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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 NO 0000030020 ***
Big Ben has come back to the pack after his two six-TD outings, with just one scoring strike in each of the past two. He's a good-not-great bet to get back in the multiple scoring strike swing against the Saints.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT NO 12013200000 ****
The past two games have seen fellow AFC North backs Jeremy Hill (152) and Justin Forsett (182) gouge the Saints; earlier in the year the Browns' rookie combo platter pounded them for 122. So Bell is an excellent bet to follow up last week's 204 with another healthy fantasy showing.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Antonio Brown, PIT NO 0091101000 ***
Brown's a lock against a Saints D that's allowed 89 & 1 to three straight WR1s and TDs or 100 yards or both to six of seven WR1s and nine WRs overall in that span.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Martavis Bryant, PIT NO 005701000 **
There's likely enough left over for Bryant to be fantasy relevant this week, though he's not quite as reliable an option as Antonio Brown.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Markus Wheaton, PIT NO 004500000 ***
Wheaton is the third option in Pittsburgh's passing game, not nearly reliable enough to be trusted with a fantasy start at this juncture of the season.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Heath Miller, PIT NO 003400000 ****
Only two tight ends have found the end zone against the Saints, and only one has topped 50 yards. That makes this an uphill fight for fantasy relevancy for Miller.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shaun Suisham, PIT NO 3333 ***
Suisham hasn't been a particularly consistent fantasy contributor--not surprising when you consider his offense scored 10 and 13 points two weeks on either side of a 51-point outburst. You can likely do better for fantasy purposes.

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 @KC 0000027030 ***
Things could get dicey as Manning hits the road; then again, he's had 400-plus yards and five TDs in two of his last three visits to Kansas City, so he should be just fine. Manning threw for 242 and 3 in the win over the Chiefs earlier this year; that feels like a typical Manning game and about where we should set the bar here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB C.J. Anderson, DEN @KC 6006401000 ***
After shutting down the run for most of the season, the Chiefs have allowed back-to-back 100-yard games and two RB TDs to the Raiders last week. So no reason to fear Anderson gets thwarted by a tough matchup; he's the Broncos back du jour and will enjoy all of the accompanying spoils.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN @KC 0061000000 ***
Sanders went for 108 yards in the earlier matchup and has scored and/or topped 100 yards in six straight overall. He's a solid wingman option and belongs in fantasy lineups regardless of matchup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN @KC 006700000 ***
Thomas has 100 yards and/or a touchdown in five straight against the Chiefs; he has a similar eight-game streak going overall as well. No reason to think he won't be his usual fantasy stud this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Wes Welker, DEN @KC 004200000 ***
Welker's touchdown last week was nice but he's still too far down the passing game pecking order to be banked on for a regular fantasy contribution.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Julius Thomas, DEN @KC 003301000 **
If he's healthy enough to return to action Thomas belongs in your fantasy lineup--and not just because he scored one of two DEN TE TDs in the earlier matchup with KC.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jacob Tamme, DEN @KC 003201000 ***
Tamme scored in the earlier meeting with KC and would be an intriguing fantasy play in the rematch whether or not Julius Thomas is healthy enough to return to action. He's a decent play if Thomas goes but an even better one if he's the Broncos' primary pass-catching tight end.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Connor Barth, DEN @KC 3233 ***
What was your favorite Brandon McManus moment? He didn't have many fantasy biggies, and there's little reason to think Barth changes that pattern here.

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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