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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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Player Rankings (Player Projections) »    Game Predictions Summary »    Projections by Team »

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 CLE 0000024020 ***
The Browns have allowed multiple passing scores in 10 straight games, a stretch that includes Big Ben's 217 & 2 in Week 12. Roethlsiberger's yardage has been subdued of late, but he has multiple TD tosses in five of six and will stick around as long as it takes with the Steelers' playoff hopes still clinging to life support.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT CLE 7014300000 ***
Bell rushed for 80 yards in the earlier meeting with Cleveland. Since then the Browns have softened a bit, surrendering 100-yard outings in back-to-back games. Bell rushed for 124 yards last week in Green Bay and has scored in back-to-back games; he also has a couple 50-yard receiving games in that span as well. With the Steelers still playing for something, Bell's about as good a fantasy back bet as there is this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB LeGarrette Blount, PIT CLE 601000000 **
Prior to last week's aberration against the Dolphins, the Bills allowed back-to-back 100-yard rushers. They also served up 162 rushing yards to the Patriots in the earlier meeting this season; unfortunately, after Shane Vereen (if healthy) takes his bite off the top the leftovers will be split between Blount and Stevan Ridley--and only Bill Belichick knows who'll get the money shots.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Antonio Brown, PIT CLE 005801000 ***
With 92 yards and a TD in Cleveland earlier this season, Brown ain't 'fraid of no Haden. He's scored in three straight and five of six and is consistently Big Ben's favorite target so don't sweat the Iron Haden.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Lance Moore, PIT CLE 002200000 ***
Moore has to battle Kenny Stills and Robert Meachem for secondary looks behind Marques Colston in an offense that throws to the tight end and running backs more than the wideouts. That's not a recipe for fantasy success.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Heath Miller, PIT CLE 003200000 ***
The Steelers have one TE TD in the past nine games, and it went to Matt Spaeth, not Miller. Heath had 5-41 in the earlier meeting with Cleveland, a game sandwiched in between outings in which the Browns gave up multiple touchdowns. So there's at least a glimmer of hope here.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shaun Suisham, PIT CLE 2233 ***
Suisham tallied nine in Cleveland last month and has 20 points over the past two games. With the Steelers clinging to playoff hopes, Suisham will be pressed to put points on the board once again.

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 @OAK 0000033030 ****
Manning already has the touchdown record, and he'll probably stick around in this one just long enough to throw for 266 yards and break the yardage record as well. The Broncos still need to win to lock down home field advantage, so they can't sit Manning right away, but there's a very good chance he finishes this one in a baseball cap.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Montee Ball, DEN @OAK 300000000 ***
Ball's been lightening the load for Knowshon Moreno, and that plan should continue here with maybe the rookie seeing an uptick while Denver gets the veteran some well-deserved rest. Seeing as Oakland has served up 796 combo yards and 11 RB TDs the past month, there's more than enough to go around.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN @OAK 0051001000 ***
Everybody got fed the last time these squads met--Thomas 94 yards, Eric Decker 133 & 1, Wes Welker 84 & 1--and there's no reason to expect much difference this time around.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN @OAK 003300000 *
Sanders has scored in four of the last five and is a solid option when Joe Haden has blanket coverage on Antonio Brown. UPDATE: Good news for Sanders, as he is listed as questionable but practiced in full on Friday.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Julius Thomas, DEN @OAK 004401000 ***
However you break it down, Thomas is a good play. He scored against the Raiders in the earlier meeting, he's scored in three of four (and six of eight, and nine of 12), he's scored in every road game, he caught Peyton Manning's record-setting touchdown pass... however you break it down.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Matt Prater, DEN @OAK 1144 ***
Should be points a plenty for Prater, who hit for a baker's dozen in the earlier meeting with Oakland and has the second-most kicker points in the league this year.

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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