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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
RB Stevan Ridley 70,1 2-10
WR Antonio Brown 4-50
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 3-40,1

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 @HOU 0000031031 ***
No Antonio Brown limits things a little for Big Ben. The matchup is awfully promising, and he has talented playmakers in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant, in addition to the always dangerous Le'Veon Bell from the backfield. Houston has provided quarterbacks a touchdown every 12.3 completions (12th) and surrendered a big day to Blake Bortles a week ago.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT @HOU 6015500000 ***
Bell should see the rock aplenty with Antonio Brown out of action. The dual threat will face a Texans defense giving up big gains on the ground but modest numbers in the passing game to RBs. Since Week 10, this group has allowed 110.4 rushing yards, 34.4 receiving yards, and a rushing score every 17.7 carries (4th).
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT @HOU 0071202000 ***
The rookie gets to take off the training wheels, if that didn't already happen last year. The Texans have provided wideouts big performances while limiting overall team figures, mostly due to cake matchups. The likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Marquise Goodwin, Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens throttled this secondary in the past five weeks.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jesse James, PIT @HOU 003300000 ***
We won't even rehash the catch controversy from Week 15. James will see a few more looks with Antonio Brown out, but there shouldn't a great deal of confidence in starting him. Houston provides a wonderful matchup, so brave owners may be able to stomach the risk.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Chris Boswell, PIT @HOU 1144 ***
On a per-game rate, the Texans offer the top matchup for extra points and the No. 10 matchup for field goal tries. Together this forms fantasy's seventh-best matchup.

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
vs Rush Catch Pass
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 Dak Prescott, DAL SEA 20000023011 ***
Ezekiel Elliott's return should take some heat off of Prescott. The versatile passer is always a threat with his feet, but there isn't enough meat on this bone for a fantasy bonanza in Week 16. Seattle has allowed the 20th-most fantasy points, on average, since Week 10.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL SEA 11021200000 ***
Zeke returns to the starting lineup and is an obvious play for every gamer who had been stashing him. Seattle was obliterated by Todd Gurley last week, and while he represented four of the six RB touchdowns against them in the past five games, this is still a good matchup. Elliott could be slightly rusty, though reports suggest he is leaner and ready to go.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Deonte Thompson, DAL SEA 003400000 ***
Thompson was targeted a respectable eight times in the Week 13 game with New England, managing to land only two for 21 yards. He doesn't belong on a fantasy roster.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Allen Hurns, DAL SEA 003400000 ***
Update: Hurns was limited in all three sessions this week and is questionable. Consider him closer to doubtful.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Terrance Williams, DAL SEA 004400000 ***
Williams has a fine matchup against a sinking Seattle defense, yet he doesn't do enough with his looks to matter in fantasy.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Cole Beasley, DAL SEA 002300000 ***
Beasley's target count is too low to warrant fantasy inclusion.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Dan Bailey, DAL SEA 1133 ***
In the past five games, Seattle has faced 10 field goals, and all of them hit their mark. Thirteen of the 14 PATs were true to help create the No. 8 matchup to exploit in Week 16.

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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