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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
September 6, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
BAL at TB NO at CLE     SD at OAK

Prediction: SD 27, OAK 17

What a difference one year makes. The Chargers (9-7) start the year with Phillip Rivers under center as the most practiced quarterback in the league without actual playing time. If he plays as well as Drew Brees did, the Chargers will be just as good. If he plays up to the level of his potential, they could be even better. Al Davis has evidently aged enough now that he has lost huge chunks of his memory (like 1995 through 2005) and Art Shell is back along his bed-and-breakfast offensive coordinator Tom Walsh. He even tried to bring Jeff George back but released him a few days later when he was reminded Tim Brown had retired two years ago.

The Chargers swept the Raiders in 2005, winning 27-14 in week six and then again 34-10 in week 13.

San Diego Chargers (0-0)
1 --- @OAK 10 --- @CIN
2 --- TEN 11 --- @DEN
3 Open Bye 12 --- OAK
4 --- @BAL 13 --- @BUF
5 --- PIT 14 --- DEN
6 --- @SF 15 --- KC
7 --- @KC 16 --- @SEA
8 --- STL 17 --- ARZ
9 --- CLE - - MON
SDC at OAK Rush Catch Pass
QB Phillip Rivers 20 0 180,1
RB L. Tomlinson 120,2 20 0
TE Antonio Gates 0 50,1 0
WR Keenan McCardell 0 40 0
WR Eric Parker 0 40 0
WR Vincent Jackson 0 20 0
PK Nate Kaeding 2 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: This is the same offense as last year with LaDainian Tomlinson spearheading the attack and Antonio Gates inspiring awe among tight ends. But the third year rookie Phillip Rivers will be key this year and the early returns are encouraging. Starting out the year against the Raiders makes it even more encouraging.

Quarterback: In what could only be described as the greatest job in the world, Phillip Rivers signed a six-year, $40 million contract in 2004 and then was red-shirted for two years while he carried a clipboard and worked on his tan. Rivers was sharp in early preseason game but showed he is not through with his learning curve by the end of August. Rivers could be a good one for many years but it will take time now that he plays against more than the Charger scout team.

Drew Brees never had that much production against the Raiders last year because he never needed to throw very often. In two meetings, he never had more than 164 yards and threw for one score in Oakland and two in San Diego.

Running Backs: LaDainian Tomlinson enters his sixth NFL season and at the age of 27, he is in his absolute prime. Tomlinson produced top five numbers in almost every category in 2005 and ended with 1462 rushing yards and 370 more on 41 receptions with a total of 20 touchdowns. The last two years with Brees catching fire have actually been around 200 yards less than he had produced so there's actually upside on Tomlinson this year.

Tomlinson gained 179 total yards and two scores in Oakland last year and then "just" had 110 yards and no score when the Chargers hosted the Raiders in 2005.

Wide Receivers: Keenan McCardell enters his 15th NFL season and at the age of 37 in January, this has to be the twilight of the twilight of his career. His 70 catches for 917 yards led the team wideouts last year and he scored a career high nine touchdowns so the slowdown is not showing up despite his advancing years. Eric Parker mans the split end again this year and he's been turning in around 700 yards and three scores the last two years. Parker needs to step up because McCardell has to step down in the near future.

The most exciting player of this crew has to be the 6'5" Vincent Jackson who comes off a rookie year with just three catches. Jackson missed most of 2005 because of injuries and was hospitalized in August with a scratched lung. Jackson should be back this week and while he's obviously not expected to do much in this game, he's the main receiver worth watching from this squad. If anyone turns into a star, it will be the speedy yet tall Jackson.

In two meetings last year, the best any wideout did was McCardell's 60 yards and Parker had the only wideout score against the Raiders last year.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates not only was #1 among all NFL tight ends in catches (89), yards (1101) and touchdowns (10), he was far ahead of the #2 guy every time. There is some concern with the changing of quarterbacks, but what better target could Rivers ask for than a 6'4" speed freak that can out jump any safety, bull past most linebackers and ran faster than many cornerbacks?

Gates was rather quiet against the Raiders in 2005, gaining only 17 yards in week six and later turning in 51 yards and one score when they met in San Diego.

Match Against the Defense: Hitting the road with a new quarterback is often a recipe for a loss but when the plane lands where the one of the worst defenses resides, it could still be a good thing. Add in that the Raiders are trying to reinvent 1994 on offense and Tomlinson should be a lock for a great opener this year.

Rivers won't need to win this game and won't press on plays until he gets his game legs. Look for just a standard Charger game here with moderate yardage and one score to Gates as the closest, biggest and best target. The Charger defense should have some fun here and that will yield good field position and more reasons to just run the ball.

