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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 DeAngelo Williams 40 1-10
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 Landry Jones, PIT CLE 0000022011 *
Pittsburgh has nothing at stake this week, so expect Jones to get the nod. Keep far away from him in all formats, even against the Browns.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeAngelo Williams, PIT CLE 14024200000 **
Cleveland has been dreadful against running backs all year. No Le'Veon Bell should result in a huge workload for the well-aged Williams. Bell gashed the Browns for 34.1 fantasy points in Week 11.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Eli Rogers, PIT CLE 006600000 ***
Rogers will start but without Antonio Brown opposite him and Ben Roethlisberger throwing the rock. This is an exhibition game for the playoff-bound Steelers. Rogers is a decent play in PPR.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Cobi Hamilton, PIT CLE 002300000 ***
Hamilton will start but has mild upside without Ben Roethlisberger in the lineup. Even against Cleveland, consider him a long shot for production worthy of a starting lineup spot.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jesse James, PIT CLE 005601000 **
James could be thrown to early and often with Pittsburgh resting all of its main cast. The Browns have been among fantasy's best source of tight end points all season.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Chris Boswell, PIT CLE 1133 ***
Cleveland is strong against fantasy kickers most weeks because of its inability to prevent touchdowns. This typically leads to few field goal tries. Pittsburgh has nothing to gain by playing its stars this week, which would impact the overall offensive effectiveness.

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 Mark Sanchez 230,1
RB Darren McFadden 90,1 4-20
RB Alfred Morris 100,1
WR Dez Bryant 4-50
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 Dak Prescott, DAL @PHI 0000020011 *
Prescott probably will be pulled at some point with nothing on the line for the No. 1-seeded Cowboys. Chancing just how much he plays is a risky choice to make.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Darren McFadden, DAL @PHI 701000000 ***
McFadden is a reasonable play in the upcoming week with Dallas likely to rest Ezekiel Elliott most if not all of the game. DMC faces a Philly defense that has allowed 130.6 offensive yards and the third most receptions (6.0) per game to RBs since Week 11.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL @PHI 4001100000 *
Elliott barely saw the ball in the second half last week and may have an extremely small role in this one, if any at all.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Dez Bryant, DAL @PHI 004600000 *
Dez went for 113 and a TD on four catches in Week 8's matchup. The Eagles rate as the second easiest to exploit this go-around, but just how much Bryant will play is cause for concern.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Cole Beasley, DAL @PHI 005500000 **
The matchup is great -- the second best for PPR receivers, in fact -- but not only has Beasley been alarmingly quiet lately, he didn't fare well (4-53-0) in the first meeting. The Cowboys may choose to rest many key players, too.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Terrance Williams, DAL @PHI 002300000 ***
Williams could have a larger role this week, and while the matchup is great, starting him to find out isn't the wisest move.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jason Witten, DAL @PHI 002301000 *
Witten probably won't play much in this one. Dallas has nothing on the line as a fixed No. 1 seed. The Eagles continue to be one of the worst matchups for the position, but there's a reasonable chance Witten can find the end zone. Play him without better options.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Dan Bailey, DAL @PHI 3311 ***
The Eagles have granted the 10th largest average of extra points (2.6) and fifth most field goal tries per game (2.6). More than 92 percent of all kicks faced have scored since Week 11.

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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