Fantasy Game of the Week: SD @ NE

After stomping the New York Jets at home last week, you would think that the talk around the NFL would be how the Patriots are clearly the Superbowl favorites this season. Apparently though, due to a little on-field espionage incident, everyone is focused on how bad of cheaters the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick are. Not that they shouldn’t be focused on it, but it takes away from a matchup that should be billed with as high a regard as last week’s Indy/New Orleans game was supposed to be. That’s alright…the players won’t care who’s videotaping who once they’re on the field and we should be in store for a good one at Gillette this weekend.

Last week Moss showed the fantasy community that he’s back! Brady seemed to enjoy all his new weapons as well, throwing for nearly 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the flip side, the Chargers seemed to regress a bit from last season’s offensive firestorm. LT was held in check by a solid Chicago offense and Philip Rivers needed someone else to throw his touchdown passes for him. The Chargers are looking to rebound (even though they still won) this week as well as get some revenge for getting knocked out of the playoffs last season by these same Patriots.

Remember, Geek Ratings are based on a 0 to 5 scale. So without further ado…

San Diego Chargers (1-0-0) @ New England Patriots (1-0-0)
Sunday, September 16, 2007 (8:15 PM ET)

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady (NE)
Tom Brady showed last week that off field distractions don’t have any affect on his game play (referring to his baby with another momma situation of course). Now he’ll get to play with a new distraction (video-gate scandal) and against a better defense. I imagine the Chargers learned from the Jets mistakes last week and will be sending Shawne Merriman on the blitz every down, but that still won’t stop Brady from posting some solid fantasy numbers.

Philip Rivers (SD)
The Bears shut Rivers down completely last week, but still lost. The Patriots know who the real weapons are in this offense (LT/Gates), so they won’t spend the whole day dropping back in coverage waiting for Rivers to throw their way. With the defense focused on the middle of the field and stopping the run, Rivers will be able to take some shots down field against a weak secondary, so expect him to rebound this week and post some decent fantasy stats.

Running backs

LaDainian Tomlinson (SD)
The Patriots shut down Thomas Jones last week, but LT is to Jones what Randy Moss is to Reche Caldwell. LT smoked the Pats last year in the playoffs, racking up nearly 200 yards of offense and scoring twice. Tomlinson will get his yards and scores, even if his team loses again.

Laurence Maroney (NE)
The bad news is that the Chargers are tough against the run and I expect Brady to throw the ball all day. The good news is that the Chargers are a better team than the Jets, so Sammy Morris won’t be seeing as much playing time as the Pats try to make the most out of their rushing attempts. If you have two other solid RB’s with good matchups though, this might not be a bad week to sit Maroney. If you really want/have to start him though, he could still put up some decent numbers, possibly on screen passes over the head of Merriman.

Sammy Morris (NE)
Morris got more carries than expected last week, but that should change this week. The Patriots won’t have any garbage time to waste in this one, so they’ll want their premiere guy out there as much as possible.

Kevin Faulk (NE)
Tried to pull a disappearing act last week, but this week we should see a little more out of the jumbo elbow padded fellow. If Faulk can get a few screen passes, he could post some mediocre numbers, but don’t consider starting him unless you’re in a 20 team league or something.

Michael Turner (SD)
The Burner was able to post decent numbers for a backup last week and I’m sure he’ll still get his 30-40 yards, but don’t expect a whole lot more out of him unless LT goes down.

Wide Receivers

Randy Moss (NE)
He’s baaaackk!!! Well at least for the first game he was. The Chargers won’t give Brady nearly as much time to throw as the Jets did, so Moss will have to work fast. I expect a lot more short passes to Welker and Stallworth this week, but Moss will still get his and will be a force in the endzone. I expect something like 90 yards and a TD from him this week.

Wes Welker (NE)
Welker proved he can be the check-down receiver that Brady needs last week. This should be on display even more against the Chargers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Welker catch 10 balls for 60 yards or so in this one.

Donte Stallworth (NE)
Stallworth didn’t get a chance to shine in last weeks contest (aka Randy Moss’s coming out party). This week might be a little different, as Moss will be triple covered all day. This should leave Stallworth in single coverage and on the receiving end of a number of Brady passes.

Vincent Jackson (SD)
The only San Diego receiver of fantasy relevance at this point (they have Gates remember!), Jackson could have a solid game going against a weekend secondary. Jackson provides a big redzone target and I expect the Chargers to take a few trips into it.

Tight Ends

Antonio Gates (SD)
Gates is the top tight end in the business and proved it last week, going for over 100 yards and a score (pretty much all of Philip Rivers passing yards). He’ll again get his fantasy gold, as the Patriots stuff the box and try to prevent LT from burning them. Without Rodney Harrison putting the fear of god in him, Gates will feel safer running the seam route right up the middle of the field…right where the Patriots seem to have the hardest time covering.

Benjamin Watson (NE)
Last season Watson had a breakout campaign for the Patriots, catching 49 balls for over 640 yards. However, that was with a depleted wide receiver core where Reche Caldwell was the number one. This season, all of the receivers are new (and better), so Watson seemed to get lost in the clutter last week (although he still did manage to score a touchdown with his one catch). I expect the Pats to use Watson for blocking a lot more this week, trying to pick up Merriman on his blitzes, so I wouldn’t expect that much better stats from him than last week.

Kickers

Stephen Gostkowski (NE)
San Diego will play the Pats tough on defense, but Gostkowski should have ample opportunities. Can he convert on them? That’s left to be seen.

Nate Kaeding (SD)
The Chargers should have little trouble getting onto the Pats side of the field in this contest, but can Rivers lead them to touchdowns is the question. I expect more than a few drives ending in field goal range, so Kaeding should have his fair share of attempts to help his fantasy managers.

Defenses

San Diego
The Chargers defense is supposed to be pretty good this year with Shawne Merriman leading the way. We didn’t really get a fair test last week though, as they played Hexed Grossman and the offensive-challenged Bears. This will be a real test of their status as a top notch defense in the NFL.

New England
Although Asante Samuel has a week of practice under his belt, the corner position is not the one the Pats are worried about. Missing Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison will be rough when they’re trying to corral LT all day. Hopefully Adalius Thomas can help with run support and allow the corners to focus on Gates. Otherwise, my Patriots defense is in for a long day.