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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 1
2010
MIN at NO ATL at PIT* OAK at TEN* GB at PHI
MIA at BUF CLE at TB* CAR at NYG DAL at WAS
IND at HOU* CIN at NE* SF at SEA BAL at NYJ
*UPDATED DET at CHI DEN at JAC* ARI at STL* SD at KC

Prediction: ATL 20, PIT 23

Update: Michael Jenkins has missed practices because of a shoulder injury and is likely to miss this week. He will be replaced by Brian Finneran

The Falcons come off a disappointing 9-7 season that saw both Michael Turner and Matt Ryan suffer from injuries and the addition of Tony Gonzalez had less of an impact than expected due to the offensive health issues. The Flacons also had a far tougher schedule in 2009 than they did in 2008 when they suddenly became a contender again. The Steelers also missed out on the playoffs at 9-7 and have since lost their quarterback for the first month due to suspension and Santonio Holmes has packed his bad attitude bags and left for New York. Definitely a coin toss game that opened with the Steelers favored but now has shifted to the Falcons. Even with the changes in the offense, the Steelers are at home and the Falcons have not been a great road team.

Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
Homefield: Georgia Dome
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @PIT -- 10 BAL --
2 ARI -- 11 @STL --
3 @NO -- 12 GB --
4 SF -- 13 @TB --
5 @CLE -- 14 @CAR --
6 @PHI -- 15 @SEA --
7 CIN -- 16 NO --
8 Bye - 17 CAR --
9 TB -- - - -
Falcons Report | Statistics | Roster
ATLANTA at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan - - 240,2
RB Michael Turner 60 - -
TE Tony Gonzalez - 60,1 -
WR Michael Jenkins - 50 -
WR Brian FInneran   30  
WR Roddy White - 90,1 -
WR Harry Douglas - 40 -
PK Matt Bryant 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: It has been a good offseason to get players back and not much has changed in personnel here. But the schedule - this week not withstanding - is much better than last year and it is another season with the same crew and coaches - always a better thing. As it works out, this will be one of the toughest games of the season along with New Orleans in week three. What this team must do is improve on their 3-5 road mark from last year.

QUARTERBACKS: Matt Ryan came off a very impressive rookie season and then flopped a bit last year when he had a daunting schedule and a case of turf toe that forced him out of three games.He fell from 3440 yards in 2008 to only 2916 last year despite increasing his touchdown totals from 16 to 22. Ryan is not expected to have any residual effects from his turf-toe and will look to get back on track early and often.

The Steelers were weaker against the pass last year because few could run on them and had to throw. Ryan should have at least good yardage here and could roll up a couple of scores.

RUNNING BACKS: Michael Turner had his monster season in 2007 but then trudged through 2009 hampered by a high ankle sprain and various other dings that left him with only 871 rush yards on 178 runs over 11 games played. Turner is back and healthy once again but the team may be more reticent to allow him the 376 carries of 2008 that wore him down. Jason Snelling was a very adequate replacement last year and somehow Jerious Norwood hangs on despite falling even further from grace.

All teams love to say they will take it easy on some workhorse but when the game is on the line, teams do what they need to win. Until Snelling or Norwood have any appreciable game time, Turner is expected to maintain his heavy load.

Now that all said, he does face the #1 defense against running backs from last year and plays them on the road. Temper expectations this week but Turner will be fine if only from week two onward.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Roddy White was perhaps the lone Falcon who still had a great season in 2009 when he turned in 85 catches for 1153 yards and a career best 11 touchdowns. With an easier schedule and a healthy and wiser Matt Ryan, White should have yet another career season this year. Michael Jenkins remains as the blocker who plays wideout and he'll likely miss this game with an injured shoulder. That leaves Harry Douglas as the player they desperately want to emerge but he is returning from a blown ACL that claimed his 2009 season. Brian Finneran could fill in this week but he's never fantasy relevant anyway.

