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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday night
On Bye

Prediction: SD 24, DEN 23

The powerhouses in the AFC West are becoming also-rans with the Chargers on a three game slide and the Broncos losing their last two. Both teams are suffering from poor play from their second-year quarterbacks and defenses that are almost inexplicably struggling. At least the Chargers can blame new coaches. This is a big coin flip game because neither team is performing to expectations or even potential.

The Chargers swept the Broncos in 2006, winning 35-27 in Denver and later 48-20 in San Diego.

Update: Antonio Gates missed practice on Thursday due to illness but is expected back on Friday and is expected to play. Craig Davis hasn't practiced because of a sprained ankle and is not a lock to play this week. I am removing him from the projections.

Javon Walker has not practiced with the team this week and depending on if he can participate on Friday, he could play this week at least on a limited basis because of his knee sprain. If you really need him, check the Friday practice reports and the Sunday inactives but this is a later afternoon game so stay away from him if you cannot do late roster changes in your league.

Travis Henry news broke late yesterday about his situation with testing positive for marijuana which would result in a one year suspension. Throw that on top of the fact that he already has a sore ankle and knee and he may not play this Sunday and will be less than 100% if he does. He has not practiced yet this week. I am lowering his projections but realize that he may not even play.

San Diego Chargers (1-3)
Homefield: Qualcomm Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 CHI 14-3 -5.5 42.5
2 @NE 14-38 +3 47
3 @GB 24-31 -5 43
4 KC 16-30 -13 38.5
5 @DEN   +1 42.5
6 OAK 14-Oct SUN 4:15 PM
7 BYE - - -
8 HOU 28-Oct SUN 4:05 PM
9 @MIN 4-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
10 IND 11-Nov SUN 8:15 PM
11 @JAC 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 BAL 25-Nov SUN 4:15 PM
13 @KC 2-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
14 @TEN 9-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
15 DET 16-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
16 DEN 24-Dec MON 8:00 PM
17 @OAK 30-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
SDC at DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers     190,1
RB LaDainian Tomlinson 110,2 50  
TE Antonio Gates   80,1  
WR Vincent Jackson   30  
WR Craig Davis 20
WR Malcolm Floyd   30  
PK Nate Kaeding 1 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes:
While the Chargers had thought that the loss in Green Bay was the worst it could get, they were wrong. Losing to the Chiefs in San Diego pushed the blade in deeper and gave it a robust twist. If the Chargers lose another, just keep all sharp objects away from Tomlinson. Nothing like a three game losing streak to spark the media into examining everything that is wrong and why. And nothing like getting a head coach job and winning your season opener at home and then by the second game in the same stadium, the stands are all chanting "Marty, Marty, Marty..."

Tough times in San Diego and nothing short of a winning steak will cure it. Actually make that just one win.

Quarterback: After an encouraging first season as a starter, Philip Rivers is not exactly taking the next step. While he posted a very nice 306 yards and three scores in Green Bay, he went back to the same struggles last week when he only completed 21 of 42 passes for 211 yards and no scores against the visiting Chiefs. He lost a fumble (his third of the year) and threw two interceptions to add to the four he already had. The change in offensive scheme is just not catching on with him yet and he has all the same tools from last year except for upgrades at wide receiver.

Rivers threw for 222 and 279 yards in meetings with the Broncos last year and had two scores in each game.

Running Backs: Finally, LaDainian Tomlinson got into gear this season and ran for 132 yards on 20 carries and scored once against the Chiefs. It was almost exactly the combined amount from his first three games. He also had a season high five catches for 22 yards but while Tomlinson caught fire, the passing game fizzled and the Chargers defense disappeared again. Tomlinson is a proud player and the toll of losing is wearing heavily on him. Post-game pressers are hard to watch.

Tomlinson ran for 105 and 103 yards against the Broncos last season with three rushing scores in each game. He also had 74 receiving yards and a fourth score in the game in Denver during week 11.

Wide Receivers: It appeared the passing game was getting underway after week three but apparently that was premature. Craig "Buster" Davis only had one catch for eight yards and looked every bit the rookie again. Vincent Jackson only had three catches for 52 yards and did not score though both wideouts had touchdowns in Green Bay. The Chiefs corners were above average and this week they face the Denver secondary which may be the best in the NFL. Not a place for a quick turnaround.

Vincent Jackson wasn't the starter but still had 39 yards and a touchdown in Denver last year.

Tight Ends: While even Antonio Gates decreased last week, he still had six catches for 79 yards so his worst is roughly better than the best the wideouts do. Gates already has two scores on the season and has never turned in less than 77 yards in a game.

