1. Ryan Mathews averages over 5 yards per carry, but still doesn’t crack 100 yards.
Why? Unlike most feature backs in the NFL, Ryan Mathews has yet to solidify himself as a workhorse back. He will get the nod on first and second down, but will be relieved on third down by Ronnie Brown and the versatile new weapon, Danny Woodhead. Mathews has had arguably one of the best off-seasons of any Charger and will show glimpsed of greatness, but will not get enough carries to eclipse the 100 yard mark in Week 1.
Projection: 14 carries, 72 yards, 1 TD.
2. Antonio Gates will catch more passes than the second and third leading receivers combined.
Why? Philip Rivers is still looking to gain confidence in this new offense. If you watched the preseason at all, you know that Rivers was consistently using his big bodied tight ends as a safety valve. Mike McCoy’s offense doesn’t seem to be stretching the field quite like we have grown accustomed to with San Diego offenses in the past. Maybe the Bolts were just dialing back the offense for the preseason, but regardless Rivers does not seem to be looking outside often. Look for Gates to have his best year in recent history. He is completely healthy once again and in an opportune position to thrive in 2013. He should be especially effective against a Houston defense that will be consistently breaking through a mediocre Chargers offensive line, leaving Rivers in need of a dump off.
Projection: 9 catches, 86 yards, 1 TD.
3. Shareece Wright gets thrown at often, but picks off Matt Schaub in his opening game as an official starter.
Why? Shareece is going to be matched up against the Houston Texans #2 receiver, Rookie Deandre Hopkins. Hopkins is quicker than fast, and has an uncanny ability to make catches in traffic. Matt Schaub is going to be looking at Hopkins early and often and Shareece Wright will be the perfect matchup for him. Wright has gained size since entering the league two years ago and still maintains elite 4.4 speed. Wright will solidify his role as the #2 corner for the Bolts on Monday night.
Projection: 3 pass breakups, 1 INT.