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San Diego’s Philip Rivers is easily the class of the division. It doesn’t matter who who is throwing too. Vincent Jackson holds out and only plays four games? Ho hum. Rivers throws for 4710 yards. Antonio Gates has nine touchdowns in the first eight games and then misses six of the next eight games? Big deal. Rivers throws 30 TDs (13 INT). Rivers remains a top tier QB1.
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Kansas City got 3116 yards and 27 TDs (7 INTs) from Matt Cassel and added the 6’4″ Jonathan Baldwin to his arsenal. He should take some of the pressure Dwayne Bowe, who exploded for 1162 yards and 15 TDs last year. Bowe had just one touchdown in the last five games while averaging 55.4 yards. The Chiefs also added Rodney Hudson to help their offensive line. Cassel is a solid QB2 going into the 2011 season.
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John Elway is on board with Tim Tebow as the Broncos’ quarterback. Tebow will have his ups and downs, but should be a solid QB2 thanks to his ability to run the football. He had six rushing touchdowns last year. New coach John Fox has Kyle Orton on top of the depth chart, but he could be traded once the lockout is lifted. If he beats out Tebow, he will also be a solid QB2. I just assume at some point Tebow would get a chance to start.
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Then there is the Raiders. Jason Campbell is the starter, but he’s not much of a fantasy option. He topped 240 yards just twice.  He had one or fewer touchdown passes in ten of the 13 games he played in. I would look elsewhere for my backup fantasy quarterback.
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The fantasy playoffs continued as the Chargers destroyed the 49ers last night.
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Having players go in the Thursday night games gives you a little bit of an advantage. If your players do well, you can perhaps be a little more cautious with your team. If your players failed to put up good numbers, perhaps you will want to take a bigger risk, hoping to make up some ground. You also get a feel for your matchup depending on how your opponents players did. Let’s take a look at how fantasy owners will be feeling about their players.
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Quarterbacks:  Philip Rivers (273 yards, three touchdowns) didn’t have Antonio Gates or Malcom Floyd in his arsenal, but it did not matter. He just reunited with an old flame in Vincent Jackson to put on a clinic. If you used Alex Smith (165 yards, INT), you’re in some serious trouble.
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Running Backs: There were four possible running back choices in this one. Mike Tolbert (46 yards, TD) was the top ranked of the quartet and he delivered the best score. Brian Westbrook (30 total yards, TD) did well enough for those of you who took a chance on him. Ryan Mathews (56 yards) was OK, while Anthony Dixon (35 total yards) was a letdown.
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Wide Receivers:  Vincent Jackson (112 yards, 3 TDs) was a beast. I bumped him into the top 15 when news broke of Floyd and Gates inactive status. I just wish I bumped him higher. Josh Morgan (106 yards) once again was the top wide receiver threat. He has becoming one of those unheralded players that make fantasy football playoffs legends. Michael Crabtree (17 yards) was a dud. Legedu Naanee was a major letdown.
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Tight Ends: Vernon Davis (4 yards) was nearly invisible. Tough break for his fantasy owners. You’ll have to make up those points. Randy McMichael (55 yards) did an admirable job filling in for Gates.
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Kickers:  Nate Kaeding kicked two field goals (25, 39) and had four PATs. Solid start. Jeff Reed was held to one lonely PAT.
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Defenses:  San Diego was a beast holding the Niners to seven points. They racked up six sacks and forced on turnover (INT). The Niners got blitzed allowing 34 points. They had just one sack and did not force a turnover.
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With each passing day the likelihood that Vincent Jackson will play a down for the Chargers this season worsens. Even with their new rookie RB Ryan Mathews figuring to provide more balance on offense, this is still Philip Rivers team, meaning they will be throwing the football early and often.

 

Antonio Gates will likely lead the Chargers in targets, but Floyd will be counted on to use his big frame (6’5″, 225 lbs) similar to the way Vincent Jackson did.

 

Floyd showed big play potential last year catching 45 passes for 776 yards (17.2 yards per catch). His career ypc is 16.5. He’ll have to improve on his one TD though. However, with Vincent Jackson (6’5″, 230) out of the mix, Floyd will be more likely to get them. Legedu Naanee (6/2″, 220) just doesn’t have the size Floyd does.

 

Assuming V-Jax doesn’t play for the Chargers Floyd could be a steal in fantasy drafts. His current Mock Draft Central ADP is 69th (25th WR). It’s a little bit of a risk going with a somewhat unknown commodity, but sometimes you need to take risks to win. In all likelihood you can get the number one WR on a pass-first team as a WR3. What’s not to like about that scenario?

