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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 12
2012
HOU at DET (THU) *BAL at SD *MIN at CHI *SF at NO
NE at NYJ (THU) BUF at IND *OAK at CIN *STL at ARI
WAS at DAL (THU) DEN at KC PIT at CLE TEN at JAC
*UPDATED *ATL at TB GB at NYG SEA at MIA *CAR at PHI (MON)

Prediction: PIT 17, CLE 20 (Line: PK)

Players to Watch: Trent Richardson, Charlie Batch

The 6-4 Steelers won nine of the last ten meetings between these teams and on paper have a lot more going for them than the 2-8 Browns. But the Steelers are down to their third-string quarterback and the Browns are playing much better. These games almost always go off with very few points scored.

The Steelers swept the Browns last year, winning 14-3 in Pittsburgh and later 13-9 in Cleveland.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @DEN 19-31 10 KC 16-13
2 NYJ 27-10 11 BAL 10-13
3 @OAK 31-34 12 @CLE -----
4 BYE ----- 13 @BAL -----
5 PHI 16-14 14 SD -----
6 @TEN 23-26 15 @DAL -----
7 @CIN 24-17 16 CIN -----
8 WAS 27-12 17 CLE -----
9 @NYG 24-20 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
PIT @ CLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick
RB DeAngelo Williams 50,1 3-20
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 4-70
TE Heath Miller 4-40
PK Shaun Suisham 1 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Steelers are within two games of the Ravens for the AFC North lead and have to travel to Baltimore next week - that'll make overlooking this game slightly easier though with a major problem at quarterback the team has enough issues to remain focused. The season rides on the next three road games - two divisional and then in Dallas. They'll have to realistically win out to take the division and likely lose no more than one or two more to even have any wildcard hopes.

Ben Roethlisberger is not expected back this week - that much has been conceded. Next week may be possible as he heals from a rib and shoulder injury but week 14 seems much more likely. Sadly that misses the two road games against divisional foes including the all-important Ravens match-up. Byron Leftwich did not make it a whole game before getting injured and is not expected to play with rib fractures. He's likely taken his last playing time with the Steelers at the least.

Charlie Batch will take the start this week and likely next. He's a career backup in Pittsburgh for the last 11 years and at 38-years old, what he'll be able to do against the Browns and Ravens secondaries is hard to predict. He's only started three games in the last four years and was considered worse than Leftwich.

Isaac Redman is out with a concussion but may be able to play this week assuming he clears all tests. He's expected back but would just be the #3 guy behind Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer. The Steelers are using equal measures of Mendenhall and Dwyer and there's no more room for another runner. As it is, the two "starters" water each other down to where either is just a marginal fantasy play.

The passing game becomes less attractive and harder to predict this week with Batch at the helm and on the road to Cleveland where CB Joe Haden is expected back this week. The Steelers also signed Plaxico Burress this week though he's not likely more much of a role this week. Antonio Brown is questionable this week and missed the last two games because of his ankle. If Brown cannot play, Emmanuel Sanders will start again and he was the lead receiver last week with 82 yards on three catches.

Playing the Browns is usually more fun than this is shaping up to be. All Steelers will carry far more risk this week in a road game with Batch at the helm.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 16 18 15 9 10 32
Preventing Fantasy Points CLE 22 24 29 3 13 11

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT @CLE 0000030020 ***
Since an Abe Lincoln (four scores) back in 2007, Big Ben has as many goose eggs (two) in Cleveland as he has multiple touchdown games. He's also never had a 300-yard performance in Cleveland. After last week's crushing disappointment in Baltimore Roethlisberger has now gone more than a calendar year--eight games, dating back to Week 14 of last season--since throwing multiple touchdowns on the road. Don't let Big Ben disappoint you again.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeAngelo Williams, PIT @CLE 8013200000 ***
Williams' only dog since taking over for the injured Le'Veon Bell was a 54-yard bummer against the Browns in Week 10. He's scored in five of the other six games and rushed for 100 yards in three of the six. Can he be trusted here? The Browns D has been better of late: only one RB rushing score in the past eight games, no 100-yard rushers or 30-yard receiving backs in the past seven. This isn't the layup you were hoping for.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Antonio Brown, PIT @CLE 0091101000 ***
Death, taxes, and Brown tearing up the Browns. He's topped 100 yards in three straight against Cleveland and scored double-digit points in PPR leagues in eight straight meetings--all the way back to his very first game against the Browns, when he was held to 4-52. Cleveland's injury-riddled secondary has allowed 11 WR TDs and four 100-yard efforts in the past six games; Brown is a solid candidate to boost both of those numbers.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Martavis Bryant, PIT @CLE 004601000 *
Bryant ravaged the Browns for 178 yards and a touchdown in the earlier meeting. He's playing second fiddle to Antonio Brown--and sharing those duties to some extent with Markus Wheaton--but he's still a solid fantasy bet against a Cleveland secondary that's allowed 11 WR TDs in the past six games.

