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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late

Prediction: BAL 17, SD 23

Saturday Update: Tomlinson has been already counted out so consider Darren Sproles as a decent start this week. The Ravens will be tough but Sproles is a devastating receiver which will come into play.

Friday Update: LaDainian Tomlinson has missed both practices this week and even had work a protective boot because of his sprained ankle. No doubt he will be questionable to play this week and likely a game time decision. I am removing him from the projections because he is not a safe play in the best case and may not even play.

This should be an interesting game. It features the Ravens who according to last week are now a passing team with no defense going against the Chargers who can barely handle the visiting Raiders despite having all players healthy again. Now realistically, this could also be a case of where the Ravens clearly thought they could beat the Chiefs and the Chargers did not give much thought to the Raiders since they have beaten then the last 11 times. Both teams could have been sort of caught looking ahead to this game. If the Chiefs and Raiders got that good, that fast, it will greatly diminish the fun of fantasy football.

Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 KC 38-24 -12.5 36
2 @SD - +4 41
3 CLE - - -
4 @NE - - -
5 CIN - - -
6 @MIN - - -
7 BYE - - -
8 DEN - - -
9 @CIN - - -
10 @CLE - - -
11 IND - - -
12 PIT - - -
13 @GB - - -
14 DET - - -
15 CHI - - -
16 @PIT - - -
17 @OAK - - -
BAL at SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Joe Flacco 10   250,1
RB Ray Rice 60 30  
RB Willis McGahee 20,1 20  
TE Todd Heap   50  
WR Mark Clayton   50  
WR Kelley Washington   40  
WR Derrick Mason   60,1  
PK Steve Hauschka 1 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Ravens are pointing to Al Saunders being an offensive consultant and the maturation of Joe Flacco for the offensive sparks that ensued last week when the Chiefs came to town. Kudos were thrown around to an improved O-line and the emergence of receivers who apparently "got it" this year and are suddenly on the brink of collective stardom.

Whether we end up throwing more when it's all said and done, there is no way to predict that," coach John Harbaugh said. "I think that we'll be capable of throwing the ball probably in more ways this year than we did last year." The Ravens can pass the ball more this season because of their improved offensive line and an emergence of other receivers. Or, maybe, it could be that the Chiefs were visiting. Do it again in San Diego - you have a trend.

Quarterback: Joe Flacco threw for a career high 307 yards and three scores against the visiting Chiefs. But Flacco only passed for more than 200 yards in five of his 19 games last year and while he is destined to be a very good quarterback, it didn't happen that fast. He has no new receivers from last year and a few are aging beyond their prime anyway. This week will be a far better gauge.

Visiting the Chargers should be a good test and they are coming off a near loss to the Raiders. At this point you cannot expect more than moderate numbers for Flacco despite the nice season opener.

Running Backs: As expected, Ray Rice turned in a nice game against the Chiefs when he gained 108 yards on 19 carries and had two catches. But the committee model is in effect in Baltimore since Willis McGahee now only had 10 carries for 44 yards, he scored touchdowns on both a run and a reception and had four catches for 31 yards. Might as well throw in Le'Ron McClain who also scored once and had six runs and three catches. That all works fine when you are whooping up on the visiting Chiefs but on the road to San Diego should be a different ending.

Granted, McGahee appeared to have the goal line duty but realize too that at halftime, Rice had nine runs to only one for McGahee. Rice remains the primary here but when it all goes right, McGahee and even McClain figure in during slop time. It is too early to call this a full committee backfield.

This week in San Diego will be far tougher running. The Raiders rushed for 123 yards on 29 carries last week at home but in San Diego should be a different matter and especially if you consider last week a sort of season opener/trap game that the Chargers still managed to win. Look for plenty of Rice still but less of McGahee and McClain.

Wide Receivers: The big-time passing last week was not only odd, consider that Derrick Mason only caught four passes for 47 yards. Mark Clayton had five catches for 77 yards and one score and his 31-yard touchdown did seal the game (against the visiting Chiefs that is). Clayton only had four games over 50 yards last year and less than that in his previous years. It is possible he is breaking out in his fifth season but it could be that he just had one of his rare good games.