 

What are your thoughts on Malcom Floyd? Would you want him as your WR3?

The biggest concern the Chargers are facing is the possible holdouts of Vincent Jackson and Tackle Marcus McNeill and not LaDainian Tomlinson’s departure. It appears unlikely that they will have the services of these two key players any time soon.

 

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Moderate
The Chargers should start the fantasy playoffs with a bang in a Week 14 match-up with Kansas City at home. Next they face the Niners at home before playing the Bengals in Cincinnati in the fantasy championship.

 

Five Star Fantasy Options
Philip Rivers – Losing Vincent Jackson would hurt, but Rivers would make do. He would still have Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee have potential. Plus, Darren Sproles is effective catching the ball out of the backfield.

 

Antonio Gates – Despite his decline, LT still scored12 TDs. It’s hard to imagine rookie Ryan Matthews will punch in that many. Gates should get plenty of looks in the red zone and a return to double-digit TDs is highly likely. If V-Jax does holdout, Gates will get more looks. He could easily be the top scoring TE in 2010.

 

Four Star Fantasy Options
Ryan Matthews – I know he’s only a rookie, but he is in a good situation. If McNeill does hold out, bump him down to a three star. Matthews should get plenty of carries between the 20s. He could yield some red zone carries to Darren Sproles because of Sproles’ versatility, but the one-yard plunges should belong to Matthews.

 

Three Star Fantasy Options
Darren Sproles – Sproles did not have the season many expected him to, but still finished with 840 total yards and 7 TDs. He should be able to at least match those numbers, and even top them if Matthews struggles to adjust to the speed of the NFL.

 

Vincent Jackson – If he doesn’t hold out, you can easily move him up to the five star level. He’s that talented. He’s big, he’s fast, and is a good bet for 1000+ yards and 10+ TD if, and it’s a big if, he can come to terms with the front office.

 

Malcom Floyd – If Jackson holds out, you can move Floyd up to at least a 3.5 star rating. He’s a big play threat averaging 17.2 yards per catch the past two seasons. He could produce a 1000 yards season if given enough looks.

 

Chargers Defense/Special Teams – They aren’t the force they once were, but the do play the Chiefs twice (Weeks 1, 14), Raiders twice (5, 13), Seahawks (3), and Rams (6).

 

Two Star Fantasy Options
Legedu Naanee – Naanee could add a star if V-Jax sits out. He has good size (6’2″, 220), but has yet been given the opportunity to show what he can do. There is a bit of risk in drafting Naanee, but do remember who his QB is.

 

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

Chargers Colts
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Vincent Jackson was supposed to breakout in 2007.  He did OK with 41 catches for 623 yards and 3 TDs.  Not exactly breakout numbers though.  Last year he stepped up his production though with 59 grabs for 1098 yards and 7 TDs.  He’s not the most consistent threat with five games with under six points in standard fantasy scoring, but he can string together a solid stretch as evidenced by his six TDs in nine weeks (Week 6-15).  Plus, he finished strong with averages of 98.75 yards and 0.5 TDs in the last four games. 

Jackson should continue to develop into one of the game’s best playmakers.  I can see him more involved in the offense as he and Rivers have formed a nice connection.  I’m expecting 70 catches for 1150 yards and 8 TDs, making him a solid WR2.  He should be around the 15th-20th WR taken in the 4th-6th round.

Philip Rivers handoff
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Rivers has developed into one of the games best young QBs, but I think he takes a step back in 2009.  LaDainian Tomlinson played hurt last year, which limited his effectiveness and production.  Plus, not having Shawne Merriman reeked havoc on the Chargers’ Defense.  Having two healthy should change the way they attack defenses.  Rivers still has enough weapons in Antonio Gates, LT and Darren Sproles out of the backfield, Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers, and Malcom Floyd to be a top end QB.   I just don’t see him approaching 34 TDs again.