Gates only had five receptions for 48 yards in Denver but later had seven catches for 104 yards and a score in San Diego against them.

Match Against the Defense: This game revolves around what Tomlinson can do. The Broncos rush defense has been deplorable this year with every opponent racking up huge rushing yards and a rushing score. This is where the Chargers have to win the game and both teams know it. Look for heavy use of Tomlinson and good reasons to expect that he will have success.

Rivers faces a top notch secondary that will eliminate the wideouts from consideration here because Bly and Bailey are much better than Jackson and Davis have been. That leaves Gates as the sole consideration for everyone else on the defense during a pass play. Remember though that the Colts had huge success with Clark against the Broncos (he scored 2 TDs and gained 76 yards). This game will be all about Tomlinson and Gates and the Chargers will keep it simple.

Gaining Fantasy Points SD 21 11 28 3 29 20
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 9 24 3 27 11 25


Denver Broncos (2-2)
Homefield: Invesco Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @BUF 15-14 -3.5 37
2 OAK 23-20 -10 37.5
3 JAC 14-23 -3 35.5
4 @IND 20-38 +10 46.5
5 SD   -1 42.5
6 BYE - - -
7 PIT 21-Oct SUN 8:15 PM
8 GB 29-Oct MON 8:30 PM
9 @DET 4-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
10 @KC 11-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
11 TEN 19-Nov MON 8:30 PM
12 @CHI 25-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
13 @OAK 2-Dec SUN 4:05 PM
14 KC 9-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
15 @HOU 13-Dec THU 8:15 PM
16 @SD 24-Dec MON 8:00 PM
17 MIN 30-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
DEN vs SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler 10   250,2
RB Travis Henry 40 10  
RB Selvin Young 60 30  
TE Daniel Graham   20,1  
WR Brandon Stokley   60  
WR Brandon Marshall   100,1  
PK Jason Elam 3 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: Denver is rather enigmatic this year. The same players in the same scheme for the same coaches suddenly cannot sustain a drive or punch it into the endzone. Winning squeakers against the Bills and Raiders became losses to the Jaguars and Colts. Losing Javon Walker last week and likely this one has been a big hit to the passing game and more than anything, these Broncos have assembled a tremendous pass defense but forgot to defend the run. It doesn't matter that teams cannot pass when they can run at will. The Broncos have a bye after this game and 2-3 would be a bitter pill to chew on for two weeks.

Quarterback: Jay Cutler started his career last season by throwing for two scores in every game. Now he just throws one touchdown and has substituted for a badly timed interception for the second score. Cutler has decreased in passing yardage every week and only had 131 yards against the Colts last week. This Sunday will be better against a suspect Chargers secondary but he'll be without Javon Walker.

Cutler was the starter in week 14 when the Broncos played in San Diego and had 188 yards and two scores.

Running Backs: Travis Henry now has three games over 125 rushing yards and his only bad game - 11 carries for 35 yards against the Jags - was the only time he has scored this year. Problem now is that Henry sprained his ankle last week and will likely miss some practice time. Selvin Young is more than qualified to take over if needed as he showed last week when he gained 81 yards on just eight carries in indianapolis. I am projecting for both to play and for Henry to be a bit more limited and needing more help from Young than usual. Updates as warranted, Henry is not yet a lock to play this week.

Wide Receivers: The loss of Javon Walker had a big effect last week though the Colts have a solid secondary anyway. Brandon Marshall did score once during his three catches for 23 yards and he had 133 yards against the Jaguars so he can contribute if Cutler will use him. Brandon Stokley just gets worse every week this season and only managed 20 yards on two catches against his old Colts team.

I am expecting Walker to be out again this week and replaced by Marshall.

Javon Walker never had more than 68 yards against the Chargers last year and never scored.

Tight Ends: Very little production here and mostly just blocking. It is clear that Cutler has graduated to using his wide receivers.

Scheffler scored twice and turned three catches into 66 yards against the Chargers last year in San Diego.

Match Against the Defense: The Chargers have been solid against the run this year and only Larry Johnson has managed any level of success against them - much of his production came on a late game 37-yard run. Since Henry is banged up and will share with Young to some measure, expect more moderate numbers here unless Henry is 100% healthy this week. That's unlikely.

Cutler has to win this game for the Broncos against a secondary that has been allowing two or more passing scores every week. This is the week that Denver will really miss the impact of Javon Walker. Look for two passing scores that strongly favor Brandon Marshall who should have a big game. Graham could score as well if they will just get him a pass in the endzone.

Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 16 9 14 20 12 24
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 26 12 28 30 19 28

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