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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 15
2012
CIN at PHI (THU) *GB at CHI *MIN at STL *SF at NE
CAR at SD IND at HOU *NYG at ATL TB at NO
DEN at BAL *JAC at MIA *PIT at DAL *WAS at CLE
*Updated *DET at ARI KC at OAK *SEA at BUF *NYJ at TEN (MON)

Prediction: PIT 24, DAL 27 (Line: PIT by 1.5)

Players Updated: Dez Bryant

Players to Watch: Mike Wallace, Jonathan Dwyer, Dez Bryant , Tony Romo

The 7-6 Steelers still have a shot at the final wild card despite their mind-warping loss to the Chargers last week. And they are only 3-4 on the road. The 7-6 Cowboys still have a small shot at a wild card but are only 3-3 at home. This is a coin flip game with both teams not as good as they should be.

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 14-20
4 BYE ----- 13 @BAL 23-20
5 PHI 16-14 14 SD 24-34
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 @ DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 280,2
WR Antonio Brown 4-50
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 3-40,1
WR Lance Moore 7-90
TE Heath Miller 6-50,1
PK Shaun Suisham 1 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The Steelers need to get past this game since their final two are at home against the Bengals and Browns. But the offense has gone stale for the last five games and even the return of Ben Roethlisberger last week wasn't enough to spark a home win over the visiting Chargers. Last week was somewhat to blame coming on the heels of a surprising win in Baltimore but then losing again made it all meaningless.

Roethlisberger passed for 285 yards and three scores last week but only completed 22 of 42 and almost all the production came late in the game that was already over. He was obviously rusty in his first game since week ten but later warmed up and should be better this week. The passing effort has been less fruitful since the first three weeks of the season and four of his last seven outings only produced a single passing touchdown. On the road, Roethlisberger is even less likely to have a big game unless it is against an exceptionally bad secondary.

Jonathan Dwyer remains the primary back in the committee backfield but he never gets more than around 15 carries in a game and Isaac Redman will figure in as well. All combined, the running backs have only accounted for six rushing touchdowns.

The return of Roethlisberger does make a big difference and more so for Mike Wallace who spent three straight games with never more than 44 yards and no scores. Against the Chargers, Wallace caught seven passes for 112 yards and two scores for his best game of the year. With eight touchdowns on the year, Wallace leads all wideouts. Heath Miller is also a preferred target with seven touchdowns though only one in the last six games.

The Dallas secondary has limited most visitors to only one or two passing touchdowns though injuries have impacted them. CB Orlando Scandrick is out with a hand injury and last week starting RCB Morris Claiborne had to leave the game with a deep laceration to his face. No word has been given suggesting Claiborne is out this week but the rookie will face Mike Wallace and he's already been burned by lesser talent this year.

Linebacker injuries have also degraded the Cowboys ability to stop the run and the unit that started the year as one of the best run-stoppers have now given up over 100 yards to opposing runners and at least one score every week.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 15 20 23 5 8 28
Preventing Fantasy Points DAL 9 17 14 13 21 27

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT @CAR 0000023012 ***
Carolina hasn't allowed as much as a 20-point fantasy game to a visiting quarterback since Russell Wilson barely reached that mark with 320 and 1 in Week 1 of last season. They've held both Josh McCown and Matthew Stafford under that benchmark this season, and with one TD toss to his credit this year it's unlikely Big Ben cracks that mark as well.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT @CAR 5006500000 ***
The bad news is, Carolina hasn't allowed a RB rushing score or a back to rush for more than 54 yards this season. The good news is, Bell is contributing as a receiver as well and the Panthers have allowed a RB receiving score in each game this year.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Antonio Brown, PIT @CAR 006800000 ***
Even the mighty Megatron could muster only 83 yards without a score against the Panthers secondary, so despite Browns' hot start temper your expectations.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Markus Wheaton, PIT @CAR 005400000 ***
Wheaton followed up his solid Week 1 showing with a down Week 2. The difficult matchup dictates Week 3 to be more like the latter than the former, which is bad fantasy news.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Lance Moore, PIT @CAR 002200000 ***
This offense usually feeds just two receivers, and against Carolina it will be lucky to provide one fantasy helper. Moore is too far down the depth chart to be banked on for production here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Heath Miller, PIT @CAR 004300000 ***
Heath has yet to produce a fantasy helper this season, and the stout Carolina defense isn't likely to change that fate.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shaun Suisham, PIT @CAR 2211 ***
The usually reliable Suisham faces a Carolina defense that has yet to allow a field goal this season. On the bright side, this is bound to be a low-scoring affair which tends to mean fewer TDs and more field goals.

