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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
September 27, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
On Bye
MIA at HOU SF at KC NE at CIN   updated

Prediction: SD 17, BAL 13

This has turned into a rather interesting game with two unbeaten teams finally getting a chance to see what they are made of this year. The Chargers are 2-0 but honestly - against Oakland and Tennessee could it have been any easier? The Ravens are 3-0 with wins over Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland. Both teams have looked outstanding so far and yet - not once has any of their opponents managed to beat any team this year. Here's where Rivers and McNair finally get to earn their paychecks.

Update: Keenan McCardell is listed as questionable to play with a hamstring strain but he has not missed practice and is expected to play this week. Todd Heap is listed as questionable to play with his ankle sprain and he was held out of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. But he was not 100% last week either when he had five catches for 36 yards and a touchdown. I am leaving him in the projections as is but be aware that he is not healthy and could end up limited this week. Watch for Sunday morning inactives just to be sure.

San Diego Chargers (2-0)
1 27-0 @OAK 10 --- @CIN
2 40-7 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 BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers 10 0 190,1
RB L. Tomlinson 70,1 30 0
TE Antonio Gates 0 40,1 0
WR Keenan McCardell 0 40 0
WR Eric Parker 0 50 0
WR Vincent Jackson 0 20 0
PK Nate Kaeding 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Chargers come into this match-up very well rested with their week three bye and so far they have looked like a Super Bowl team - as well they should have. Starting out against the Raiders and Titans is this season's version of getting stuck on a deserted island with Jessica Alba and Angelina Jolie. There is having a soft schedule and then there is opening against the Raiders and Titans. The results - rather expected. Give me a minute here... still thinking about the island...

Quarterback: So far the grade on Philip Rivers has to be considered as an incomplete - he hasn't needed to do much to handily win those first two games. Against the Raiders, he only threw 11 passes and completed eight for 108 yards and a score. Against the Titans, he completed 25 of 35 for 235 yards and another touchdown. He's been good in what he's been asked to do but this week is his first true test.

Running Backs: The wonderfully soft opening schedule was taken advantage of by LaDainian Tomlinson just like you would expect a stud running back to do. In just two weeks, he's had games of 149 and 122 total yards with a total of three touchdowns scored. What's bad is that he has yet to actually finish a game because there's been no point to use him in easily decided match-ups. Michael Turner has feasted on the late game work and ran for 37 yards and a score against the Raiders and 138 yards against the Titans. In case you just started playing fantasy football this year, those numbers by Turner are not likely to happen again with the Ravens and Steelers up next.

Wide Receivers: As should be expected, the blowouts have not called upon the wideouts much this year and so far the best performance was a mere 58 yards on five catches by Keenan McCardell against the Titans. Eric Parker only has two catches for 63 yards on the season. Vincent Jackson only has two catches for 15 yards though he has the lone touchdown by a wideout so far this year. Starting this week - this unit has to start to matter more. If you've seen these players dropped in your league, realize they could have just played poker on the sidelines for the first two weeks and it would not have mattered.

Tight Ends: Those fantasy teams with Antonio Gates have felt the pinch of an easy opening schedule. Against the Raiders he only had two catches for 28 yards but scored once just for practice and he turned in five catches for 58 yards when the Titans came to play. Those numbers can, must and will rise from here on out.

Match Against the Defense: The Ravens have been dominating against all runners this year and have only allowed a high game of just 35 yards. But there's a big difference between Tomlinson and Jason Wright, Lamont Jordan and Carnell Williams (this year anyway). It's optimistic to assume Tomlinson will have a big game here, but it's unrealistic not to expect at least moderate to good yards that could be pumped up with some receptions.

Rivers gets his first major test against a secondary that has only allowed one passing score. But Charlie Frye was able to rack up 298 yards and that touchdown just last week without a hint of a rushing game. Look for moderate yardage here and one score that should likely favor Gates this week.

Baltimore Ravens (3-0)
1 27-0 @TB 10 --- @TEN
2 28-6 OAK 11 --- ATL
3 15-14 @CLE 12 --- PIT
4 --- SD 13 --- @CIN
5 --- @DEN 14 --- @KC
6 --- CAR 15 --- CLE
7 Open Bye 16 --- @PIT
8 --- @NO 17 --- BUF
9 --- CIN - THU MON
BAL vs SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve McNair 10 0 200,1
RB Jamal Lewis 70 10 0
TE Todd Heap 0 40,1 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 80 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 40 0
WR Demetrius Williams 0 20 0
PK Matt Stover 2 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Ravens stomped past Tampa Bay and Oakland but almost lost in Cleveland last week. The surprising feature of the game was that the Browns had no rushing game whatsoever and yet Frye enjoyed surprising success. McNair had to rally the team from a 14-3 deficit to get the win with just 20 seconds left. This week the Ravens face a defense that is playing better than their last three opponents combined.

Quarterback: Steve McNair finally had a good game this year when the threw for 264 yards and one score against the Browns that not only included the standards of Heap and Mason, but also gave work to Mark Clayton as well. With the schedule immediately getting tougher from here on out, he'll need to continue to grow more comfortable in this scheme.

Running Backs: The Ravens may not be a rushing machine this year, but at least Jamal Lewis is holding steady at around 80 yards per game against the softer opponents so far. Lewis has only one score on the season and remains no factor in the passing game. Musa Smith has been given the primary back-up slot behind Lewis and Mike Anderson falls to third in the pecking order and is not even being used in games now.

Wide Receivers: The bright spot in the offense has been the recent play of the wideouts. Derrick Mason rekindled his relationship with McNair and comes off a nice seven catch, 132 yard game against the Browns that included Mark Clayton's eight catches for a career best 74 yards as well. Outside of those two wide receivers, there's no fantasy value in slot player Demetrius Williams or any other wideout. The showing of the unit last week was exactly why they brought McNair in this summer.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap hasn't been much for yardage yet this year with just 46 yards as a season high, but he has caught five passes in each of the first three games and scored twice.

Match Against the Defense: The San Diego defense has been awesome so far this young season but against just TEN and OAK, they should have been. This week will be the first true test for them but the there's no denying the good play of the front line and linebackers. Expect no score and just moderate yardage from Lewis again this week.

McNair will have to win this game but he should manage to score at least one via the pass that favors Heap the most. There's not much yet to go on this year as to how good the secondary truly is, but the Raven's attack is limited to three players and won't produce big numbers here. The Ravens will want to rattle Rivers into making mistakes from which they can profit but this game boils down largely just a rushing match-up and that has to favor Tomlinson. Quentin Jammer should be able to handle Clayton, so Mason should be in for another high volume afternoon.