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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Bye Week

Prediction: NE 20, SD 27

Update: Laurence Maroney is listed as questionable on the injury report but I will leave him in with the marginal projection. There's bound to be a better start for your team other than Maroney healthy or not. Chris Chambers misses this week as expected but Vincent Jackson will play after being held out of practice on Thursday to rest his knee. Jackson had a full practice on Friday.

This is bound to be a weird game. The Chargers are at home and have every reason in the world to want to pound the Brady-less Patriots into the turf. But the Chargers are only 2-3 and were just manhandled by the Dolphins (who crushed the Patriots the previous week). Neither team is playing to their potential and both were spanked by the AFC's worst team from last year. But the Chargers offense is enough to take this game and there is a distinct chance that the trap game last week was because the Patriots were coming to town. If the Chargers lose this one, it will be a major emotional hit.

The Patriots won 38-14 when the Chargers visited during week two of 2007. The Pats won again 21-12 in the AFC Championship game.

New England Patriots (3-1)
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 KC 17-10 -16.5 45
2 @NYJ 19-10 +1.5 39
3 MIA 13-38 -13 34.5
4 BYE - - -
5 @SF 30-21 -3 41.5
6 @SD - +6 44.5
7 DEN - - -
8 STL - - -
9 @IND - - -
10 BUF - - -
11 NYJ - - -
12 @MIA - - -
13 PIT - - -
14 @SEA - - -
15 @OAK - - -
16 ARZ - - -
17 @BUF - - -
NE at SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Cassell     260,2
RB Laurence Maroney 30 10  
RB Sammy Morris 50    
TE Ben Watson   20  
WR Randy Moss   90,1  
WR Jabar Gaffney   40  
WR Wes Welker   80,1  
PK Stephen Gostkowski 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Patriots showed some spark last week when they took down the 49ers in San Francisco. Matt Cassel likely saved his job and somehow Kevin Faulk made an appearance but the win still leaves the Patriots only a half game behind the Bills in the AFC East. The rushing game is still largely nonexistent and the passing game is only starting to return to life but these Patriots are not going to go away just because they lost Brady.

Quarterback: Matt Cassel finally had a decent game when he completed 22 of 32 passes for 259 yards and one score in San Francisco. More important than anything, he finally hit Randy Moss on a deep strike for a touchdown. Cassel is getting better and the fantasy value is coming back for both Moss and Welker.

Tom Brady passed for 279 yards and three scores against the Chargers last season and later had 209 yards and two scores in the AFC Championship game.

Running Backs: This is turning into a motley crew even if they have scored four rushing touchdowns this year. Kevin Faulk had two touchdowns in San Francisco but only seven carries for 32 yards and almost nothing in the first three games. Lamont Jordan injured his leg and left the game last week but HC Bill Belichick said he would be fine (whatever that means). Sammy Morris has been the best bet at running back and had a season high 63 yards on 16 carries while Laurence Maroney only managed 26 yards on ten carries. There are fantasy points that come out of this team, but who and when can never be known and in the end, there are not that many points anyway.

Maroney ran for 77 yards and Morris gained 51 yards and one score during the regular season game against the Chargers. Later only Maroney was still playing and rushed for 122 yards and one score in the playoff game.

Wide Receivers: Finally Cassel did what he should do every game - throw the ball just beyond the defenders and see if Randy Moss can come down with it (he can). The 66-yard touchdown by Moss was the most encouraging play since Brady left the field. Moss ended with five receptions for 111 yards while Wes Welker had a season high eight catches for 73 yards. Cassel was not able to step in and play like Brady but he has gotten better and salvaged the fantasy hopes for Moss and Welker.

Moss turned in eight catches for 102 yards and two scores in the first meeting with the Chargers last year and then had just one catch for 18 yards later on. Welker fielded eight passes for 91 yards in week two and then had seven receptions for 56 yards and one score in the playoff meeting.

Tight Ends: Cassel finally connected with Moss and Welker but he still has barely looked at Ben Watson. No fantasy value here all year.

Watson caught one score during five receptions for 49 yards in the regular season game against the Chargers but only had one catch in the playoff game.

Match Against the Defense: Both these teams have to be considered without the Miami game in mind. That means that the Pats are going to be facing a defense that has only allowed two rushing scores this year and none in San Diego. There is no Pats runner worth taking a chance on this week.