Dallas Cowboys
Homefield: Cowboys Stadium
RealGrass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @NYG 24-17 10 @PHI 38-23
2 @SEA 7-27 11 CLE 23-20
3 TB 16-10 12 WAS 31-38
4 CHI 18-34 13 PHI 38-33
5 BYE ----- 14 @CIN 20-19
6 @BAL 29-31 15 PIT -----
7 @CAR 19-14 16 NO -----
8 NYG 24-29 17 @WAS -----
9 @ATL 13-19 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
DAL vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Tony Romo 300,2
QB Brandon Weeden 250,1
RB DeMarco Murray 70,1 4-20
WR Dez Bryant 4-50
WR Dwayne Harris 3-30,1
TE Jason Witten 7-80
PK Dan Bailey 2 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The Cowboys mounted a comeback win in Cincinnati on the heels of losing practice player Jerry Brown to a car accident and replacement nose tackle Josh Brent to the Tarrant County Sheriff Department. The Cowboys remain in wild card contention but realistically would probably need to win out and get lucky in order to make the playoffs. This week and then next hosting the Saints are tall orders to win and then the season finale against the recently surging Skins is probably too much to expect. But on the plus side, the Cowboys have already won two games in the month of December and that already is a success. Usually the season is not lost until a string of losses in this final month.

Tony Romo at home has thrown for over 280 yards in every game though he needs to face a weak visiting defense in order to score more than once or twice. With the rushing game unlikely to win the day against the Steelers, Romo will be airing it out early and often in this game and thanks to injuries in the Pittsburgh secondary, he should see some success.

The story of the offense this week will be the status of Dez Bryant who fractured a finger and who might either take the rest of the season off and get it fixed or he can tape it up and play while risking permanent damage to the finger. Bryant himself says he is going to play unless a doctor specifically warns him not to do it. Bryant would make a great decoy at least for the first quarter until the defense figure that out. He has become the core player in the passing scheme and currently has a five game scoring streak. Miles Austin has faded badly to where he has just one score in the last six games and averaged about 40 yards per game in that time. Kevin Ogletree is almost entirely replaced by Dwayne Harris though the production difference is negligible.

I will assume a bandaged Bryant will play and update as warranted. This could be a big week with the Steelers missing Ike Taylor from their right side which not only matches on Bryant, but is the same side that gave up two scores to Danario Alexander just last week when Taylor's replacement was benched.

DeMarco Murray has been back for two weeks now and both times carries for more than 20 times and scored in each while adding four catches. The Steelers rushing defense is great when at home but have already allowed seven scores in road games.

This game could well hinge on a mistake by either quarterback. Playing at home favors the Cowboys but the Bryant situation bears following since he would have been the prime offensive weapon if healthy.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DAL 10 24 5 11 9 22
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 1 6 1 3 15 18

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Tony Romo, DAL @STL 0000022011 ****
Romo hasn't been anything special thus far this year, but the Rams have faced Matt Cassel and Josh McCown thus far so they may be caught off guard. At minimum there's upside here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeMarco Murray, DAL @STL 12011100000 ****
Murray has back-to-back hundos this year; the Rams just gave up 145 rushing yards to Bobby Rainey. Can you say "blank check"?
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Dez Bryant, DAL @STL 007701000 ***
While the Cowboys may have suddenly become run-heavy, Tony Romo knows where to find Dez. And while the Rams have held opposing wideouts in check... well, it's Dez.
Update: Bryant was limited in practice Thursday and Friday, but he says he's going to play and who are we to doubt him?
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Terrance Williams, DAL @STL 004500000 ****
With the Cowboys becoming more run-heavy, Williams' role in the offense is not blossoming as expected. Keep him on the back burner until a more favorable matchup presents itself.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jason Witten, DAL @STL 004300000 ***
After squelching tight ends with regularity last season the Rams have picked up where they left off this year. And Witten is riding off into the sunset while the Cowboys carve out a different path offensively. Not much to see here fantasy-wise.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Dan Bailey, DAL @STL 3322 ***
Bailey should be looking at multiple field goal attempts again this week, which bodes well for his fantasy prospects.

WEEK 15
2012
CIN at PHI (THU) *GB at CHI *MIN at STL *SF at NE
CAR at SD IND at HOU *NYG at ATL TB at NO
DEN at BAL *JAC at MIA *PIT at DAL *WAS at CLE
*Updated *DET at ARI KC at OAK *SEA at BUF *NYJ at TEN (MON)

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