In San Diego this week, the Charger are going against a team that should play the pass reasonably well and hold the wideouts to only average numbers. I like one passing score that should favor a wideout or tight end but since Heap and Clayton just scored, I'm giving the nod to Mason. It could go anywhere.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap had five receptions for 74 yards and a score last weekend. To put this into perspective, he has only managed that many yards in two other games over the last three seasons (thank you homestands against the Bengals and Jets). No doubt he gets ripped off the waiver wire this week and no doubt he'll land back on it in a month or so. At the least, he lacks the consistency to warrant a fantasy start. At worse, he's just the same tight end he has been for all but two of his eight years in the NFL.

The Chargers are soft against tight ends though so look for Heap to matter one more week,

Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 3 1 6 6 7 26
Preventing Fantasy Points    SD 10 25 14 23 22 23

San Diego Chargers (1-0)
Homefield: Qualcomm Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @OAK 24-20 -9.5 43
2 BAL - -5 40.5
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 vs BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers     260,2
RB Ladainian Tomlinson 50 20
RB Darren Sproles 50 50  
TE Antonio Gates   60,1  
WR Chris Chambers   30  
WR Vincent Jackson   60,1  
WR Legedu Naanee   40  
PK Nate Kaeding 3 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: Could it be that the Chargers are that bad or that the Raiders are that good? Could it be that the Chargers, having one of the longest NFL win streaks over another team (Raiders) just did not take it as seriously as they should have knowing they could mount a late very late comeback and still win the game? Oh wow, they just did that. Pending more similar outcomes, you have to consider that as a trap game of sorts. This week will be much more revealing about what to expect from the Chargers this year.

Quarterback: Philip Rivers passed for 252 yards and a score in Oakland but he had a slow start and threw an interception along with being sacked three times. Rivers looked sharper as the game progressed and in particular on the final drive when he marched the Chargers downfield and the Raiders could not stop him. Rivers is just fine this year and had nice success with Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson.

Rivers goes against a secondary that was the defensive weakness for the Ravens last year and that gave up over 200 yards and one or two scores regular in road games. Since the Ravens are still stuffing the run, expect a decent passing game here.

Running Backs: The Chargers did not get the monster rushing game from LaDainian Tomlinson that typically accompanies playing the Raiders but he did score once and still has only one game when he failed to record at least one touchdown against the Raiders. Tomlinson ran for 55 yards on 13 carries which was respectable enough but had a sprained ankle and did not play much in the second half. He had five runs for 19 yards in the first half and Darren Sproles gained only two yards on three carries.

How much Sproles will continue to figure remains to be certain but Sproles has proven himself as a dangerous receiver at the very least. I will assume Tomlinson's ankle is okay this week and that the pair will share carries again.

The Ravens always have a great rushing defense and already they held Larry Johnson to just 20 yards on 11 carries. That does not bode as well for Tomlinson. Look for a lower effort from him since his best strength goes directly against the best aspect of the Ravens defense. WIth G Louis Vasquez and C Nick Hardwick potentially out, the running game will struggle.

Tomlinson is reported to be in jeopardy of missing the game from his ankle. Updates as warranted.

Wide Receivers: The breakdown in Oakland had Chris Chambers held to no catches and he only had one pass thrown to him thanks to dancing with CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Vincent Jackson took the easier matchup and had five receptions for 56 yards and a score while re-establishing the same chemistry with Rivers that worked so well in 2008. Legedu Naanee was also effective from the slot with five receptions for 49 yards.

The Chargers will need to win this one in the air and Rivers will be up to the task thanks to a full complement of receivers. Chambers once again pulls the worst matchup and leaves Jackson as the already preferred target in line for another score this week and at least decent yardage.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates looks to rebound this year and had a nice start with a team high 83 yards on five catches - most of those coming in the fourth quarter and on the final drive. Gates will need to figure in again this week against a defense that will stuff the run but then struggle a little against a top tight end. Look for a score here and healthy yardage.

Gaining Fantasy Points SD 16 6 16 14 18 14
Preventing Fantasy Points    BAL 18 1 18 18 11 8

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