The Steelers have been weakest against wideouts which bodes well for White since the rushing attack is almost sure to lag this week. No other wideout is worth a start this week... or really any other week unless Douglas ever reaches his potential.

TIGHT ENDS: After an illustrious career in Kansas City, Tony Gonzalez came over to the new hot team of the Falcons last year right before everyone was injured. He still managed to turn in 83 receptions for 867 yards and six scores for his lowest yardage total in eight years. A healthy Ryan will help though and Gonzo won't want to go out with a whimper. This week should be one of his better games against a defense that will be holding down the run.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 14 10 16 8 20 26
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 16 1 28 14 9 30


Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 ATL -- 10 NE --
2 @TEN -- 11 OAK --
3 @TB -- 12 @BUF --
4 BAL -- 13 @BAL --
5 Bye - 14 CIN --
6 CLE -- 15 NYJ --
7 @MIA -- 16 CAR --
8 @NO -- 17 @CLE --
9 @CIN -- - - -
Steelers Report | Statistics | Roster
PITTSBURGH vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Dennis Dixon - - 180,1
RB Rashard Mendenhall 90,1 20 -
TE Heath Miller - 40,1 -
WR Hines Ward - 60 -
WR Mike Wallace - 50 -
PK Jeff Reed 3 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: This could be a very challenging year for the Steelers who will be without Ben Roethlisberger for the first month and the departure of Santonio Holmes was back-filled with Antwaan Randle El. Toss in their annual tough schedule and they'll earn anything they get. This team will struggle at times but opening at home? Losing here would set a very bad tone for the rest of the year.

QUARTERBACKS: Anyone taking over for Ben Roethlisberger needs to remain fleet of foot because the Steelers ranked #2 with 50 sacks allowed last year and typically remain at or near the top of "who's getting pummeled list". Byron Leftwich was angling to be the starter but suffered a knee injury that will keep him out at least this week if not for good. Dennis Dixon takes the reins for now and gets to throw what will be his 13th career NFL pass.

Dixon is not a great start for obvious reasons but at least he gets his first week in a forgiving situation at home against the #28 defense against the pass last year. He won't throw it more than neccessary but should post some average yardage and a score.

RUNNING BACKS: The bright spot on this offense is mostly Rashard Mendenhall who used his second season with the team to roll up 1108 rush yards with a 4.6 yard per carry average and he had 25 receptions as well for 261 more yards. That was with him barely playing in the first three weeks. Mendenhall was improving down the stretch of last year and will be asked to shoulder a heavier load here in the first month with Roethlisberger out.

The Falcons are about average against running backs but on the road they play worse and Mendenhall is also a good receiver and a nice outlet for Dixon if needed. He should have no less than a solid game here and probably his best for the next four weeks.

WIDE RECEIVERS: This unit is weaker without Santonio Holmes but Hines Ward remains as the ageless possession receiver who should be a reliable target for Dixon. Mike Wallace gets promoted and rightfully so after a very impressive rookie season that saw hi, turn 39 catches into 756 yards and an astronomic 19.4 yards per catch average along with six touchdowns scored. How well Dixon can connect with him is questionable but once Big Ben returns, Wallace should be a gem on a team that will need to throw often thanks to the schedule.

The wideouts should have an average sort of game and anything more is related to Dixon greatly exceeding expectations.

TIGHT ENDS: The offense has evolved into using the tight end much more and Heath Miller comes off a career best season of 76 catches for 789 yards and six scores. That pace should be maintained by Dixon who will appreciate the bigger and closer passing targets. Miller is a good play this week going against a team that has been weak against tight ends.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 5 22 4 14 10 17
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 28 16 14 27 8 11

WEEK 1
2010
MIN at NO ATL at PIT OAK at TEN GB at PHI
MIA at BUF CLE at TB CAR at NYG DAL at WAS
IND at HOU CIN at NE SF at SEA BAL at NYJ
  DET at CHI DEN at JAC ARI at STL SD at KC
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