Cassel faces a secondary that has been ravaged this year. Even JaMarcus Russell passed for 277 yards on this unit. Given the venue and the likelihood that the Chargers get a lead, expect a decent game here from Cassel who will need to throw to stay in the game. The Chargers have been weak against wideouts and tight ends this year but Watson just has not been a factor. Consider Welker and Moss as a decent start this week that could have very nice games.

Gaining Fantasy Points NE 23 19 14 32 4 27
Preventing Fantasy Points    SD 32 13 22 32 21 12

San Diego Chargers (2-3)
Homefield: Qualcomm Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 CAR 24-26 -9 42
2 @DEN 38-39 -1.5 45.5
3 NYJ 48-29 -9 44
4 @OAK 28-18 -7 46
5 @MIA 10-17 -6.5 45.5
6 NE - -6 44.5
7 @BUF - - -
8 @NO - - -
9 BYE - - -
10 KC - - -
11 @PIT - - -
12 IND - - -
13 ATL - - -
14 OAK - - -
15 @KC - - -
16 @TB - - -
17 DEN - - -
SDC vs NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers     220,2
RB LaDainian Tomlinson 80,1 40,1  
TE Antonio Gates   40  
WR Vincent Jackson   70,1  
WR Craig Davis   40  
PK Nate Kaeding 2 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: Maybe call it a trap game. The Chargers seemed to be back on track with two wins before flopping in Miami in a game that completely derailed all progress made by the offense. That could be the deal considering that the Patriots are coming to town this week and there could be no nemesis as big as the team that denied the Chargers a chance at a Super Bowl two years in a row. But the Patriots are no longer the powerhouse of 2007. Then again - neither are the Chargers.

Quarterback: After starting the season with three scores in each of the first three games, Philip Rivers has settled back to only one score in each of the last two weeks. He also went from averaging 280 yards per game to not exceeding 180 yards in the last couple of games. This is only the third home game for the Chargers though and in the first two, Rivers had big games with three touchdowns in each. And there could be no opponent that Rivers would most like to dominate than the Patriots.

Rivers passed for 179 yards and two scores in the regular season game against the Patriots and later had 211 yards and no scores in the AFC Championship game.

Running Backs: What to think? LaDainian Tomlinson says his toe is better and had a 106 yard, two touchdown game in Oakland as proof. Then he laid an egg in Miami with only 35 yards on 12 carries. The Chargers rarely had the ball but only rushing a total of 18 times as a team was surprising, especially since Darren Sproles had six carries just like every week. Tomlinson back at home should be better and he'll have plenty of motivation this week after spending the entire offseason stewing over not playing in New England last January.

Tomlinson only rushed for 43 yards on 18 carries in the first meeting with the Pats last year and later only had two carries before pulling himself out of the game and letting Michael Turner run for 65 yards on 17 carries.

Wide Receivers: Chris Chambers left the Miami game in the fourth quarter with what has been described as an ankle sprain. Pending later information about his injury and practices I will update as warranted but until then I will assume Chambers sits one week out with a sore ankle. His four receiving scores lead the team and his absence will be felt this week. Vincent Jackson hasn't had a big game yet but has been consistent with between 50 and 70 yards each week. He would pair with Buster Davis if Chambers is unable to play.

The only notable effort by a Chargers wideout against the Pats was when Chris Chambers caught seven passes for 90 yards in the playoff game.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates comes off one if the worst games in his career when he only managed one catch for 12 yards in Miami and was impacted by his hip injury that limited him in practice last week. He is not 100% healthy either but has continued to play.

Gates had seven catches for 77 yards and one score in the first meeting with the Pats last year and later turned in seven receptions for 90 yards in the playoffs.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriots have only allowed the Dolphins to rush against them - the other three games had no rushing scores allowed and never more than 74 rushing yards allowed but Tomlinson will attach more meaning to this game since it is the Patriots. I would expect Tomlinson to have at least a good game here and he would love to turn in a monster effort if he could. If LT can get excited about any game this year - this should be the one.

Rivers faces a secondary that has played very well this year though the level of competition has not been that high so far. With Gates ailing and Chambers likely out this week, expect a decent game here by Rivers but likely not a big effort. Moderate yardage and two scores should happen. Much has to do with how healthy Gates is this week.

Gaining Fantasy Points SD 8 7 18 5 9 8
Preventing Fantasy Points    NE 8 23 9 18 4 17

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