once again after turning in 192 yards against the Giants with six catches for 28 yards. And three touchdowns rushing. And one touchdown passing. When Tomlinson has a big game, Brees is sure to enjoy an efficient, though not too productive game. But the bottom line here is that regardless of the outcome, Tomlinson must score.

Wide Receivers: Last week Keenan McCardell ended with four catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns and that gives him a total of 257 yards and four scores on the year. McCardell has three of the four passing scores thrown by Brees this year and evidently is the preferred target for Tomlinson as well. What McCardell does not have is a counterpart that can concern defenses. Eric Parker started the season with a nice 75 yard effort but hasn't had more than 30 yards in a game since that week. Reche Caldwell has only one catch on the year. Facing an intimidating stretch of their schedule, Parker and even Caldwell must get more involved.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates revisited his 2004 season when he caught six passes for 92 yards and one touchdown last week. So far in two games - 12 catches, 170 yards and one score. There has been no drop off.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriot rush defense has been very good this year and no runner has topped 77 yards. Even WIllie Parker only managed 55 yards last week but the Patriots have not yet met a back the quality of Tomlinson since losing MLB Tedy Bruschi during the offseason. Expect the Chargers to run Tomlinson just as heavy as ever and while he'll likely end up just south of 100 yards, he's the best lock for a score in the league.

Brees will have to throw the ball to find success in the game and the Patriot secondary is once again ravaged by injury. But as always, they play bigger as a unit than the sum of their parts so expect that the only two notable receivers for the Chargers - McCardell and Gates - have moderate games here with Gates the more likely for better numbers as the Patriots commit to stop Tomlinson and leave the shorter underneath more open.

New England Patriots (2-1)
1 30-20 OAK 11 Nov 13 @MIA
2 17-27 @CAR 12 Nov 20 NOR
3 23-20 @PIT 13 Nov 27 @KCC
4 Oct 2 SDC 14 Dec 4 NYJ
5 Oct 9 @ATL 15 Dec 11 @BUF
6 Oct 16 @DEN 16 Dec 17 TBB
7 Open Bye 17 Dec 26 @NYJ
8 Oct 30 BUF 7 Jan 1 MIA
NEP vs SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 310,3
RB Corey Dillon 50 10 0
RB Patrick Pass 10 30 0
TE Ben Watson 0 10 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 10 0
WR David Givens 0 90,1 0
WR Deion Branch 0 70,1 0
WR Troy Brown 0 80,1 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: It was a big win, again, in Pittsburgh but it came with a big cost. Losing LT Light won't help a rushing game that was already diminished from last season and Rodney Harrison was the leader of the defense. Time to draw together and play like a team - Patriot style.

Quarterback: Tom Brady comes off his biggest game of the year, throwing for 372 yards against the Steelers though he ended with no touchdown and one interception. Brady was at his best late in the game and like a champion, he turned into a machine at the end of the Steeler matchup, throwing the ball with incredible accuracy and never having an incompletion on the winning drive. With the rushing game stagnant outside the opponent's ten yard line, Brady continues to be the link pin that holds this offense together.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon has scored four times this season and twice in two of the games but he's hardly been effective when he is not near the goal line. After three weeks, Dillon has yet to rush for over 63 yards and he is averaging only 2.7 yards per carry. Kevin Faulk has been unable to pick up any slack in the running game though he did have a critical seven catches for 71 yards last week.

Wide Receivers: Last week David Givens was the star by catching nine passes for 130 yards but he only had seven catches for 81 yards total in the previous two games. Deion Branch chugs along with around 70 or 80 yards every week and Troy Brown offers solid numbers from the slot as well. Givens has the only 100 yard game so far but all three receivers are turning in at least moderate numbers every week and alternating which one has the biggest game.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson opened the season with a big 55 yard game (thanks to one catch) but otherwise these tight ends have been good for only one catch per game and no real yardage.

Match Against the Defense: The Chargers rush defense has been stellar this season and matched against a lethargic attack by the Patriots who are without their starting left tackle, expect more low numbers from Dillon who will need to score in order to produce any fantasy points. He has a good chance to hit one run but two would be a surprise given the defense.

Brady can and will light up this secondary and he'll likely need to at some point. The Chargers have allowed big games to Bledsoe and even Eli Manning and virtually all those yards and scores have gone to the wideouts. Brady should hit at least two scores and likely three against this defense with any of the top three capable of scoring - if not all three. The Chargers weakness is on the right side which favors Givens again but they've also been burned by the slot a few times this year as well.