Rivers has some tough matchups (Oakland twice, Baltimore, Miami, Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Philly, and Tennessee) as well as some favorable ones (Denver twice, Kansas City twice, Cleveland, and Cincinnati).   His fantasy playoff schedule (Weeks 14-16) is fairly difficult as he faces Dallas, Cincy, and Tennessee.  Despite some tough matchups, I would still take Rivers in the 4th round.  I expect him to throw for around 3800 yards and 24 TDs.

drew-brees
1. Drew Brees 
Brees is still top dog.  Although Tom Brady has answered some early questions, he still is more of a risk than Brees as the top gunslinger.
Previous Ranking:  #1

2. Tom Brady
Brady has answered some questions like I stated.  I moved him up a slot because now Manning has questions.  Brady and Bill will want to prove they are the reason for the explosive offense.
Previous Ranking:  #3

3. Peyton Manning
You have been able to pencil Manning for a solid 4000 yard, 25-28 TD season for forever, but without Dungy and Harrison, Manning doesn’t seem to be the lock he once was.
Previous Ranking:  #2

4.  Kurt Warner 
Boldin is still in town.  Warner’s fantasy football playoff schedule of  San Francisco, Detroit, and St. Louis in Weeks 14-16 solidify his high ranking.
Previous Ranking:  #4

5.  Aaron Rodgers
It’s been a quiet offseason for Rodgers and the Packers.  After last year’s fiasco, it must be very welcoming.  Rodgers can concentrate on playing football, something he did quite well last year despite the distractions.  I expect him to be even better in 2009.
Previous Ranking:  #5

 
philip-rivers-handoff
6.  Philip Rivers
They won’t throw as much, but Rivers has so many weapons (Gates, LT, Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Floyd, Sproles, etc.) that he’ll be just fine.
Previous Ranking:  #6

7.  Tony Romo
Romo is another one who has to be enjoying the relative quiet the departure of T.O. has created.  If Roy Williams can step up, Romo could be better by subtraction.
Previous Ranking:  #7

8.  Donovan McNabb
The addition of Jeremy Maclin, even if he’s similar to DeSean Jackson, is enough for me to move him up a couple of slots. 
Previous Ranking:  #10

9.  Matt Ryan
Ryan wasn’t in the first top ten group, but Atlanta has added Tony Gonzalez, the best pass-catching Tight End in NFL history.  With Gonzo, Roddy White, and Michael Jenkins, Ryan will have plenty of options.
Previous Ranking:  Unranked

10.  Carson Palmer
Palmer is still in my top ten, but he’s fading fast.  It appears that Ocho Cinco is going to be a problem again in 2009. 
Previous Ranking:  #9

*Jay Cutler was previous #8, but his move to Chicago and the lack of weapons moved him out of my top ten.

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Top Ten QB Rankings #1

This is my preseason top ten.Click here for my Midseason revised rankings.

Click here for my Second Half rankings.

drew-brees
1. Drew Brees
All he did was pass for 5069 yards and 34 TDs last year despite having his top wideout, Marques Colston, miss five games.  In his three years with New Orleans Drew is averaging 4637 yards and 29 TDs.  To put it into perspective, Peyton Manning has never thrown for 4600 yards in a season.
2. Peyton Manning
Old reliable.  He has never thrown less that 26 TD passes in a season.  Only twice has his passing yardage dipped below the 4000 yard mark.  You can pretty much pencil him in for 4200 yards and 28 TDs.  Others may finish ahead of him, but the come at a higher risk.  For example, in 2006 the top five QBs were Manning, Brees, Bulger, Palmer, and Kitna.  In 2007 it was Brady, Romo, Manning, Big Ben, and Brees.  Last year it was Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Culter, and Warner (Manning was sixth).  The two constants are Brees and Manning, who happen to be my top two fantasy QBs for 2009,

3. Tom Brady
I know he’s coming off a major injury, but he’s had far more time than Carson Palmer had to rehab when he tore his knee.  Brady had 4806 yards and 50 TDs in 2007.  50 TDs.  Randy Moss and Wes Welker are still there.  Plus, don’t you get the feeling Bill Belichick wants Brady to put up huge numbers to discredit Josh McDaniels’ influence?  Matt Cassel was seventh in QB scoring last year, and with all due respect to Mr. Cassel, he is no Tom Brady.

4.  Kurt Warner
QB is the one position where players can maintain their excellence well into their thirties.  As long as Anquan Boldin is with the Cardinals, Warner remains one of the top QBs.  Even if he holds out or forces a trade, Warner has great weapons in Fitz, Steve Breaston, and Jerheme Urban.

