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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
December 6, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday Nite
BAL at KC NYG at CAR   SEA at ARZ *updated

Prediction: DEN 10, SD 30

The Broncos lost to the Seahawks last week and at 7-5 and after three consecutive losses this game takes on a new look - can Denver even reach the playoffs in the high-powered AFC this year? The Chargers have merely won their last six games and at 10-2 are tied with the Colts for the best record in the NFL. They are no longer playing for a playoff spot, they have a shot at homefield throughout the post season.

The Chargers won 35-27 in Denver just three weeks ago.

Update: Jason Elam has been held out of practice to rest his strained left hamstring. He is questionable to play and the Broncos are waiting to see how he does before opting to get another kicker. Elam is not a safe start this week and I am changing the projections to reflect that the Denver kicker is not guaranteed to be Elam this week.

Denver Broncos (7-5)
1 10-18 @STL 10 17-13 @OAK
2 9-6 KC 11 27-35 SD
3 17-7 @NE 12 10-19 @KC
4 Open Bye 13 20-23 SEA
5 13-3 BAL 14 --- @SD
6 13-3 OAK 15 --- @ARZ
7 17-7 @CLE 16 --- CIN
8 34-31 IND 17 --- SF
9 31-20 @PIT - MON THU
DEN at SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler 10 0 170,1
RB Tatum Bell 80 10 0
TE Stephen Alexander 0 20,1 0
WR Rod Smith 0 40 0
WR Brandon Marshall 0 50 0
WR Javon Walker 0 50 0
PK Denver kicker 1 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: Okay, so the switch to Jay Cutler could have gone better. The Broncos lost their third straight game, plus their blocking fullback and even injured their kicker on what could only be considered as trying a trick play exactly when it was meaningless and almost hurt them with time running down. Jason Elam strained his hamstring but currently is expected to kick this week since it was his non-kicking leg. With this week and the game against the Bengals left to play, it is entirely possible that the Broncos end up 9-7 and maybe even 10-6 and could sneak into the playoffs but it will be a tough road to travel to get there - and the post-season would remain on the road throughout.

Denver's recent downturn has one explanation. In the course of four weeks, they will have faced Shaun Alexander, Larry Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson twice. Ouch.

Quarterback: In his NFL debut, Jay Cutler had a decidedly rookie performance and there is a chance - rather strong - that he will not be the immediate savior of the franchise. Cutler threw for just 143 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. But 71 yards and one score went on a play when Brandon Marshall turned a short pass into the touchdown. Cutler would have ended with only 72 passing yards without that one catch. After one game, Cutler obviously needs plenty of seasoning and experience to become as good as he eventually will be, but that is not going to happen from the start.

Plummer had only 183 passing yards and one interception against the Chargers this year.

Running Backs: Tatum Bell returned last week after a two game absence and gained 133 yards on 23 carries. Oddly enough, that was Tatum's first 100 yard rushing game in Denver this year while he had topped that mark three times on the road this year. Then again, he'll have to contend with a rookie quarterback and likely an even less potent passing game this week. Mike Bell only had four carries for 12 yards last week and I am removing him from the projections because he has only a minor role when Tatum is healthy.

Cecil Sapp suffered a broken leg and will be out for the rest of the season. The Broncos will have to sign a new blocking fullback this week but that will not help the running game any.

Mike Bell ran for 90 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns against the Chargers when Tatum Bell was still out. Damien Nash also gained 52 yards on ten carries in that game.

Wide Receivers: Javon Walker was vocal about his displeasure of being little used last week but while he had just two catches for 17 yards, he did have seven passes thrown to him - right about at where he normally is. Rod Smith only had one catch for six yards and fumbled that last Sunday. With Cutler behind center, it will likely be a few more weeks before he produces reliable numbers that can translate into the wide receivers. Brandon Marshall did score on his 71-yard catch last week but that was his only catch in the game.

Javon Walker caught four passes for 68 yards and Smith had just 25 yards on two receptions against the Chargers in week 11.

