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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 9 CIN at MIA (THU) KC at BUF PIT at NE CHI at GB (MON)
ATL at CAR MIN at DAL SD at WAS On Bye:
BAL at CLE NO at NYJ TB at SEA ARI, DEN, DET
*UPDATED IND at HOU PHI at OAK TEN at STL JAC, NYG, SF

Prediction: PIT 14, NE 24 (Line: NE by 7)

An interesting game since both teams are not exactly playing to form. The 2-5 Steelers are playing good defense lately but not nearly enough offense. The 6-2 Patriots are 4-0 at home but bear almost no resemblance to the Patriots of the last five or even ten years. But played at home always favors the Patriots and the Steelers and on their fourth road venue over the last five games.

1 TEN 9-16 10 BUF -
2 @CIN 10-20 11 DET -
3 CHI 23-40 12 @CLE -
4 @MIN 27-34 13 @BAL -
5 BYE WEEK 14 MIA -
6 @NYJ 19-6 15 CIN -
7 BAL 19-16 16 @GB -
8 @OAK 18-21 17 CLE -
9 @NE - ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
PIT @ NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 10 260,1
RB Le'Veon Bell 80,1 3-20
WR Antonio Brown 9-80
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 2-30
WR Lance Moore 5-70,1
TE Heath Miller 5-50
PK Shaun Suisham 2 XP

Pregame Notes: While the defense has remained decent in most weeks, the offense just cannot produce points and have only 11 touchdowns over seven games. This week is one of the toughest remaining games and the only time the Steelers can win is when they face another bad offense. The rushing game has improved though not tremendously and the passing effort remains a problem.

QUARTERBACKS: Ben Roethlisberger has thrown a score in every game but only once did he manage to toss two. His yardage is all over the map. As good as 406 yards versus the Bears and as bad as 160 yards hosting the Ravens. The only consistency so far for Big Ben is that he can't hardly get past throwing more than one touchdown and struggles at the end of the game when it matters most.

RUNNING BACKS: Le'Veon Bell made it easy by displacing the backfield committee that existed for years abut he's only been moderately effective rushing. He still has yet to run for over 100 yards and only once was allowed more than 16 carries in a game. He's been good for several catches per week which helps sustain his fantasy value but we still have yet to see him with a breakout game.

WIDE RECEIVERS: There is a chance that Markus Wheaton returns this week but he was a nonfactor anyway. Antonio Brown continues to offer solid yardage every week and yet almost never score. Four of his last five games topped 80 yards but only one featured a touchdown and that was at home. Emmanuel Sanders scored in Oakland (7-88) and also in New York against the Jets (3-70) but that sandwiched a one catch stinker at home versus the Ravens. Jerricho Cotchery has one decent game all year. Whatever happens here goes through Brown with the most yardage and Sanders with the most scores.

TIGHT ENDS: The return of Heath Miller has been getting worse. He was held below 20 yards in the last two games and scored only once in his five weeks back. Miller was a bigger factor in the road games in New York (6-84) and in Minnesota (6-70). He's no longer the automatic dump-off for Roethlisberger but can be relied on in the right situations. They've only allowed two wideouts to score in New England and no one had a big game there.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Patriots secondary has been pretty good overall and allowed just four scores over the four previous home games. Roethlisberger is not sure how to even get two so that fits. The Patriots rush defense is better than the ranking suggest because of receiving yards by running backs that the Steelers do not rely on too much. This was the same team that shut down Jimmy Graham though the foot injury sort of helped. Figure on Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown to only offer moderate fantasy points this week. Like most any week.

