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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
WEEK 1
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Thursday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Monday
Sunday
Sunday Late
*updated Sat
*updated

Prediction: SD 31, OAK 10

Here's the chance that these divisional rivals can start the season out with a game indicative of what to expect this year. The Chargers should win this one and exert what has to be certain dominance over the AFC West after ending 2008 with a disappointing 8-8 record and that was only thanks to a four game winning streak to end the year. The Raiders are back at is after posting a 5-11 record last season and once again feature a top drafted rookie that everyone expects to fail. This is a Monday night game (of two) and a chance for the Chargers to really show the worls they are back.

The Chargers, as always, swept the Raiders last year. They won 34-7 at home and 28-18 in Oakland.

San Diego Chargers (0-0)
Homefield: Qualcomm Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @OAK - - -
2 BAL - - -
3 MIA - - -
4 @PIT - - -
5 BYE - - -
6 DEN - - -
7 @KC - - -
8 OAK - - -
9 @NYG - - -
10 PHI - - -
11 @DEN - - -
12 KC - - -
13 @CLE - - -
14 @DAL - - -
15 CIN - - -
16 @TEN - - -
17 WAS - - -
SD @ OAK Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers     210,2
RB Ladainian Tomlinson 110,2 20  
TE Antonio Gates   60,1  
WR Chris Chambers   50  
WR Vincent Jackson   40,1  
WR Malcolm Floyd   30  
PK Nate Kaeding 1 FG 4 XP  

Pregame Notes: 2008 was a down year thanks mostly to injuries that affected almost every star player. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chris Chambers and Antonio Gates all had various ailments and produced lower numbers than usual. The Chargers defense lost Shawn Merriman early on and never seemed to recover. Playing in the weakest division in the NFL helps a lot, but without a healthy team the Charges fortunes were sunk last year.

2009 is an important season for this team. With Tomlinson reaching 30 years of age, the window is quickly closing on putting it all together for a championship run. It's pretty much now or never for the Bolts.

Quarterback: With a rushing attack that was dulled in 2008, Philip Rivers picked up the slack by having a career best season - 4009 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. What's even more promising is that he did that with only about 20 passing attempts more than the previous two seasons and yet the results were far superior - over 600 yards and 13 scores better than he ever had.

Rivers only passed for 180 yards and one score with two interceptions in Oakland last year. He later had no problems in week 14 with 214 passing yards and three touchdowns against the visiting Raiders. Expecting the rushing game to be back for the Chargers should result in a lower afternoon by Rivers. Look for at least one score and it could be two if Tomlinson doesn't double up on scores and the defense doesn't also take one..

Running Backs: Ladainian Tomlinson was hampered by toe and groin injuries almost all of 2008 and his stats did not justify him being the #1 pick in almost every fantasy draft last summer. That all said, his “demise” still included 1110 rushing yards and 426 receiving yards with a total of 12 touchdowns. That was the lowest rushing total of his illustrious career though and while he ran for only 3.9 yards per carry, he did the same in 2004 when he was also banged up much of the year. 2008 was the first sub-300 carry season of his career (292).

Tomlinson is healthy once again and the team made the decision to have him play in preseason games instead of his traditional twiddling of the thumbs on the sideline. It should allow Tomlinson to start the season out already in top form instead of slowly shaking off the rust as in previous seasons.

There's also the expectation that Darren Sproles will have a larger role this year. That remains to be seen and this week should be indicative of what to expect. I am not projecting for Sproles until he shows to have a fantasy relevant role each week. If ever there was a season to use up Tomlinson, this would be it.

Tomlinson rushed for 106 yards and two scores in Oakland last year. He later had 91 yards and one score when the Raiders visited. Look for a nice effort here by Tomlinson who always has fun in Oakland.

Wide Receivers: It was a down year for the Chargers receivers in 2008 with the exception of Vincent Jackson who pretty much doubled his previous best when he turned 59 catches into 1098 yards and seven touchdowns. Invariably the scores would be long ones and Jackson had a tendency to either have a big game or nothing all depending on him catching that one bomb from Rivers. Chris Chambers was injured or playing less than 100% for most of the year but he returns for his 9th NFL season and a hope for redemption from his declining trend since showing up it San Diego.

Jackson only had three catches for 52 yards in Oakland but later turned in five receptions for 148 yards and one touchdown when the Raiders came to San Diego. The wideouts should have a decent game here but likely nothing that big since the rushing attack will be central to this win. Jackson remains the most likely to score but not by much.

