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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 1
2012
DAL at NYG (WED) *IND at CHI *PHI at CLE STL at DET
ATL at KC *JAC at MIN *PIT at DEN *WAS at NO
*BUF at NYJ *MIA at HOU *SEA at ARI *CIN at BAL (MON)
*UPDATED *CAR at TB *NE at TEN SF at GB *SD at OAK (MON)

Prediction: PIT 27, DEN 24 (Line: DEN by 1)

Player Updates: Isaac Redman

Players to Watch: Peyton Manning, Denver receivers, Pittsburgh running backs

This should be a great game to watch. The Steelers lost 23-29 in their Wildcard Playoff game in Denver last year though Tim Tebow is now gone and only Peyton Manning takes his place. The Broncos won the AFC West with only an 8-8 record while the Steelers won the wildcard with a 12-4 mark. The Steelers have a score to settle and the Broncos embark on their Peyton Manning era while John Elway continues to bark "Shut up about Tebow already! He's gone!"

Pittsburgh Steelers
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @DEN ----- 10 KC -----
2 NYJ ----- 11 BAL -----
3 @OAK ----- 12 @CLE -----
4 BYE ----- 13 @BAL -----
5 PHI ----- 14 SD -----
6 @TEN ----- 15 @DAL -----
7 @CIN ----- 16 CIN -----
8 WAS ----- 17 CLE -----
9 @NYG ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster

Pregame Notes: The Steelers released long-time offensive coordinator Bruce Arians who ended up with these Colts and instead will employ a more open, more aggressive passing attack led by new OC Todd Haley. That should help Roethlisberger who finished with 4077 yards and 21 touchdowns last year but was as good as 4328 yards and 26 scores back in 2009. With the rushing offense looking credible and yet average, this offense will live and die by what Big Ben can accomplish. The gameplan is to pump up the volume with passing.

Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL back in January and is not expected to be a factor until around midseason. Ike Redman was the early favorite to replace him but later had his own ankle and hip injuries. Plus Jonathan Dwyer looked sharp in preseason games. Until Mendenhall returns, both Dwyer and Redman will share the load for the Steelers. Recent reports suggest that Dwyer may become the main rusher while Redman takes more of a short yardage role but that will play out on the field and change according to results. And once you get comfortable with it, Mendenhall returns to mess it up again. The offense wants to pass more. The backfield is looking more like yet another RBBC mess.

Hines Ward is gone but Antonio Brown looks like a very complete replacement for him and is the most exciting receiver to watch. He enters his third season after recording 69 catches for 1108 yards in 2011 though he was limited to only two scores. Brown is an up-and-comer who should have a third-season breakout. Mike Wallace tried the hold-out thing with no positive results but is back and now trying to learn the new offense that was installed. Emmanuel Sanders took the place of the holdout Mike Wallace in training camp and looked good doing so. Now that Wallace is back, the trio makes for a dangerous set of receivers. This is a passing attack that could post some points this year.

Heath Miller enters his seventh season with the Steelers and he is what he is. And that is a 500- 600 yard, 3 or 4 touchdown tight end who doesn't look to get any more work in Todd Haley's new offense. And probably less. Haley has never had much use for the position.

Have to love this game potential with the Steelers having to face Peyton Manning for whatever that means now and getting a bit of revenge for last January. The new offense has been installed and should take form this week.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 15 21 4 19 21 29
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 23 22 17 7 27 31

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT IND 0000024011 ***
While Indy hasn't allowed much to opposing quarterbacks, two of the three biggest games they've surrendered have come outside the friendly confines of Lucas Oil Stadium. Big Ben is averaging 314 and 2 at home (vs. 253 and 1 on the road), so he's not an awful fantasy play this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT IND 8016500000 ***
Despite holding Giovani Bernard in check at home last week the Colts are still giving up about 130 combo yards per game to opposing backs. Bell is a one-man wrecking machine with triple-digit yards from scrimmage in every game this season. No reason to bet against him here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Antonio Brown, PIT IND 005801000 ***
After some early season missteps the Colts have surrendered just one WR TD in the past month. But the rock-solid Brown doesn't need TDs to do his damage; he'll clean up in PPR and performance leagues and may even throw another score for good measure. He's an every-week starter regardless of format.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Martavis Bryant, PIT IND 003500000 ***
Bryant made a splash in his NFL debut last week, but he has a tough matchup here against a defense that's allowed only one WR TD and one wideout to top 65 yards in the past month. Best wait a week to let the rookie get his feet wetter.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Heath Miller, PIT IND 003400000 ***
It's a reasonably favorable yardage matchup, as the Colts have allowed four tight ends to top 70 yards and gave up 10 catches to Jermaine Gresham last week. But Heath has only one game of fantasy renown this year and is difficult to trust for anything more than fair to middlin' stats.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shaun Suisham, PIT IND 2222 ***
No in between for Suisham: four games of six or less, three games of 12 or more. The Colts tend to give up something closer to the "less" side of that spectrum, so plan accordingly.