Tight Ends: Tight ends are often a rookie quarterback's best friend but Stephen Alexander scored once but only had two catches for 16 yards while Tony Scheffler was finally active again and only had one catch for 15 yards. Scheffler had four passes thrown to him while Alexander only had two but for now, I am projecting for Alexander.

Match Against the Defense: There's no reason to expect that this game ends up much differently than the first other than the Chargers should hold down the Denver scoring much more since this game is in San Diego and the Broncos with Cutler are likely to be forced into a passing game early to remain in the game. Look for moderate numbers from Tatum Bell largely because his carries should be lower this week.

Cutler struggled last week and he will again on the road against a defense that still won't take them lightly. Expect one passing score here that will favor a tight end. The yardage may skew a bit higher this week for passing because Cutler will be forced to throw and there could be ample trash time here to fill. It depends on how well Cutler takes advantage of that. The more passing, the more likely Cutler will have interceptions as well.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 25 20 19 28 19 25
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 18 13 13 29 11 1


San Diego Chargers (10-2)
1 27-0 @OAK 10 49-41 @CIN
2 40-7 TEN 11 35-27 @DEN
3 Open Bye 12 21-14 OAK
4 13-16 @BAL 13 24-21 @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 vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers 0 0 180,1
RB L. Tomlinson 110,2 40 0
TE Antonio Gates 0 50,1 0
WR Keenan McCardell 0 40 0
WR Eric Parker 0 30 0
WR Vincent Jackson 0 20 0
PK Nate Kaeding 3 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Chargers remain the highest scoring team in the NFL with 377 points - 45 more than second place Dallas. On a six game winning streak, the Chargers are 10-2 but the beauty is that they cannot slow down because of the Colts and the specter of a first round bye throughout the playoffs. The only road game left is in Seattle, so the Chargers could easily end up 13-3 on the season if not a lofty 14-2.

Quarterback: Philip Rivers has really fallen off in production thanks to Tomlinson and his only good games in the last six weeks came in road efforts against tough opponents when the running game was not enough to win. In the last three home games, Rivers only has thrown for one touchdown and never more than 211 yards. No need with Tomlinson challenging all-time NFL records.

Philip Rivers had 222 passing yards and two touchdowns in Denver this year.

Running Backs: LaDainian Tomlinson leads the NFL in rushing yards (1324), rushing touchdowns (23), total touchdowns (26) and even his receiving yardage (470) ranks fourth-best in the league and he is tied among all running backs with three receiving touchdowns. He is not merely "the" stud to own this year, he may be the stud of all time at current rate.

Tomlinson ran for 105 yards on 20 carries and scored three rushing touchdowns and one receiving when he had 74 yards on three receptions.

Wide Receivers: Keenan McCardell was forced from Sunday's game with a calf injury which has bothered him for the last several weeks. He ended with just two catches for 24 yards last week and one reception the previous week. Let's be realistic - the best that McCardell can do is split out wide and make the cornerback run farther to catch Tomlinson. Eric Parker is in the same boat and has not scored in any game this year. The only wideout with any touchdowns this year is Vincent Jackson who scored once in Denver this year but no Chargers wideout had more than 42 yards in that game.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates comes off his best game of the year when he had seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown against the Bills last week. That gives him six scores on the year and even Brandon Manumaleuna has caught three touchdowns this season. It just doesn't pay to be a Chargers wideout this year. Tight ends - much better.

Gates had five receptions for 48 yards in Denver this season with no scores.

Match Against the Defense: Tomlinson ripped up the Broncos in Denver this year already and now LB Al Wilson could miss this game with a sprained neck. Expect at least a good game from Tomlinson knowing that it could turn into a true monster if Cutler throws interceptions that give the Chargers the short field.

Rivers had two scores in Denver this year but he likely won't need to do that much to win this game. Expect his normal moderate game at home with one passing score for Gates.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SD 21 1 25 1 3 5
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 3 16 1 13 25 9