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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
November 15, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
CIN at NO PIT at CLE     updated

Prediction: SD 17, DEN 20

This is likely the #1 game to watch this week - the winner take clear control on the AFC West at least until the rematch in week 14. The Chargers are on a three game winning streak with Tomlinson scoring more than Brad Pitt at a "drink till you drop" sorority party. The Broncos have won their last two games. The Chargers bring in the highest scoring offense in the NFL that just scored 42 points in the final thirty minutes in Cincinnati while Denver has allowed fewer points than any team in the league. Have to love these little physic problems of an unmovable object meeting an unstoppable force. Didn't end up so well for Denver when the Colts showed up back in week eight.

Update: No projections change but Eric Parker remains questionable with his neck injury and missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday. He still may play but I am leaving him out of the projections. Malcolm Floyd is also questionable with an ankle injury but has returned to practice and will likely play. Stephen Alexander has missed practice time with a sprained thumb and is questionable. That could make Tony Scheffler more likely to be active this week. Tatum Bell is still questionable with his turf toes and was held out of practice on Thursday thought he practiced on Wednesday. I am leaving the projections as is but after last week, there is still a chance that Shanahan opts to use Damien Nash instead of Mike Bell. There is no safe start in the Denver backfield at least for now.

San Diego Chargers (7-2)
1 27-0 @OAK 10 49-41 @CIN
2 40-7 TEN 11 --- @DEN
3 Open Bye 12 --- OAK
4 13-16 @BAL 13 --- @BUF
5 23-13 PIT 14 --- DEN
6 48-19 @SF 15 --- KC
7 27-30 @KC 16 --- @SEA
8 38-24 STL 17 --- ARZ
9 32-25 CLE - - MON
SDC at DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers 0 0 200,1
RB L. Tomlinson 70,1 40 0
TE Antonio Gates 0 60,1 0
WR Keenan McCardell 0 20 0
WR Malcolm Floyd 0 50 0
WR Vincent Jackson 0 20 0
PK Nate Kaeding 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Maybe the defense no longer is the dominating feature of this team but the offense has been nothing short of spectacular for the last five games when they averaged almost 39 points per game. One small problem here - the only time the Chargers have played a team with a winning record was on the road and both times they lost. And now they face a defense at least as good as the one that limited them to 13 points in Baltimore. Are the Chargers and Philip Rivers really this good? That question is answered this week.

Quarterback: Philip Rivers comes off his career best game of 337 yards and three touchdowns when he engineered a 21 point comeback in the second half of last week's tilt with the Bengals. The only time in the last six weeks that Rivers has not thrown for multiple scores is in games that they won handily by running Tomlinson. In games against quality opponents where he has to win the game, Rivers always remains about 250 passing yards.

Running Backs: Ladainian Tomlinson easily leads the NFL with 16 rushing and 2 receiving touchdowns, a pace over nine games that would lead to 28 rushing scores and four receiving touchdowns - an NFL record if sustained. Tomlinson is only 39 yards behind rushing leader Tiki Barber. Tomlinson has scored ten times in just the last three games.

Tomlinson only gained 52 yards on 19 carries in Denver last year though he scored twice. He later had 72 yards and one score in San Diego against the Chargers.

Wide Receivers: Eric Parker injured his neck last week and was replaced in the Bengals game by Malcolm Floyd who had 109 yards on five receptions for his career first 100 yard game. Floyd also scored once. With all the passing last Sunday, it didn't benefit the wideouts much beyond Floyd and his one long catch. Keenan McCardell only had 49 yards on two catches like it was just a normal week. McCardell has not scored this season, nor has Eric Parker. Only Tomlinson and Gates usually matter in this offense and outside of some decent yardage by Parker earlier in the year, there has been almost no fantasy value here.

I am assuming Parker misses this week but will update as needed.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates had a nice enough effort last week with 69 yards on five receptions but he hasn't scored since week seven. That is not true for Brandon Manumaleuna who not only scored once in week nine, he had two touchdowns against the Bengals last Sunday. They were on his only catches in the game and he only had 14 yards, but now Gates is losing out to Manumaleuna when they reach the goal line.

Match Against the Defense: Tomlinson has had some success against the Broncos in the past and he is obviously running hot right now but the Broncos have not allowed any rushing scores in Denver this year. Expect Tomlinson to quiet down a bit this week with a sub-100 yard game and but he's still likely to score at least once.

