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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 23, 2005
Season Ticket
Thanksgiving Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
DEN at DAL CHI at TB* SF at TEN* MIA at OAK Mon 9 PM
Sun 1 PM CLE at MIN STL at HOU GB at PHI* PIT at IND
BAL at CIN NE at KC   NYG at SEA Times ET

Prediction: San Diego 20, Washington 17

This is a playoff game. The losing team will see their chances to advance to the playoffs severely harmed and an uphill battle for even a wildcard. Even winning here doesn't promise that either team will make the wildcard round but every game is important from here on out for both teams. The Skins lost to the visiting Raiders last week and the Chargers have already drummed the Raiders this season in Oakland.

Update: James Thrash has been removed from the projections. He has a hamstring injury and already has been ruled out for Sunday. Antonio Gates practiced on Thursday though he continues to be listed as questionable. Gates will likely be a game time decsion but I am including him back into the projections assuming he will play but be limited due to his foot injury.

San Diego Chargers (6-4)
1 24-28 DAL 10 Open Bye
2 17-20 @DEN 11 48-10 BUF
3 45-23 NYG 12 Nov 27 @WAS
4 41-17 @NE 13 Dec 4 OAK
5 22-24 PIT 14 Dec 11 MIA
6 27-14 @OAK 15 Dec 18 @IND
7 17-20 @PHI 16 Dec 24 @KCC
8 28-20 KCC 17 Dec 31 DEN
9 31-26 @NYJ . MON SAT
SDC at WAS Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 0 0 240,1
RB L. Tomlinson 80,1 20 0
TE Justin Peelle 0 10 0
TE Antonio Gates 0 40 0
WR Keenan McCardell 0 90,1 0
WR Eric Parker 0 60 0
WR Reche Caldwell 0 30 0
PK Nate Kaeding 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Chargers are only 3-2 on the road this season but that includes a three point loss in Denver and another three point loss in Philadelphia in a game they had seemingly won. The potential loss of Antonio Gates will have a definite effect but last week against the Bills, this offense was nothing short of spectacular - even without Gates.

Quarterback: Drew Brees comes off a career best game when he passed for 339 yards and four touchdowns against the Bills. He only had five incompletions on 33 passes. He threw scoring passes to four different players. Brees has passed for at least one score in each of the last eight games and has remained above 270 passing yards in each of the last four match-ups. Brees only passed for 209 yards and two scores in week one against the Cowboys - his only game without Gates.

Running Backs: LaDainian Tomlinson had a fairly unproductive game against the Bills but mainly because Buffalo committed everything to stopping him and allowed Brees to pass freely the entire game. Tomlinson only had 67 yards on 19 carries but scored once and had 22 yards receiving. Tomlinson will need to play a bigger role this week with Gates likely out.

Wide Receivers: Brees big game last week benefited the wideouts who had their best game of the year as a unit. Keenan McCardell had 88 yards and one touchdown as did Eric Parker who scored during his four catches for 69 yards. That was Parkers first game since week eight and he's had a touchdown in each of the last two games. Reche Caldwell rarely makes the slot worth more than 40 yards a week.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates had five catches for 77 yards and one touchdown against the Bills and that makes seven scores on the year. But Gates pulled up lame with a foot injury that continues to be examined. He has no broken bones but there is some speculation that he could have injured the arch which would be a lingering problem. He is considered day-to-day for now but I am assuming he is held out this week at the least.

Justin Peelle is Gates backup and assumedly he would take the start this week though Gates did not play in week 17 last year when the rookie Ryan Krause had 81 yards and a touchdown relieving Gates. It will be interesting to see if the Chargers once again opt to try Krause since he was so successful against the Chiefs last year.

Match Against the Defense: The Redskins have been inconsistent with rushing defense this season, holding the Chiefs to only 71 yards and yet sandwiching that between games of 127 yards and 206 yards allowed to other runners. Even Jordan only managed 52 yards on 27 carries in Washington last week. How that most likely plays out this week is a commitment to stop Tomlinson, especially with Gates out. Look for Tomlinson to turn in sub-par yardage but likely he will score at least once as have nine previous runners against the Skins.

The pass defense had been top notch for most of the year but lately has worsened with Simms throwing for 279 yards and three scores and even Collins managed to toss 289 yards last week. Brees will have to win this game and he should find some success. Look for McCardell to get the better match-up that has produced the most yards and scores by opponents. The Redskins have been outstanding against tight ends this year with only one score allowed and never more than 35 yards and that includes Shockey, Gonzalez, Witten and L.J. Smith. Almost all the passing yardage has to go to the wideouts here.

Washington Redskins (5-5)
1 9-7 CHI 10 35-36 @TBB
2 14-13 @DAL 11 13-16 OAK
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 27 SDC
4 20-17 SEA 13 Dec 4 @STL
5 19-21 @DEN 14 Dec 11 @ARI
6 21-28 @KCC 15 Dec 18 DAL
7 52-17 SFO 16 Dec 24 NYG
8 0-36 @NYG 17 Jan 1 @PHI
9 17-10 PHI . MON SAT
WAS vs SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Mark Brunell 0 0 220,2
RB Clinton Portis 80,1 10 0
TE Chris Cooley 0 80,1 0
WR Santana Moss 0 70 0
WR Taylor Jacobs 0 30 0
WR James Thrash 0 20 0
PK Nick Novak 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Redskins started the season hot but have lost five of their last seven games with the only wins coming against the visiting 49ers and Eagles. The main culprit here is Brunell who began the year throwing for big yardage and scores in every game but now has played three of the last four match-ups without a single touchdown. Without a passing game of any note, the Skins are relying on Portis to carry the team and he's just not nearly dominating enough to manage the feat.

Quarterback: Mark Brunell had a string of five games with multiple scores but has only managed to throw touchdowns in one of the last four games. He also has not been able to top over 226 yards for the last month. Basically, what has happened is that opposing defense schemes to take Santana Moss out of the passing game and there's no one left besides the tight end Cooley.

Running Backs: Clinton Portis had 92 yards on 22 carries last week though he lost two fumbles. Portis has only scored in three games this year and he remains good for around 80 or 90 yards in most games. Solid enough when the passing game works but not enough to win games when Brunell struggles.

Wide Receivers: Opponents know that Santana Moss is the main threat and his specialty with catching the long pass was what lifted the Redskins offense to several wins earlier this season. But Moss has not scored in the last four games and has been held to 79 yards or less with obvious effects to the offense. Moss needs the room to run and if he gets man coverage, he has already shown he can score with the best of them. Problem is - no team will let him run without an escort any more.

David Patten is now on injured reserve and Taylor Jacobs has stepped up as the replacement. Jacobs had 11 passes last week but only managed to catch three for 17 yards. The passes either go to Moss or to Cooley - no one else yet has mattered.

Tight Ends: This dry spell for the passing game lately has been a good thing for Chris Cooley. He has managed at least five catches and 66 yards in each of the last three games.

Match Against the Defense: The Chargers are very good against the run and that will cause problems for Portis who usually only excels against soft teams and then struggles against the tougher ones that focus on him. The Chargers have not allowed a 100 yard rusher this season and most stay under 60 yards. Look for a moderate game from Portis - at best.

Brunell goes against a secondary that has been inconsistent but mostly because the Chargers have rolled up big scores in several games and then allowed opponents to have ample trash yards. But this secondary has been able to stop passing attacks that only use one dominant player. Owens (53), Coles (64), Ward (83) and Burress (52) are good examples of what the Chargers allow. Only one player has topped 100 yards this season (Kennison) against them. Look for another game of moderate success with Moss blanketed and Cooley stepping up.