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

Prediction: DEN 24, SD 23

Late Update: Buckhalter is expected to play this week but Moreno will be the primary Buckhalter will be the change of pace back.

Early Update: Correll Buckhalter has returned to practice and is likely to play on the Monday night game. His main role will be to slightly decrease what Knowshon Moreno does since Moreno will remain the primary with a significant share of the load.

This should be a very interesting Monday night game with the Broncos coming in with their 5-0 record despite the fact they have only been favored twice this year. The Chargers come off their bye week with a 2-2 mark and have to have this game to keep AFC West hopes alive. This is a very important game for the Chargers to win but by this point it is getting really hard to bet against the Broncos since it's always a losing bet otherwise. This week shows if the Broncos can beat a decent team on the road.

These divisional rivals traded home wins last year with the Broncos winning 39-38 in week two and the Chargers winning 52-21 in week 17.

Denver Broncos (5-0)
Homefield: Invesco Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @CIN 12-7 +5 42.5
2 CLE 27-6 -3 38
3 @OAK 23-3 -1.5 35.5
4 DAL 17-10 +3 43
5 NE 20-17 +3.5 41.5
6 @SD - +4 44
7 BYE - - -
8 @BAL - - -
9 PIT - - -
10 @WAS - - -
11 SD - - -
12 NYG - - -
13 @KC - - -
14 @IND - - -
15 OAK - - -
16 @PHI - - -
17 KC - - -
DEN at SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Orton     230,2
RB Knowshon Moreno 70,1 20  
RB Correll Buckhalter 20 10  
TE Tony Scheffler   50,1  
WR Brandon Marshall   80,1  
WR Eddie Royal   50  
WR Brandon Stokley   20  
PK Matt Prater 1 FG 3 XP  
Pregame Notes: Who knew that having a spectacular defense would make a difference? The Broncos come off home wins over the Cowboys and Patriots and this week hit the final frontier on the road against the Chargers. If the Broncos win this game they can just hand them the division title now and let them play for playoff seeding. This will be fascinating because this game sets off a string of great challenges for this team with some really tough games left to play. It would be easy enough to dismiss the Broncos as a team ready to fall with games against SD, BAL, PIT, NYG, IND and PHI left to play. But we've been saying that for five weeks now and they keep getting it done.

Quarterback: Kyle Orton came over from Chicago to run the system and he's certainly done a masterful job so far. He has seven touchdowns on the year and just threw his first interception. He's had two scores in the last two games which were the toughest fights so far with Dallas and New England coming to town. So far you have to admit that he's always been just good enough to get the job done.

Jay Cutler passed for 316 yards and a score in San Diego last year.

The Chargers seem good against the pass so far but they also played against the Raiders and Dolphins when Chad Pennington was injured. The last game they played had Ben Roethlisberger passing for 333 yards and two scores. Orton's stats have been all over the map and noteworthy here is that the Chargers have been horrible against the run and rank at the bottom of the league currently. Expect at least one passing score and moderate yardage but Orton will probably do whatever he has to do. This is the first time in years that the Broncos are featuring a new offense.

Running Backs: Correll Buckhalter remains out with a high ankle sprain is is still considered week-to-week. But with C-Buck out, the Broncos did not just add a player to the musical chairs backfield. They went with Knowshon Moreno for 21 carries and Lamont Jordan only ran three times. Moreno gained 88 yards and included 36 more yards on four receptions. He was effective and ran well against a good Patriots rushing defense.

Tatum Bell was the running back in San Diego last year and gained 86 yards and two scores on only eight rushes.

This week expect another heavy load from Moreno who should have at least one score and decent yardage - more if they continue to use him as a receiver as well. He could approach the 100 yard mark but probably fall just short since this is played in San Diego. Mendenhall battered the Chargers in Pittsburgh last week but back in San Diego it will be tougher to gain yards.

Wide Receivers: Brandon Marshall is finally doing what he should have done all along - shut up and put up. He has scored four times in the last three games and been the central character in each of those wins. He's been on a streak of scoring and 60+ yard games and has secured the trust of Orton. Last week even Eddie Royal got into the picture when he had ten catches for 90 yards that reversed a four week drought of production. He still has not scored and it is only one game but it certainly was a much needed step in the right direction even if all his fantasy owners had likely benched him last week.

Marshall only gained 55 yards in San Diego last year while Royal led the team with 76 yards.

The Chargers have been outstanding against wideouts this year and why not - they played OAK, BAL and MIA before the Steelers finally gave them wideouts to worry about and Hines Ward had 113 yards while Mendenhall was destroying them on the ground. It is hard to bet against Marshall by this point though his yardage still has not bee that significant. I like Marshall to score once this week and just moderate numbers from the rest.

Tight Ends: Tony Scheffler missed some of the game last week with a hip injury but early reports have him looking good to play this week and he could provide Cutler with a nice outlet. Scheffler had big games both times playing the Chargers last year. He had 64 yards and two scores at home and later 75 yards and one score in San Diego. The Charger remain weak against tight ends so look for a score from Scheffler this time as well.

Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 20 7 11 22 7 11
Preventing Fantasy Points    SD 11 32 8 24 26 10

San Diego Chargers (2-2)
Homefield: Qualcomm Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @OAK 24-20 -9.5 43
2 BAL 26-31 -5 40.5
3 MIA 23-13 -6 42
4 @PIT 28-38 +6.5 43
5 BYE - - -
6 DEN - -4 44
7 @KC - - -
8 OAK - - -
9 @NYG - - -
10 PHI - - -
11 @DEN - - -
12 KC - - -
13 @CLE - - -
14 @DAL - - -
15 CIN - - -
16 @TEN - - -
17 WAS - - -
SD vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers     270,1
RB Ladainian Tomlinson 70,1 20  
RB Darren Sproles 20 30  
TE Antonio Gates   60,1  
WR Chris Chambers   30  
WR Vincent Jackson   60  
WR Malcolm Floyd   40  
PK Nate Kaeding 3 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The bye week actually came at a good time for the Chargers who need to recharge and regroup after a .500 opening to the season that saw them come shockingly close to losing to the Raiders in week one and then dropping both matchups against Ravens and Steelers. LaDainian Tomlinson promptly injured his ankle and never played a full game until the trip to Pittsburgh where all running backs go to die. The good news is that the Chargers have their destiny in their own hands and spend the next three weeks playing against the AFC West. This week's game is the one to win and the rematch in week 11 will likely determine the AFC West champ. Judging by the results, the Chargers defense has some work to do.

Quarterback: Philip Rivers has continued his pace of last season with no games under 250 yards so far and as many as 436 yards like he threw in Baltimore. His six touchdowns are a step back from 2008 but at least his yardage is on a pace that would result in 4980 yards. Unlikely that high, but with the defense keeping opponents in the game, Rivers will need to continue to throw at least as much as last season.

Rivers passed for 207 yards and two scores against the visiting Broncos last year.

The Broncos have only allowed two passing scores this year and both came in the most recent game with Tom Brady. No team has passed for more than 255 yards but as it worked out, the only two good passing teams (DAL and NE) both played in Denver and on the road will be a new test for the secondary. Look for Rivers to be a decent start this week with a chance for good yardage and at least one score. If he can throw for two touchdowns, he can win this game.

Running Backs: LaDainian Tomlinson was running well enough in the season opener when he had 55 yards on 13 carries and scored one touchdown but a sprained ankle sent him to the sideline for a few weeks. Before the bye week, Tomlinson returned to gain just 15 yards on seven runs in Pittsburgh. He's been a big disappointment to those who drafted him so far but has a chance for the next three weeks to prove exactly what he will be this year as he cruises through the AFC West rivals.

Darren Sproles had minimal success while Tomlinson was out other than catching seven passes for 124 yards and a score against the Ravens. As a runner he has only gained 2.4 yards per carry and never had a carry in Pittsburgh where the stats would be even lower.

Tomlinson ran for 96 yards and three touchdowns against the visiting Broncos in 2008 while Sproles mopped up with 115 yards and a touchdown himself.

This year the Broncos have only allowed two rushing scores and never more than 76 rushing yards to any runner. What I like in this game is for Tomlinson to have at least some success though a big game as in the past seems highly unlikely. I like him to take most the carries and score once but Sproles should have at least a minor role this week since the Denver corners are going to force the passing to the backs and tight end. Sproles is a risky start because the Chargers use him inconsistently but this is a good situation for him at least potentially.

Wide Receivers: Vincent Jackson has been the hot hand through the first three games with either a touchdown or 100 yards or both. He fell to just 56 yards on four catches in Pittsburgh as would be expected and his solid numbers so far have come on just seven or eight passes per week. That's impressive since 22 other wideouts had more passes thrown to them over the first four weeks of the season.

Chris Chambers had been apparently dropped from the game plan with two games of no catches but in week four in Pittsburgh he had a touchdown catch and 39 yards on four receptions. That's one game against four and just the exception so far.

Jackson never scored on the Broncos last year and topped out at 73 yards.

No doubt that the Broncos will be aiming to shut down Vincent Jackson and just last week they allowed their first touchdown pass to a wideout this season. Consider Jackson as only a moderate fantasy start this week if that. Denver knows they have to shut him down and the other wideouts have not much this year.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates had been solid this season with exactly five catches for around 75 yards per week through the first three games but came to life in Pittsburgh where he turned in nine receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Like Chambers, so far that is the exception.

Gates had 49 yards on three catches when the Broncos visited last season. He had 61 yards in Denver but did not score in either game. The Broncos held Jason Witten to only 31 yards this year but otherwise have not faced any good tight ends and Ben Watson scored on them last week. I like Gates to have a better game and a score because the Chargers need him to become the primary receiver this week.

Gaining Fantasy Points SD 5 26 14 2 4 9
Preventing Fantasy Points    DEN 1 7 3 1 2 4

The Huddle
~ 2009 ~
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Bye Week
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