Rivers gets a big test this week and while he has been red hot against softer secondaries, he only had 145 yards and one score when he played in Baltimore. Peyton Manning ravaged this defense but no other quarterback has thrown for any in Denver this year. Rivers will likely manage one score here but any more would truly be a step up for the young quarterback. That score has to favor Gates since tight ends have been the lone weakness of this defense - if you could even call it a weakness. More like a lesser strength.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SD 15 1 20 1 3 4
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 3 10 2 19 18 4


Denver Broncos (7-2)
1 10-18 @STL 10 17-13 @OAK
2 9-6 KC 11 --- SD
3 17-7 @NE 12 --- @KC
4 Open Bye 13 --- SEA
5 13-3 BAL 14 --- @SD
6 13-3 OAK 15 --- @ARZ
7 17-7 @CLE 16 --- CIN
8 31-34 IND 17 --- SF
9 31-20 @PIT - MON THU
DEN vs SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 10 0 180,1
RB Tatum Bell 30 0 0
RB Mike Bell 70,1 10 0
TE Tony Scheffler 0 10 0
WR Rod Smith 0 40 0
WR David Kircus 0 20 0
WR Javon Walker 0 80,1 0
PK Jason Elam 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: Outside of the one game against the Colts, this defense has been top notch this season but the offense continues to provoke head scratches and dumbfounded looks. The same offense that couldn't get past 17 points for the first six games exploded for two weeks with 31 points in each. And then - back to the same offensive woes with a close. low-scoring win over the Raiders. Again. If Denver is saving itself for only the biggest games, it didn't work well against the Colts. And this is a big game this week.

Quarterback: Jake Plummer has been all over the map this season (though mostly staying in the southern regions). Plummer only had 102 yards and no scores in the first meeting against the Raiders and last week in the rematch he had 210 yards and two scores - with three interceptions. In the Steeler game he had 227 yards and three scores but only had 174 yards and one passing score against the Colts. Over half his games have been under 200 yards. The only certainty to Plummer is either Javon Walker catches the ball or Plummer's numbers plummet.

Running Backs: Many of you are reading this wanting to gain insight on why Shanahan opted to make a healthy Mike Bell inactive last week so that Tatum Bell could further aggravate both his turf toes and Damien Nash could come in for a series just to lose a fumble. The answer is simple enough - either Mike Bell is in the doghouse or Shanahan has taken paranoia to a new level.

In the many snippets and sound bytes since that game, the self-professed running back guru has offered up no better reason for the odd roster moves other than he is "searching for the best runner" here in week ten of the season and that Tatum Bell was evidently still hurt more than he let on (Turf toe? Really? Go figure). Mike Bell gained 136 yards and two scores against the Colts but evidently disappointed Shanahan when he only posted 28 yards on 17 carries the next week In Pittsburgh. Larry Johnson only had 26 yards on 15 carries as the most recent visitor in Pittsburgh but was surprisingly still allowed to still play the following week by his coach.

Shanahan said that Damien Nash practiced well on the practice squad against teammates who were also not good enough to be on the 53 man roster. While it all smacks of Mike Bell being in a doghouse, Shanahan would only say that Mike will be getting a lot of action during the rest of the season (then again, he did not specifically say "football action").

For a backfield that is always a guarded secret, Shanahan has out done even himself with the recent move and lack of information or explanation. Maybe Shanahan is planning on using Mike Bell this week in this most important game. Or maybe he is going to release him and pick up Howie Mandell so someone can tell jokes on the sideline. I will project for a limited Tatum Bell to share carries with Mike Bell but that could be wrong by Denver's design. Updates as warranted but as with anything pertaining to the Denver backfield - chaos rules. Nash could end up the starter depending on Shanahan's whim.

Wide Receivers: Javon Walker easily leads all NFL wideouts in one category - rushing. He has run six times for 120 yards and even scored once on a run. He now has seven scores on the year and five in the last three games, There's no confusion here - the passing offense is designed around getting the ball to Javon Walker and even the venerable Rod Smith has been reduced to 40-yard games for the last month. Walker has been a tremendous addition to the team and the lone consistent contributor to the offense

Tight Ends: Tony Scheffler was made inactive last week - no particular reason why given - so that Nate Jackson could have three catches for 33 yards, or roughly three times the yardage gained by Damien Nash. I am projecting for Scheffler as the starter this week but obviously Shanahan is either bored with the starters or pulling names from a hat on game day.

Match Against the Defense: Matching up the offense to the defense is a challenge in the face of recent roster moves. The Chargers have only an average rush defense that has given up four rushing scores in the last two road games. Most runners that have turned in low production games have done so because the Chargers forced the opponent into a passing mode to catch up. Tatum Bell is obviously still hurting and so far Nash did less against the Raiders than Mike Bell did in Pittsburgh. A healthy Mike Bell could have a good game here with enough carries and my projections are highly speculative based on reasoning that evidently is not shared with Shanahan.

Plummer faces a secondary that has always allowed at least one score in recent games and usually two. That seems a tall order for Plummer but one touchdown is possible as long as Javon Walker can eventually get open. While we know that Plummer will be the starter, it is less certain which Plummer we will get.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 24 20 18 30 23 21
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 17 12 19 27 12 1