Oakland Raiders (0-0)
1 --- SD 10 --- DEN
2 --- @BAL 11 --- @KC
3 Open Bye 12 --- @SD
4 --- CLE 13 --- HOU
5 --- @SF 14 --- @CIN
6 --- @DEN 15 --- STL
7 --- ARZ 16 --- KC
8 --- PIT 17 --- @NYJ
9 --- @SEA - MON SAT
OAK vs SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Brooks 30 0 240,2
RB Lamont Jordan 50 10 0
TE Courtney Anderson 0 10 0
TE Randal Williams 0 30 0
WR Randy Moss 0 110,2 0
WR Jerry Porter 0 50 0
WR Alvis Whitted 0 20 0
PK S. Janikowski 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: In perhaps the most interesting coaching move of the offseason, Al Davis opted to rekindle the glory years of the franchise by bringing back Art Shell who last coached the Raiders in 1994. To help complete the trip into the past, Shell called up his old offensive coordinator Tom Walsh who was an Idaho mayor and ran a bed-and-breakfast. This has GOT to be an interesting year. Kerry Collins was dumped in favor of Aaron Brooks. It's already been a drama-filled preseason and the year is only about to begin. Bringing back Gibbs has helped the Skins, but can Shell have the same impact?

Quarterback: While there was speculation that Aaron Brooks would battle second-year player Andrew Walter, yet another injury derailed Walter and Brooks stands very alone as the starter this year. Brooks has the strong arm that Collins had but adds the new dimension of scrambling that could add much to this offense and give Randy Moss time to get really, really deep. It doesn't much matter if he is open or not. Brooks should look stellar this year in many games and look terrible in others because he is Aaron Brooks, master of inconsistency.

Kerry Collins threw for 292 yards and no score in week six against the Bolts and later had 236 yards and one score in week 13.

Running Backs: Lamont Jordan finally got a starting gig when he joined the Raiders last year and his 1588 total yards ranked 9th best among all NFL tailbacks. But that included only three efforts over 100 rushing yards and just 1025 rushing yards on 272 carries (3.8 YPC). Where he had the greatest fantasy relevance was with receptions when he reeled in 70 catches for 563 yards. With Randy Moss hobbled most of the year and Collins often in a "here, catch this" mode, Jordan led all NFL running back in receptions and only played in 14 games. His outlook this year has to be considered a bit lower given that Norv Turner is gone, Moss is healthy and Brooks can scramble - unlikely there will be a need for 70 more catches.

Jordan had no luck running against the Chargers in 2005, gaining only 36 yards on 12 carries and later 55 yards on 15 runs. He added 59 yards on six receptions in week six but later on only had 10 yards on two catches in the final meeting and never scored a touchdown.

Wide Receivers: Randy Moss started out his new life as a Raider in a big way recording three games over 120 yards in his first four outings but then was injured in this very matchup when the Chargers visited in week six last year. He played far less than 100% for the rest of the year. With Brooks capable of the deep ball, the outlook for Moss should be no less bright than last year and likely better. Jerry Porter has been the problem child of the camp, openly feuding with Art Shell who evidently was gone when discipline and adhering to the scheme was discarded a few years ago. Porter asked for and was denied a trade elsewhere but has recently begrudgingly put the tail between his legs and is working his way back into the offense. That the Raiders would trade away Doug Gabriel is ample sign of Porter's re-ascension into the starting lineup.

That leaves Alvis Whitted and Johnnie Morant left to vie for the slot role, along with super talented and ever injured Ronald Curry.

Randy Moss missed the first meeting in week six wit the Chargers and the best any wideout had was 84 yards by Doug Gabriel with Jerry Porter turning in 63 yards on five catches. In the later meeting, Moss led the team with 74 yards on seven receptions but no other wideout had more than 50 yards and the crew never scored against the Chargers in 2005.

Tight Ends: Courtney Anderson and Randal Williams return as the starting tight ends and there's word that the Raiders will use the position more this year under Shell though he never used them much in his previous regime. Williams has been singled out for having a good camp and as a converted wideout has the most promise in the receiving game.

Courtney Anderson managed to score once against the Raiders last year but that was his only catch in the game and otherwise the tight ends never had more than 39 yards. In each, Randal Williams caught a long pass and nothing else happened for the tight ends.

Match Against the Defense: The Raiders struggled against the Chargers last year and this year's version doesn't appear to be on the verge of breaking records anytime soon. Expect a down game for Jordan against the #6 defense against running backs last year and for all Jordan owners to ask "but where are all the receptions?"

Brooks has the advantage of a new scheme with no game film and Randy Moss running deep. If only thanks to a scoreboard problem, the Raiders will have to throw in this game and Brooks should rack up some decent yardage if only in trash time. Look for a nice start by Moss in this game and for Brooks to post some decent numbers in the loss.