FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 5
2012
ARI at STL (THU) CHI at JAC MIA at CIN *TEN at MIN
ATL at WAS *CLE at NYG PHI at PIT *HOU at NYJ (MON)
BAL at KC *DEN at NE *SD at NO Bye:
*Updated BUF at SF GB at IND SEA at CAR DAL, DET, OAK, TB

Prediction: PHI 17, PIT 23 (Line: PIT by 3)

Players to Watch: Rashard Mendenhall

The 3-1 Eagles are all alone on top of the NFC East thanks to all three being by two points or less. The 1-2 Steelers come off their bye having last been upset by the Raiders and have been stewing about their losing record. This battle of Pennsylvania means much more to the Steelers than the Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles
Homefield: Lincoln Financial Field
Turf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @CLE 17-16 10 DAL -----
2 BAL 24-23 11 @WAS -----
3 @ARI 6-27 12 CAR -----
4 NYG 19-17 13 @DAL -----
5 @PIT ----- 14 @TB -----
6 DET ----- 15 CIN -----
7 BYE ----- 16 WAS -----
8 ATL ----- 17 @NYG -----
9 @NO ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
PHI @ PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Mark Sanchez 100
RB LeSean McCoy 80 4-20
RB Darren Sproles 20 6-70,1
WR Jeremy Maclin 3-40
TE Brent Celek 6-60,1

Pregame Notes: The Eagles come off a win over the Giants where Michael Vick did not lose a fumble. He did not throw an interception. Actually he only threw one score and 241 yards with a season high 49 rushing yards. Not making mistakes helps the efforts but the Eagles seem destined to play in tight games every week regardless. What will be interesting this week is that Vick has scored at least once in every game - except for the one road match-up in Arizona.

LeSean McCoy finally comes off a big effort when he gained 123 rush yards and added 17 more as a receiver but he still has just one touchdown on the season after rushing in 17 in 2011. And his worst effort was when he only produced 78 total yards in the only road game of the year. McCoy's rushing yardage is not that much off, but he is not scoring and is not turning in much as a receiver this season. He still has nearly no competition for running back touches and yet has been unable to rekindle the success of last year. McCoy had some swelling in his knee after the Giants game but is not expected to miss any time.

Brent Celek may be one reason why McCoy has less presence as a receiver. Celek has not scored but has been very consistent with yardage and catches. That's more of a very low-end fantasy starter without the touchdowns but he continues to be factor in each game at least for first downs.

Jeremy Maclin is past his hip injury though he was a nonfactor last week in his first game back. Maclin scored in each of the first two weeks before the injury and has been the main receiver for Vick in the past. This week is not likely to offer too much with the trip to Pittsburgh. DeSean Jackson has stepped up and scored last week for the first time this year and he has been a solid fantasy starter every week except one... the road game in Arizona. Jason Avant is a nonfactor and that is not going to change.

The Eagles have done well winning close games and in fairness have played a slate of good defenses. That is not going to change this week with their trip to Pittsburgh where the Steelers have been waiting for two weeks to play this game. The Steelers secondary has been a bit softer this year than most but they continue to be very strong against the run. This will be yet another big challenge for the Eagles who have no idea what a big win or a close loss is like.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PHI 14 24 16 7 20 25
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 11 5 14 23 6 19

