Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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CIN at PHI (THU) *GB at CHI *MIN at STL *SF at NE
*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
  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.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 15 20 23 5 8 28
Preventing Fantasy Points DAL 9 17 14 13 21 27

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Dallas Cowboys
Homefield: Cowboys Stadium
  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.

Gaining Fantasy Points DAL 10 24 5 11 9 22
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 1 6 1 3 15 18

RB DeMarco Murray, DAL PHI 8012100000 ***
Murray has triple-digit combo yardage in five straight, six touchdowns in the past four games, and has pretty much hoisted this offense on his back; last week, he even got more than 20 carries! With Tony Romo iffy, the offensive onus will once again be on Murray, who missed the earlier game with the Eagles. The way he's playing right now, it would be silly to bet against him.
WR Dez Bryant, DAL PHI 0081101000 **
Bryant didn't score in the earlier meeting with Philly, though he did rack up 110 yards. He's scored in five of eight since, including each of the last four, and should enjoy this matchup with an Eagles defense that's given up more fantasy points to wideouts than any other.
WR Terrance Williams, DAL PHI 003501000 **
Williams scored in the earlier meeting with Philly and was the Cowboys' most targeted secondary receiver last week so he's the most likely to take advantage of an Eagles defense that has allowed at least one secondary target to score or top 50 yards (or both) in all seven non-blizzard games since Philly and Dallas met back in Week 7.
TE Jason Witten, DAL PHI 003300000 ***
Witten did little last week and wasn't a factor in the earlier game with Philly--no surprise, given that the Eagles have allowed the fewest fantasy points to the tight end position. Witten may also be adjusting to a new quarterback, so there are plenty of reasons to be skittish about his fantasy prospects this week.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Dan Bailey, DAL PHI 2233 ****
Bailey has averaged almost four points per game more at home, a cool 10 points per game this year with nothing lower than a seven. His five spot in Philly is a bit disconcerting, but Bailey's home track record suggests he's a solid bet here.

CIN at PHI (THU) *GB at CHI *MIN at STL *SF at NE
*Updated *DET at ARI KC at OAK *SEA at BUF *NYJ at TEN (MON)

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