Denver Broncos
Homefield: Invesco Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 PIT ----- 10 @CAR -----
2 @ATL ----- 11 SD -----
3 HOU ----- 12 @KC -----
4 OAK ----- 13 TB -----
5 @NE ----- 14 @OAK -----
6 @SD ----- 15 @BAL -----
7 BYE ----- 16 CLE -----
8 NO ----- 17 KC -----
9 @CIN ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster

Pregame Notes: After an exciting year winning the division (and yet not with a winning record) and then playing twice in the playoffs, the Broncos have opted for an entirely new era by shipping off both Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow and bringing in Peyton Manning and his questionable neck. At the age of 36 and after a year's layoff, Manning does not have the same arm strength that he once had and likely will never completely recover that because of age. But he has arguably the best smarts of any quarterback and showed enough in preseason to suggest that the Broncos are going to be at least okay if not very good. The offense is being tweaked to make it more Manning-like and there is almost zero chance that Manning will get you any rushing yards. But he will be the reason the Broncos succeed or fail.

Willis McGahee may be 31 years old but he comes off his best season in four years when he switched to Denver and rushed for 1199 yards on 249 carries (4.8 YPC) and scored five touchdowns. This year there is no fear that his quarterback will be stealing all the rushing scores. The Broncos also added rookie Ronnie Hillman as the pass catching, third down back who could provide a nice outlet for Manning. If Manning can move the team anywhere as good as he did in Indy, then the rushing fortunes here could surprise. Particularly for scoring touchdowns.

Where the focus should be this week is with the receivers and determining who Manning will rely on as the most common target and who will be the preferred target in the endzone. Demaryius Thomas was thought to be a lost case when he tore his Achilles Tendon but he made it back and played the second half of 2011. He finally became the receiver that the Broncos wanted when they drafted him with the 1.22 pick in 2010. Thomas was why the Steelers lost their playoff game. He's a big receiver but has speed as well. If Manning can connect with Thomas in the open field, good things are going to happen.

Eric Decker also showed nice chemistry with Manning and may also end up as the primary receiver. He's entering his third season. Manning personally commented on how much he was liking Decker as a receiver. Since there is a Manning involved, it will be important to determine which receivers are going to be his favorite targets. Andre Caldwell will man the Slot but that should remain below fantasy relevance.

In a bid to make Manning more comfortable, they imported Jacob Tamme but so far he's just been been Jacob Tamme. Not the second coming of Dallas Clark. No reason to expect that he will be a difference maker if he even qualifies to be a fantasy starter.

First week out against a very good defense should be a challenge even for Manning. The Steelers have long had an elite pass defense and a very good rushing defense. This week should make the Broncos look worse than they really are.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 12 23 28 31 31 16
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 1 4 2 15 3 14

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Peyton Manning, DEN SD 0000030030 *****
Manning has never not thrown for multiple touchdowns or 300-plus yards against the Chargers. Never. And in five of 11 lifetime meetings he's done both. Same could be said for this season, as he's averaging 300-plus and three TDs. Even with no NFL record dangling in front of him, Manning should put up his usual big numbers this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Ronnie Hillman, DEN SD 6003200000 ****
Hillman has been more than okay filling in for the injured Montee Ball. This week's edge comes in the passing game, as the Chargers have already given up five RB receiving scores and Hillman has nine targets in his two starts. No reason to bail on him here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN SD 0071201000 ****
The Chargers have given up just one big game to wideouts... but the Broncos are a different animal, and Thomas is at the head of that pack. He's scored in three of four career meetings with the Bolts, including a 108 and 3 outing last November. No Brandon Flowers certainly doesn't help San Diego's hopes of slowing the Denver passing game.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN SD 005800000 ***
The trickle-down effect of San Diego losing a starting corner helps Sanders' prospects as well. With a whole bunch of Peyton Manning productivity to spread around, Sanders should see his share of the fantasy love.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Wes Welker, DEN SD 005600000 ****
Signs of life from Welker last week, and as long as Peyton Manning is throwing him the ball there's no reason to shy away from him as a fantasy contributor.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Julius Thomas, DEN SD 003401000 ***
Thomas failed to score for the first time last week, and the Bolts aren't an easy matchup for the position. That said, he's far too involved in the Denver offense to be benched simply for a bump in the road difficult matchup.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Brandon McManus, DEN SD 3333 ****
The risk with McManus is that he counts by ones instead of threes. Consider the Chargers enablers, as they've allowed only one multiple field goal game since Week 1.

WEEK 1
2012
DAL at NYG (WED) IND at CHI PHI at CLE STL at DET
ATL at KC JAC at MIN PIT at DEN WAS at NO
BUF at NYJ MIA at HOU SEA at ARI CIN at BAL (MON)
  CAR at TB NE at TEN SF at GB SD at OAK (MON)

 
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