5.  Aaron Rodgers
Rogers impressed me last year.  He was the second highest scoring QB despite having to deal with the Brett Favre circus and expectations.  With a year under his belt and a training camp in which he can just focus on football, I expect Rodgers to be the top young QB next year.  He has plenty of weapons and his ability to add points with his feet are a huge help.
philip-rivers-handoff
6.  Philip Rivers
I would rank Rivers higher, but I think he’ll have a couple of factors working against him next year.  First and foremost, I believe the Chargers Defense will be better in 2009.  They won’t be in as many shootouts next year.  Second, as their D improves, their reliance on the ground game will increase.  LT should be healthy and Sproles will get more carries.  Rivers’ yardage will remain around 4000, but the TD number (34) will take a hit.
7.  Tony Romo
Romo will miss T.O. on the field.  It’s had to replace a double-digit TD guy.  Roy Williams is solid, but he’s not T.O.  Defenses will be able to key in on Jason Witten more, meaning is go-to-guy could have more difficulty getting open.  Plus, with a trio of backs in MB3, Felix Jones, and Choice, the Cowboys could get back to more smashmouth football.
8.  Jay Cutler
In a perfect world Jay Cutler would probably be the third guy on my list.  Unfortunately there are several strikes against him.  Namely the ongoing drama with his new Coach and the potential four-game suspension of his top target Brandon Marshall.  He has the ability to climb this list, but as of now I’m a little leery of his situation.
9.  Carson Palmer
A healthy Palmer should easily be able to crack the Top 10.  Laveranues Coles is no T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but he’s a solid wideout.  As long as Chad Ocho Cinco doesn’t force his way out of Cincinnati, Palmer should be able to throw for 4000 and 25 TDs.
10.  Donovan McNabb
Even if his team won’t give him the tools he needs to do his job, McNabb will find a way to make it work.  He always does.  Kevin Curtis should be healthy and DeSean Jackson has a year of experience.

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The Chargers’ Offseason has already been sullied by the A.J. Smith-LaDainian Tomlinson feud.  Shawne Merriman played the voice of reason and told them to keep that garbage out of the papers.  LT’s situation is not resolved as is the biggest quesion facing the Chargers this offseason.  At least they figured out what to do with Darren Sproles.  They have to be regretting the decision to let Michael Turner walk.  The slapped the franhise tag on Sproles?  One area that isn’t a question mark is their Quarterback play.  The Chargers could work on locking up Philip Rivers long term, but he’s signed through next year.  Vincent Jackson is also signed through next year, but his recent DUI could deter him from getting an extension this summer.  The same goes for Chris Chambers, minus the DUI.  Malcom Floyd is a free agent that will likely be back.  Antonio Gates dealt with nagging injuries, but still was a top end Tight End.  Starting Guard Mike Goff is a Free Agent, but his return isn’t likely.

On Defense the Chargers will welcome the return of Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman.  They don’t have any major Free Agents to deal with on this side of the ball.  They do need to get better stopping the pass as they ranked 31st in that category.

San Diego Chargers Preview

2 September 2008


LT’s getting older.  Shawne Merriman should be going under the knife.  Antonio Gates is limping.  So what.  They still are one of the best teams in the NFL, which could easily be holding the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end.

Offensively they are a powerhouse.  LaDainian Tomlinson is the best Running Back in the league.  He is so versatile and elusive.  Michael Turner has moved on the Hotlanta, but Darren Sproles and Jacob Hester are ready to jump in and fill that role.  Philip Rivers appears recovered from his knee injury.  So much so that at times he can’t remember which one he hurt.  He has had more time to develop a rapport with Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson will probably hit this year since last year was his supposed “breakout year”.  All too often that happens a year late.  Antonio Gates should be fresh once he gets the rust off from missing the preseason with a toe injury.  Their Offensive Line is Rock Solid and Nate Kaeding is one of the best Kickers in the game.

Defensively it all depends on how Shawne Merriman holds up.  Personally, I think he should have surgery, but I’m not the one who makes that decision.  As stupid as it is for Merriman to risk his career on it, it’s equally negligent for the Chargers to allow it.  Stephen Cooper (108 Tackles), Matt Wilhelm (97 Tackles), and Shaun Phillips (8.5 Sacks) complete one of the best Linebacking units in the league.  Luis Castillo anchors their Defensive Front.   Antonio Cromartie picked off 10 passes last year.  Clinton Hart (85 tackles) was solid at Safety.

They are going to go as far as Shawne Merriman allows them.  Sure, they can win withouth him, but it’s going to be an emotional blow.  If they decided before the season started to shut him down, they could have prepared better.  I still think they will win the AFC West and make it to the AFC Title Game. 

Fantasy-wise they are loaded.  LT is your #1 pick.  Antonio Gates is the first or second Tight End selected.  Philip Rivers is a fantasy starting QB.  Chris Chambers makes a great #2 or #3 wideout.  Vincent Jackson is good for WR depth.  Nate Kaeding should be one of the first Kickers taken (in the last round of course). San Diego Defense should be one of the first taken as well.


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