Tight Ends: Like his teammates, Antonio Gates suffered through a rough 2008 when he nursed turf toe and later a high ankle sprain that left him with his worst season since he was a rookie. He only caught 60 passes for 704 yards but did managed to snag eight touchdown receptions which ranked #2 for the position last year. Gates is healthy again and also looking for some redemption.

Gates led the Chargers with five receptions for 58 yards and one score in Oakland last year but was held without a catch in the second meeting when he was playing injured.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SD 5 7 16 6 8 16
Preventing Fantasy Points OAK 18 28 12 15 14 14


Oakland Raiders (0-0)
Homefield: McAfee Coliseum
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 SD - - -
2 @KC - - -
3 DEN - - -
4 @HOU - - -
5 @NYG - - -
6 PHI - - -
7 NYJ - - -
8 @SD - - -
9 BYE - - -
10 KC - - -
11 CIN - - -
12 @DAL - - -
13 @PIT - - -
14 WAS - - -
15 @DEN - - -
16 @CLE - - -
17 BAL - - -
OAK vs SD Rush Catch Pass
QB JaMarcus Russell     180,1
RB Darren McFadden 70 20  
RB Michael Bush 30 10  
TE Zach Miller   60,1  
WR Louis Murphy   30  
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey   40  
PK S. Janikowski 1 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: Tom Cable was the interim head coach last season and was awarded the job that few really wanted. He has not hired an offensive coordinator which leaves him free to call plays when they are sent down from the owners box. This team still smacks of an Al-Davis directed flop but hope springs eternal even to those with black face paint and wearing gothic gear.

Quarterback: The Raiders passing game was never ranked better than 29th in any category last year. They ranked 32nd in passing completions (222) and yards (2369), 31st in attempts (421) and 29th in passing scores (13). To ensure that this likely happens all over again, the Raiders released Jeff Garcia and will go to war with JaMarcus Russell and no one to challenge him. Russell had 11 games under 200 passing yards and his 277 yards and one score against the visiting Chargers last year was actually his best game.

The Raiders did draft Darius Heyward-Bey as the first wideout taken but the speedster will live and die by the long pass. Sort of like Vincent Jackson only faster and not nearly as often.

Running Backs: This is where all the fantasy value lies - at least potentially. Darren McFadden was hampered by a turf toe for almost the entire season of 2008 but is back and healthy. He looked sharp in the preseason and could actually make good on his high draft selection. If there will be any fantasy star on this team, it will be McFadden (or no one).

Michael Bush has also earned playing time in the yet unseen rotation and should end up as the short yardage and goal line back. It all depends on the health of Justin Fargas who the Raiders have wanted to replace but keeps ending up back in the starting lineup. This home stand is worth a watch just to see what happens in this backfield. Expect McFadden to lead the way but at least Bush if not Fargas as well to be involved.

No runner had more than 50 rushing yards or scored against the Chargers last year.

Wide Receivers: Sure, it is a motley crew again but at least with some promise. Chaz Schilens was tearing up the preseason but broke a bone in his hand and will miss at least this week. And "tearing up" a term relative only to other Raiders wideouts. Javon Walker has beaten out Johnnie Lee Higgins to become the #3 receiver which is pretty remarkable considering their respective career marks. Darrius Heyward-Bey will likely start because Al Davis wants to see his newest acquisition before he completely goes senile flying down the field on a deep pattern.

Make no mistake - this is still one of the weakest units of receivers in the league and that's compounded by a quarterback who has not shown to be worthy of #1 overall draft pick. It's a unit that seems like should have some fantasy value but so far - none.

Tight Ends: The only Raider with any fantasy value last year was Zach Miller who had a mild second-year break out of 56 catches for 778 yards but only one touchdown. He was the only consistently used receiver for Russell but his lack of scoring keeps him as a lower end starter and a better fantasy backup.

Miller had five catches for 95 yards and one score against the visiting Chargers last year. This should be a good game for Miller while the receivers sort themselves out.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points OAK 30 19 31 18 28 13
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 30 8 18 32 10 8

The Huddle
WEEK 1
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Thursday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Monday
Sunday
Sunday Late
Other Features
Fantasy Statistics
Early Injury Report
Free Agent Forecast
Commentary From the Edge
Game Recaps
Tunnel Vision
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