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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 Landry Jones, PIT CLE 0000022011 *
Pittsburgh has nothing at stake this week, so expect Jones to get the nod. Keep far away from him in all formats, even against the Browns.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeAngelo Williams, PIT CLE 14024200000 **
Cleveland has been dreadful against running backs all year. No Le'Veon Bell should result in a huge workload for the well-aged Williams. Bell gashed the Browns for 34.1 fantasy points in Week 11.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Eli Rogers, PIT CLE 006600000 ***
Rogers will start but without Antonio Brown opposite him and Ben Roethlisberger throwing the rock. This is an exhibition game for the playoff-bound Steelers. Rogers is a decent play in PPR.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Cobi Hamilton, PIT CLE 002300000 ***
Hamilton will start but has mild upside without Ben Roethlisberger in the lineup. Even against Cleveland, consider him a long shot for production worthy of a starting lineup spot.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jesse James, PIT CLE 005601000 **
James could be thrown to early and often with Pittsburgh resting all of its main cast. The Browns have been among fantasy's best source of tight end points all season.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Chris Boswell, PIT CLE 1133 ***
Cleveland is strong against fantasy kickers most weeks because of its inability to prevent touchdowns. This typically leads to few field goal tries. Pittsburgh has nothing to gain by playing its stars this week, which would impact the overall offensive effectiveness.

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 Trevor Siemian, DEN OAK 0000015010 *
Siemian apparently will start, but he may cede snaps to rookie Paxton Lynch. Just play it smart and avoid both of them.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Paxton Lynch, DEN OAK 20000010010 *
Lynch appears in line to see snaps in the meaningless finale for Denver. Counting on him in fantasy is asking for punishment, even though Oakland has been susceptible to giving up QB points of late.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Justin Forsett, DEN OAK 3003300000 ***
Oakland is the fourth strongest defense against PPR backs, and that is about the only way Forsett can find fantasy value at this stage of his career.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Devontae Booker, DEN OAK 4002200000 *
Booker was at his best last week in some time, which isn't saying much. There is no justifiable reason to consider him a strong play this week, but he could be an OK flier in cavernous formats given all of the RBs injured or sitting.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN OAK 005701000 *
Thomas managed only five catches for 56 yards the last time out, and Oakland has a shot at the No. 1 seed if New England loses. The Raiders have given up only 8.8 receptions (3rd fewest) per game to the position in the last five weeks.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN OAK 004600000 *
It sounds like Gary Kubiak is going to play musical quarterbacks this week. The Raiders are sound against receivers, and Sanders was limited to a 5-47-0 line on 11 targets in Week 9.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jeff Heuerman, DEN OAK 003300000 *
The matchup is neutral, and Denver doesn't utilize the position enough to give us any confidence to recommend Heuerman.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Brandon McManus, DEN OAK 2222 **
No team has given up fewer field goal attempts per game than Oakland, which has resulted in allowing the lowest total of fantasy points since Week 11. Only three field goals have been granted by the Raiders in those five games.

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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