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
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling 20 3-20
RB Ben Tate 20
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 CIN 0000033020 ***
Big Ben took these Bengals for 350 and 3 at their house just three weeks ago; with the AFC North title on the line, no reason to think he can't put up something just as fantasy friendly here.
RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT CIN 11016500000 ****
Bell blew up the Bengals to the tune of 235 combo yards and three TDs just three weeks ago. While his bountiful yardage-fest has ended he still accounted for 191 yards from scrimmage and three TDs over the past two games. CJ Anderson just took Cincy for 138 combo and a touch last week; feels like baseline numbers for Bell here.
WR Antonio Brown, PIT CIN 0081201000 ****
Brown has scored or topped 95 yards in four of his last five meetings with the Bengals, including 9-117 earlier this season. Cincy's secondary is a tough nut to crack but they have given up three 100-yard games the past three weeks, and Brown is too frequently targeted to not amass helpful fantasy numbers.
WR Martavis Bryant, PIT CIN 004601000 ****
Over the past three weeks WR1s Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas have both topped 100 yards against Cincy but failed to score; meanwhile, running mates Bryant and Emmanuel Sanders have combined for three TDs. It was a bonus that Bryant also reached triple digits with his 4-109-1 showing in the earlier meeting; while he's the third option in Pittsburgh he's more than earned a spot at the fantasy table.
WR Markus Wheaton, PIT CIN 003400000 ***
The Steelers are firmly a two-receiver offense, leaving Wheaton with his nose pressed up against the glass looking in.
TE Heath Miller, PIT CIN 004500000 ***
Miller made the most of his one catch and one yard in the earlier meeting with Cincy, scoring the only TE TD the Bengals have given up in the past nine games. He's too inconsistently targeted to warrant regular fantasy consideration, and the matchup suggests last time was a fluke so look elsewhere for TE help this week.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shaun Suisham, PIT CIN 3333 ***
Suisham is finishing strong, with at least eight points in each of his last five games--a stretch that includes 10 points in Cincinnati--and multiple field goals in six straight. He might just deliver a Sunday night game worth waiting for.

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

QB Tony Romo, DAL @WAS 0000024020 **
The Redskins have given up multiple touchdown passes in four straight, with two of those quarterbacks topping 370 passing yards. Romo was knocked out of the earlier meeting with Washington; if he doesn't finish this time it will be because the Cowboys have already clinched their fate--likely due to a solid fantasy helper from Romo.
RB DeMarco Murray, DAL @WAS 601000000 *
Murray dominated the Redskins like no other back in the earlier meeting, with 221 yards from scrimmage. He won't likely see enough touches to match that performance as the Cowboys rest their feature back (and specifically his busted hand) for the playoffs, and he was ineffective with a reduced workload against Indy last week. He's still starter-worthy, but your expectations need to be lowered dramatically.
RB Joseph Randle, DAL @WAS 3002200000 ***
Randle saw his biggest workload last week (13 carries) and did little with it (37 yards). With a tougher matchup this week there's no reason to expect those numbers to trend upwards, even if Randle ends up with a larger share of the touches.
WR Dez Bryant, DAL @WAS 004601000 ****
Dez has scored in his last two against the Redskins; he's also scored 10 TDs in his last eight games, a streak that started with a subdued 3-30-1 against Washington. With DeMarco Murray dinged the offensive onus is on the passing game, and in turn Tony Romo leans on Dez. Start him with confidence here.
WR Terrance Williams, DAL @WAS 003400000 ***
Williams returned to the end zone--twice--last week as the Dallas passing game picked up the slack left by the injury to DeMarco Murray. However, secondary targets rarely fare well against the Redskins--and when they do it tends to be at the expense of the primary guy. Since it's unlikely that Dez Bryant falters here, don't look for big things for Williams this week.
TE Jason Witten, DAL @WAS 005501000 ***
Witten scored in the earlier meeting with Washington, and after watching the Redskins give up 15-115 to Zach Ertz last week---and 4-61-2 to Jared Cook two weeks prior to that, and 4-127-2 to Coby Fleener the week before that--you have to like Witten's chances of another big outing.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Dan Bailey, DAL @WAS 1133 ***
Bailey has been counting by ones instead of threes, with just one multiple field goal game in the past two and a half months. On the bright side, he's had at least four PATs in five of the last six games so even though the ceiling isn't high the floor isn't that low.

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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