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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
vs Rush Catch Pass
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 4-70
WR Lance Moore 6-70,1
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 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.

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 Miles Austin 5-70,1
WR Josh Gordon 4-60,1
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 Brian Hoyer, CLE OAK 0000022010 ***
While Oakland has allowed three straight multiple TD games with at least 250 yards in each, Hoyer has just one of the former and two of the latter. Look for fantasy help elsewhere.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Ben Tate, CLE OAK 1102000000 ****
Mike Pettine vowed changes after last week's struggles, so don't necessarily expect Tate to get the bulk of the work this week. That said, it's a favorable enough matchup that both Tate and Isaiah Crowell could carve out fantasy value.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Isaiah Crowell, CLE OAK 500000000 **
Great week for a shakeup in the Cleveland backfield, as it looks like Crowell might get first crack at a Raiders' run D that's giving up an average of 131 RB rushing yards and one RB rushing score per game.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Andrew Hawkins, CLE OAK 007700000 ***
Hawkins is the closest thing to reliable in Cleveland's passing game, and with Oakland allowing at least one WR TD in each of the past three games he's the best bet to capitalize; that combined with his usual PPR volume make him the safest (only?) fantasy play of the bunch.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Miles Austin, CLE OAK 003500000 ***
Austin is consistently around 50 yards per week, which isn't enough to blip on the fantasy radar. And since he hasn't seen the end zone since Week 3 he's a difficult fantasy play even in a friendly matchup like this.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Travis Benjamin, CLE OAK 002200000 ***
Since scoring two TDs two weeks ago Travis has just one catch; clearly the Cleveland passing game is not all about the Benjamin. Upside, to be sure, but lots of risk if you plan on using this home run hitter in your fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jordan Cameron, CLE OAK 003301000 **
The Raiders have allowed three TE TDs in the past four games, with the only dissenter being a Cardinals offense that doesn't give its tight ends the time of day. That bodes well for Cameron, who followed up his 102 and 1 against the Steelers with a disappointing one-catch outing against Jacksonville.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Billy Cundiff, CLE OAK 2233 ***
Cundiff hasn't had a double-digit outing yet this season, and over the past month the Raiders have been giving up too many touchdowns to surrender multiple field goals. That's a bad recipe for fantasy kicking success.

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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