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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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Game Predictions Summary

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WEEK 8
2010
*GB at NYJ *CAR at STL *MIN at NE *HOU at IND
*DEN at SF WAS at DET *SEA at OAK ATL, BAL
JAC at DAL *BUF at KC TB at ARI CHI, CLE
*UPDATED MIA at CIN *TEN at SD *PIT at NO NYG, PHI

Prediction: PIT 24, NO 20

Update: Both Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush were held out of both practices so far and while Thomas was already expected to be out, Bush was a possible to play. I am removing him from the projections now.

Update: Bush has been called out this week.

The Steelers squeaked past the Dolphins last week while we all learned to make sure the camera sees us recovering a fumbled ball and not just emerge from a pile with it. That win gives the Steelers a half game edge in the AFC North and a 5-1 record that includes 3-0 on the road. The Saints are merely following the time-honored script that says Super Bowl champs should implode the next season if only in inexplicable ways. The Saints are only 2-2 at home.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1)
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 ATL W 15-9 10 NE --
2 @TEN W 19-11 11 OAK --
3 @TB W 38-13 12 @BUF --
4 BAL L 14-17 13 @BAL --
5 Bye - 14 CIN --
6 CLE W 28-10 15 NYJ --
7 @MIA W 23-22 16 CAR --
8 @NO -- 17 @CLE --
9 @CIN -- - - -
Steelers Report | Statistics | Roster
PITTSBURGH at NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger - - 260,2
RB Rashard Mendenhall 100,1 10 -
TE Heath Miller - 30 -
WR Emmanuel Sanders - 30 -
WR Hines Ward - 80,1 -
WR Antwaan Randle El - 20 -
WR Mike Wallace - 70,1 -
PK Jeff Reed 1 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Steelers are allowing an NFL low 13 points per game and the Saints are hardly their old prolific scoring selves. Big Ben may be back but it is this defense that has seen the team rise to 5-1 on the season. This three road game stretch will be a good test and if the Steelers emerge with a 7-1 record then only the Ravens stand in the way of winning the AFC North. Unfortunately, they also represent the lone loss this year and that came in Pittsburgh no less.

QUARTERBACK: Two games back and Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for five touchdowns against just one interception and never less than 257 passing yards. He's picked right up where he left off last season and is connecting with the wideouts like he was never gone.

The Saints seemingly present a problem since they are ranked highly against quarterbacks but here is the reality - they have gone against Brett Favre, Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, Jimmy Clausen, Max Hall, Josh Freeman and Colt McCoy. How could they not be ranked highly? Why are they #1 with opponents like that? Smith threw for 275 yards and one score while Ryan had two touchdowns and 228 yards even though Michael Turner did most of the damage.

Consider Roethlisberger a decent start this week with a shot at a good game if the Saints somehow rediscover their offense and push the score higher.

RUNNING BACKS: Rashard Mendenhall was pulled from the game last week on several occasions and HC Mike Tomlin said he was making good on his vow to rest his star running back who had been on a pace for over 370 carries this season. The Miami game killed his three game scoring streak and left him with only 43 total yards - quite a drop from what fantasy owners had been used to seeing. But while the intent is to use Mendenhall less, the reality too was that they did not use Isaac Redman any more (3-9) though Mewelde Moore had four carries instead of his normal one. The difference is that the Steelers are more willing to rely on Roethlisberger's arm while letting Mendenhall catch a breather.

The Saints have been only average against running backs and have been dinged constantly by backs who also catch the ball which doesn't apply as much to Mendenhall. But along with those sad sack quarterbacks they have faced, the running backs have not been very good and when they are - Frank Gore (20-112, TD) or Michael Turner (30-114, TD) - the Saints are not that great. The bigger worry is if Mike Tomlin will allow Mendenhall to have enough carries to roll up a big game.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Two games back and both Hines Ward and Mike Wallace scored in both games. Wallace was the bigger yardage gainer (3-90) against the Browns and Ward (7-131) feasted on the Fins. Emmanuel Sanders is working into the mix now but remains well outside of fantasy consideration. So far the wait was worth it. Both wideouts have been productive in both games with Roethlisberger back.

Yes, the Saints are ranked #1 against wideouts but so what? They have not faced anyone really. Larry Fitzgerald still racked up 93 yards on them for his season best and Roddy White had five catches for 69 yards and a score as the only other decent wideout to go against these Saints. The yardage may be a bit less this week but both wideouts have a good shot at a score for the third week in a row.