WHAT TO WATCH: Two passing touchdowns or a big game by Bell would be really big here but so far that's been out of reach and likely will remain so.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 22 32 4 22 14 32
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 6 22 5 17 10 11

 

1 @BUF 23-21 10 BYE WEEK
2 NYJ 13-10 11 @CAR -
3 TB 23-3 12 DEN -
4 @ATL 30-23 13 @HOU -
5 @CIN 6-13 14 CLE -
6 NO 30-27 15 @MIA -
7 @NYJ 27-30 16 @BAL -
8 MIA 27-17 17 BUF -
9 PIT - ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
NE vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 240,1
RB Brandon Bolden 30 3-20
RB Stevan Ridley 80,1 2-10
WR Danny Amendola 4-40
WR Aaron Dobson 3-50
WR Julian Edelman 4-30
WR Brandon LaFell 4-50
TE Rob Gronkowski 5-60
TE Timothy Wright 6-50
PK Stephen Gostkowski 1 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The Patriots are not winning by much and they are not winning pretty but they were able to take down the Dolphins despite a bad game by Tom Brady. The Pats only have their bye waiting for them so no reason to be looking ahead this week. The rushing game has returned to form and that helps the offense even more with the sketchy passing numbers of recent weeks. This game should be a win at home but the second half of the season will be much tougher if the passing effort remains so marginal. When was the last time the Pats ranked #31 in quarterbacks? I'm not sure but even when Matt Cassel played that did not happen.

QUARTERBACKS: Tom Brady played with an unreported bruised hand which had to have some effect on him last week. He only completed 13 of 22 passes for 116 yards and one score. Over the last four weeks, Brady only threw for two touchdowns against four interceptions and 16 sacks. That is not business as usual here but it apparently is the new normal. Brady passed for more than 300 yards only once this year and yet three games could not exceed 200 yards. It is a brave new world and one without the old "run up the score" ways of the past.

RUNNING BACKS: It may have taken many weeks, but the rushing offense is back to where it started last year. Stevan Ridley scored in each of the last three weeks and gets only token help from Brandon Bolden who also scored in the last two games. What is strangely missing is the receiving back from past seasons. Most weeks only have maybe two passes head to a running back and usually Bolden. The lack of passing success has been compensated for by Ridley and Bolden, at least for now.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Once stellar now this motley crew cannot even decide who is the #1 wide receiver. Kenbrell Thompkins comes off his first game with no catches. Julian Edelman is marginal at best and has one decent game. Danny Amendola is back but you would barely know it since he only has nine catches for 70 yards combined from the last three games. The minimal success enjoyed at the start of the year has disappeared now. Aaron Dobson caught his second ever touchdown and that was from the season opener. Dobson has yet to top 63 yards in any game but usually posts 40 yards or more. This is just an under performing unit in recent weeks and facing the Steelers is not likely to reverse that.

TIGHT ENDS: After returning to eight catches for 114 yards versus the Jets, Rob Gronkowski was only thrown five passes last week and caught two of them for only 27 yards. The Dolphins usually cover him well anyway but it is a sign that Gronk is not 1:1 to his 2012 version by any means.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Steelers are great against the pass and have only allowed five passing touchdowns this year. Brady is struggling anyway so hosting one of the top secondaries is not going to make passing woes go away this week. But the Steelers are weaker against running backs. They have already allowed eight rushing scores to the potion and high yardage to several runners. That all means to expect another lower effort by Brady against a very good secondary but that Ridley and even Bolden can be considered this week. You have to start Gronkowski but the Steelers have allowed just one touchdown to a tight end and have been one of the best at stopping the position.

WHAT TO WATCH: Oddly enough - Tom Brady. His hand has to be an issue for such bad stats. But while the run can help win this game, the Patriots are going to need to pass far better if they want to entertain any hopes in the playoffs.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NE 31 12 10 30 3 16
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 2 17 4 2 21 28

WEEK 9 CIN at MIA (THU) KC at BUF PIT at NE CHI at GB (MON)
ATL at CAR MIN at DAL SD at WAS On Bye:
BAL at CLE NO at NYJ TB at SEA ARI, DEN, DET
*UPDATED IND at HOU PHI at OAK TEN at STL JAC, NYG, SF


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