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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
RB Felix Jones 40 1-10
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling 20 2-20
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 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.

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
RB Edwin Baker, CLE @PIT 5004300000 ***
Baker scored in New York--not an easy feat against the Jets--and he appears to be the lead dog in Cleveland's backfield mix. Three other Browns backs did nada in the earlier meeting with Pittsburgh, but Baker gets a Steelers defense that has given up five RB TDs and 305 rushing yards the past three weeks--plus he'll get more than the 4-6 carries Wills McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya, and Fozzy Whittaker received.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Josh Gordon, CLE @PIT 0071101000 ***
The Steelers have allowed wide receiver touchdowns in six straight, though of late those scores have been going to secondary targets. Gordon's 14-237-1 on 17 targets in the earlier meeting gives evidence that there really isn't a secondary target in Cleveland, so plan on Josh doing all the heavy lifting once again this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Nate Burleson, CLE @PIT 004500000 ***
Burleson might be the most trustworthy secondary target on the Detroit roster, but even he's been laying eggs of late. WR2s have had success against the Vikings, in part because of emerging shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes' success against WR1s. However, unless Calvin Johnson sits this one out due to injury it's too tough to identify which--if any--Lions wingmen will step up and contribute.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Miles Austin, CLE @PIT 001200000 **
After Dez Bryant takes his bite, and Jason Witten takes his, Austin has to fight Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams for table scraps. Table scraps do not tend to equal fantasy success.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Gary Barnidge, CLE @PIT 001100000 ***
Barnidge will get the Browns' TE looks if Jordan Cameron can't go. Not much fantasy value to be had.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Billy Cundiff, CLE @PIT 1122 ***
Cundiff hasn't seen double-digits since Week 5, managed just three points in the earlier meeting with the Steelers, and now heads to the notoriously hard to kick in Heinz Field. That's not exactly a ringing fantasy endorsement.

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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