Update: Bryant did not practice Wednesday or Thursday due to illness, but he returned for a full session on Friday. He's listed as questionable, but all signs point towards business as usual for him.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Markus Wheaton, PIT @CLE 004500000 ***
There wasn't much left over after Bryant and Brown accounted for 317 yards and three TDs in the earlier meeting, and given Ben Roethlisberger's road success--or lack thereof--the pie will be significantly smaller here. That said, Wheaton's role as the Steelers' third receiver has produced fantasy helpers in four of five since the bye and this matchup is certainly not to be feared.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Heath Miller, PIT @CLE 003300000 ***
Since Miller's 4-40 in the Week 10 meeting the Browns have given up one TE TD, and no tight end has hit the 50 yard mark. Miller hasn't scored against the Browns since January of 2011; no reason to think that slump ends here.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Chris Boswell, PIT @CLE 1133 ***
Streak of six straight
with double-digit points snapped;
start new streak this week

Cleveland Browns
Homefield: Cleveland Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 PHI 16-17 10 BYE -----
2 @CIN 27-34 11 @DAL 20-23
3 BUF 14-24 12 PIT -----
4 @BAL 16-23 13 @OAK -----
5 @NYG 27-41 14 KC -----
6 CIN 34-24 15 WAS -----
7 @IND 13-17 16 @DEN -----
8 SD 7-6 17 @PIT -----
9 BAL 15-25 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
vs Rush Catch Pass
WR Dwayne Bowe
WR Josh Gordon 4-60,1
WR Brian Hartline 4-60
WR Andrew Hawkins

Pregame Notes: The Browns nearly beat the Cowboys in Dallas and are playing far better defense in recent weeks. The offense still has struggled to post more than 20 points in any week and at 2-8 the reality is that tryouts for next year have already started. In particular, Brandon Weeden will be under the microscope for the next six games to determine if he will lead the Browns in 2013 or they, yet again, go back to the well.

Weeden's only thrown for 11 touchdowns so far and compared to other NFL quarterbacks he's been only marginally successful. Compared to anything else that lined up behind center in Cleveland for the last many years - he's done quite well. He's topped 200 yards seven times and crested 300 yards twice. His passing stats declined in the last few weeks but only in proportion to the success of Trent Richardson.

The rookie rushed for at least 95 yards in each of the last three games and scored six times on the year. He's even adding more receptions to the package with six catches in both of the last couple of outings. Those came against the Ravens and Cowboys. Richardson lags Doug Martin in the war of rookie running backs but he's come on nicely in recent weeks and against very good defenses.

The passing scheme doesn't use any one or two wideouts extensively. Weeden is spreading the ball around well and so far no receiver has topped 100 yards though Josh Gordon came close a few times. Gordon has been quiet the last three weeks while the rushing effort improved. His three game scoring streak stands alone against all other receivers here since they've all combined for just six scores all year. Weeden is taking what is given and using the players he has at his disposal fairly well. Last week Benjamin Watson scored twice in Dallas with a season best 47 yards on four catches.

This week should be a lower outcome from the passing game going against the best secondary in the NFL. The rush defense is also tops but on the road with their own offense less likely to do well means better field position and a different game than most PIT-CLE matchups.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CLE 29 14 28 23 17 15
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 1 3 1 7 10 14

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Austin Davis, CLE PIT 0000021011 ***
The Steelers lost to Ryan Mallett last week, so they shouldn't take Davis lightly. Fantasy owners, however, shouldn't take Davis at all.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Duke Johnson, CLE PIT 2004300000 ***
Maybe you can scrape together a PPR helper from Johnson, who had four catches in the earlier meeting with Pittsburgh; after all, the Steelers have allowed 24-208-2 receiving to running backs over the past month and Duke is the Browns' pass-catching back.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Isaiah Crowell, CLE PIT 300000000 ***
Yes, the Steelers have let a feature back rush for 75-plus yards and a score in three of their last four road games, including Javorius Allen last week. Yes, Crowell has three TDs in the past three games. But after Crowell rushed for negative five yards on six carries in the earlier meeting it's impossible to trust him with a fantasy play here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Travis Benjamin, CLE PIT 003500000 *
The Steelers have allowed two receivers to score or top 60 yards in three straight so you have to believe there's at least one fantasy helper here. And Benjamin is the best bet among Cleveland's thinning receiving corps.

Update: Benjamin was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as questionable due to an ankle injury. You may need to check his status pre-game if you're planning to use him in your Week 17 fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Taylor Gabriel, CLE PIT 002200000 ***
While the Steelers have allowed multiple receivers to score or top 60 yards in three straight games, the last time Gabriel participated in such a game came back in Week 5. Temper expectations accordingly.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Gary Barnidge, CLE PIT 005501000 ***
The Steelers have shut out tight ends in five straight games since allowing Barnidge to score in Week 10. He's still the Browns' top target, doing more than enough to remain a viable fantasy option.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Travis Coons, CLE PIT 1111 ***
Three points last time out
against the Steelers; at least
this one's in Cleveland

WEEK 12
2012
HOU at DET (THU) *BAL at SD *MIN at CHI *SF at NO
NE at NYJ (THU) BUF at IND *OAK at CIN *STL at ARI
WAS at DAL (THU) DEN at KC PIT at CLE TEN at JAC
*UPDATED *ATL at TB GB at NYG SEA at MIA *CAR at PHI (MON)

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