TIGHT ENDS: Heath Miller had a touchdown in his first game with Roethlisberger but only came up with 33 yards on three catches in Miami during a contentious game. He remains just a lower yardage play for at least the near future.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 28 11 18 28 15 1
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 6 23 1 26 1 15
Advantage(+) or Disadvantage(-) PIT -22 12 -17 -2 -14 14


New Orleans Saints (4-3)
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 MIN W 14-9 10 Bye -
2 @SF W 25-22 11 SEA --
3 ATL L 24-27 12 @DAL --
4 CAR W 16-14 13 @CIN --
5 @ARI L 20-30 14 STL --
6 @TB W 31-6 15 @BAL --
7 CLE L 17-30 16 @ATL --
8 PIT -- 17 TB --
9 @CAR -- - - -
Saints Report | Statistics | Roster
NEW ORLEANS vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees - - 270,2
RB Reggie Bush 20 30 -
RB Chris Ivory 30 - -
TE Jeremy Shockey - 30 -
WR Marques Colston - 60 -
WR Lance Moore - 40,1 -
WR Devery Henderson - 40 -
WR Robert Meachem - 50,1 -
PK Garrett Hartley 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Saints are 4-3 but they are hardly playing like winning team let alone the reigning Super Bowl champs. Losing to the visiting Browns is one way to say "all is not well". Having Drew Brees throw four interceptions is another. And those four wins came against the Vikings, 49ers, Panthers and Buccaneers. Three of those only have one win on the season. The Saints are much worse than their record suggests.

QUARTERBACK: Drew Brees has done well enough in a fantasy sense (assuming no negatives for interceptions) but he has only totaled two efforts over 300 yards and just twice had more than two scores in a game. He had five games over 300 yards in the first seven in 2009. And this was against the softer part of the schedule.

The Steelers show up with only four passing scores allowed all year though four opponents have topped 250 passing yards. The Steelers also already have eight interceptions and 17 sacks. Look for Brees to throw for decent yardage this week since the rushing game should be really throttled back. But more than two scores on the Steelers would be much more like 2009 Brees instead of 2010 Brees.

RUNNING BACKS: The Saints hope to get Reggie Bush back after he spent the last five weeks healing up a fractured fibula. He has been cleared to play and should be practicing but he has not yet tested the leg in real situations yet. I will project for a limited Bush to play and adjust as needed during the week. Bush would add in an element that has been missed in recent weeks - the speedy pass catching back.

Pierre Thomas remains out and it is starting to become a sore point with the coaches since his ankle sprain is so slow to heal. He won't be around this week and his return is still unknown and sliding towards later every week. Chris Ivory has taken to being the runner in the offense though he only gained 48 yards on 15 carries against the visiting Browns. Ladell Betts had eight receptions last week with no carries to his credit. Betts loses all value with the return of Bush.

As always, the Steelers do not allow runners much success. They have allowed only two touchdowns to running backs and none have gained more than 50 yards against them. None of the running backs here are attractive this week. Ivory should be held in check and Bush is a big unknown after being gone for five weeks.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Marques Colston comes off a season best 10 catches for 112 yards and a score versus the Browns but that was his first touchdown this year. This unit is generally productive in combination but the "player of the week" always changes. All four wideouts have scored but only Lance Moore has more than two touchdowns. There have been only two games that featured a receiver with over 100 yards. The yardage is too low here to merit a weekly start because the scores are nearly random in their assignment.

The Steelers have only given up three touchdowns to wide receivers and only one receiver has managed more than 80 yards against the Steelers (Roddy White). I am assigning two scores here but they could go to any player and even the yardage is speculative against a sound secondary like the Steelers.

TIGHT ENDS: Jeremy Shockey was having a better season in the early weeks but has settled down more to his normal fare with no more than 30 yards in a game for the last three weeks. He's a marginal play in any given week and no less on Sunday.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 8 14 8 12 14 25
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 7 2 5 18 9 4
Advantage(+) or Disadvantage(-) NO -1 -12 -3 6 -5 -21

WEEK 8
2010
GB at NYJ CAR at STL MIN at NE HOU at IND
DEN at SF WAS at DET SEA at OAK ATL, BAL
JAC at DAL BUF at KC TB at ARI CHI, CLE
  MIA at CIN TEN at SD PIT at NO NYG, PHI
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