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Nick Foles, PHI @ARI 0000028022 ***
Foles has had one fantasy dog to blemish an otherwise solid season. The Cards held Derek Carr in check last week but for the most part have been a favorable matchup for opposing QBs. Bet on Foles to be more favorable than Carr-like this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB LeSean McCoy, PHI @ARI 5004200000 ***
The Cards haven't allowed much on the ground this year, and they kept McCoy out of the end zone in last year's meeting so keep your expectations in check. That said, McCoy's volume and the 115 combo yards he posted against Arizona last year suggest he's still a solid fantasy play this week--especially if Darren Sproles remains sidelined with his knee injury.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Darren Sproles, PHI @ARI 2006400000 ***
Sproles is supposed to be back for this game, but after a limited practice session on Wednesday it remains to be seen if he'll make it to the field on Sunday. Best make a Plan B for now, and if Sproles shows signs of life during the latter half of the practice week you can always elevate him to your lineup.
Update: After a full practice on Friday Sproles is officially listed as questionable. It's not a tremendous matchup, but it sounds like Sproles will at least be an option for fantasy owners.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Riley Cooper, PHI @ARI 004301000 **
Over the past month Coop has been a consistent provider of 30-50 yards and the occasional touchdown. It's a favorable matchup so he should be at the high end of that range, but he's still playing second fiddle to Jeremy Maclin in this passing game.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jordan Matthews, PHI @ARI 005600000 ***
Matthews has done little aside from that two-TD game. And while another double isn't out of the question here he's still battling Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Zach Ertz, and the running backs for looks so it's far from likely.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jeremy Maclin, PHI @ARI 004500000 ***
Shouldn't matter who covers Maclin; none of the Arizona corners are having particularly good seasons. Speed receivers like DeSean Jackson have had success against the Cards so don't be surprised if, after a down week against the Giants prior to Philly's bye, Maclin storms back with a solid fantasy effort this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Zach Ertz, PHI @ARI 004701000 ****
The Cards have allowed three TE TDs and four games of 65-plus yards to the position. So even though Ertz still has to share some targets with Brent Celek and James Casey he's a big enough part of this offense to be a reliable fantasy contributor--especially with the favorable matchup.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Cody Parkey, PHI @ARI 2222 ****
Parkey's been right around 10 points per game on a weekly basis, but the Cardinals don't allow much to opposing kickers so it'll be a battle of wills. Split the difference and hope for "above average".

Pittsburgh Steelers
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @DEN 19-31 10 KC -----
2 NYJ 27-10 11 BAL -----
3 @OAK 31-34 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
PIT vs PHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 280,2
WR Antonio Brown 4-60
WR Lance Moore
TE Heath Miller 4-40,1
PK Shaun Suisham 3 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Steelers come off their bye week with a 1-2 record and both losses came in road games. This week is at home but against the Eagles should prove far more competitive than the Jets were when they visited Pittsburgh in week two. The new offense is producing far better passing numbers as intended with Ben Roethlisberger posting eight touchdowns in just three games. He has never thrown for fewer than two scores and has so far been very healthy with the pass yardage. Big Ben only has one interception all year after throwing 120 passes.

The big news - if you are a member of the Mendenhall clan - is that Rashard is back this week and expected to start. Mendenhall has been rehabbing after the knee surgery in the offseason and will make his debut here. His first week will surely be one with limited work and it may take at least a few weeks for him to get back to where he was last year - a mediocre back who almost never had more than 65 rush yards per week and almost never caught the ball.

The difference now is that he has to learn a new offense and the team already has Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer in the mix. If Mendenhall does not get touchdown duty at the goal line - which is likely - then he will lose the only aspect that made him worthy of a fantasy start last season. This all bears watching but chances are high that this underperforming rushing offense is not going to improve much with Mendenhall returning from knee surgery.

Heath Miller has been a huge surprise so far with a score in every game and two touchdowns against the Raiders in week three. Miller has been incorporated into the passing scheme under new OC Todd Haley and become the main reason why the running backs are not scoring this year.

Mike Wallace has also scored in each game and usually turned in big yardage while doing it. Antonio Brown had the big payday and seemed likely to be the preferred target for Roethlisberger but he has just one touchdown so far. Brown is very consistent with 74+ yards every week though and is definitely a must start. Between the two wideouts and Miller, that's all Big Ben has needed.

This week the Steelers come off a bye week rested and prepared to face the Eagles who keep winning by one or two points as long as they are at home. The rushing effort here only gets more diced up with Mendenhall back and offers no reliable fantasy play this week and maybe any week. But Big Ben will get a good test against one of the better secondaries and he will be the one that wins or loses this game.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 4 22 4 5 19 30
Preventing Fantasy Points PHI 5 6 16 4 19 30

  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.

WEEK 5
2012
ARI at STL (THU) CHI at JAC MIA at CIN *TEN at MIN
ATL at WAS *CLE at NYG PHI at PIT *HOU at NYJ (MON)
BAL at KC *DEN at NE *SD at NO Bye:
*Updated BUF at SF GB at IND SEA at CAR DAL, DET, OAK, TB

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