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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 NYG 0000027011 ***
The Giants have allowed the fourth fewest points per game on the 11th highest opportunity rating. On the plus side for Big Ben, quarterbacks have posted the highest yards per completion and ninth most yards per game versus the G-men since Week 7.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT NYG 8018700000 ***
New York has allowed running backs to score at the fifth easiest rate on the through and eighth easiest overall, but the position has posted only 115 offensive yards a game in the last five weeks against the Giants.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Antonio Brown, PIT NYG 0071001000 ***
AB faces a tough task this week -- which probably means he scores only once instead of three times -- with the Giants owning fantasy's fourth most difficult matchup for receivers.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Eli Rogers, PIT NYG 004300000 ***
There isn't much upside in playing Rogers this week. The Giants have allowed the fourth fewest points per game to PPR receivers, and only two of the last 43 receptions face have gone the distance.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Ladarius Green, PIT NYG 004400000 ***
Green draws a Giants team that has allowed the most yards per game on the 11th highest yardage figure, but only one of the 21 catches went for a touchdown over the past five games.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Chris Boswell, PIT NYG 2233 ***
The Giants have given up the fifth most FGAs per game and 25th most XPAs on average since Week 7, translating to the 10th highest fantasy points per game provided to the position.

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 Paxton Lynch, DEN @JAC 0000021011 ***
Update: Trevor Siemian won't play, so the rookie starts his second game. Jacksonville is the third toughest opponent since Week 7 when it comes to allowing fantasy points to QBs. While the Jags have not picked off a pass in this time, quarterbacks have accounted for only six touchdown passes in five games.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Devontae Booker, DEN @JAC 6012100000 ***
Denver just has not been able to establish a running game since C.J. Anderson went down. Booker is talented, but the script hasn't played out as planned. The Jags present a reasonable shot at success. Running backs have averaged 104.8 rushing yards, 41.4 receiving yards, 4.6 catches and 24 PPR points since Week 7.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN @JAC 005701000 ***
Bay Bay has an overall weak matchup but could find success in the way of touchdowns, as the Jags have surrendered one every 10.8 grabs since Week 7.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN @JAC 005600000 ***
Sanders did his part last week in an explosive performance while the Chiefs blanketed Demaryius Thomas all night. This week, Jacksonville represents a difficult matchup on paper. The Jags have allowed the fewest catches and yards per game, as well as the least fantasy points on average, since Week 7. The upside is one of every 10.8 receptions have gone for scores, rating 12th.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE AJ Derby, DEN @JAC 004301000 **
Derby is up to speed after a crash course in the offense. Jacksonville has allowed only 4.6 catches per game to tight ends over the past five weeks, but the Jags have given up 58 yards and a TD per every 11.5 catches.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Brandon McManus, DEN @JAC 1122 ***
McManus faces an evenly favorable matchup -- the third best, in fact -- in Week 13. There isn't enough resistance on Jacksonville's side, though, to suggest we'll see many stalled drives resulting in three-point kicks.

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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