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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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Super Bowl XLV SUNDAY FEBRUARY 6, 2011
 

Prediction: PIT 17, GB 27

This is a very evenly matched Super Bowl - the line favors the Packers by only 2.5 points. The Packers have been impressive winning all three games on the road but the Steelers were around the top of the AFC for the entire season. The weather is no factor here though unusual snow and ice in Texas has made getting around a bigger challenge. The Steelers are looking for an NFL-record seventh Super Bowl win while the Packers want to be the team that forever removes the excuse "but we lost players to injury this year."

These teams rarely play and the Steelers have won the last three games. The last win by the Packers was in 1995.

Both teams sport top defenses. The difference comes in the Packers ability to stop the run and the complexity of the passing attack against the Steelers secondary. This should be one Super Bowl with minimal rushing yards and opportunistic defenses which could either score and change the game.

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 ATL W 15-9 10 NE L 26-39
2 @TEN W 19-11 11 OAK W 35-3
3 @TB W 38-13 12 @BUF W 19-16
4 BAL L 14-17 13 @BAL W 13-10
5 Bye - 14 CIN W 23-7
6 CLE W 28-10 15 NYJ L 17-22
7 @MIA W 23-22 16 CAR W 27-3
8 @NO L 10-20 17 @CLE W 41-9
9 @CIN W 27-21 - - -
Steelers Report | Statistics | Roster
PITTSBURGH Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger - - 220,1
RB Rashard Mendenhall 60,1 20 -
TE Heath Miller - 40 -
WR Emmanuel Sanders - 50 -
WR Hines Ward - 40,1 -
WR Mike Wallace - 40 -
PK Shaun Suisham 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: After getting a first round bye, the Steelers fell behind the Ravens by 14 points but pulled out the win, 31-24. A 17 point second quarter helped the Steelers hold off the Jets in the conference championship that they won 24-19. The Steelers were only 5-3 at home this year but 7-1 in road games with their only loss to the Saints in New Orleans.

QUARTERBACK: Ben Roethlisberger threw for 226 yards and two scores against the Ravens in the divisional round and was also sacked a season high six times. Roethlisberger passed for only 133 yards and two interceptions against the Jets but did rush in a touchdown. So far Big Ben has not been directly responsible for either post season win, and has been a minor liability like when he threw two interceptions against the Jets.

The Packers have a top ranked secondary that has allowed only one quarterback to throw for more than one touchdown - Tom Brady who had two and only 163 passing yards. Over the last six games, only MIchael Vick passed for more than 200 yards against the Packers and that was in Philly. So far the Steelers have faced nothing but top defenses in the post season and that reflects in Roethlisberger's stats.

RUNNING BACKS: Rashard Mendenhall has been a major factor every week for the Steelers and even though his yardage has been on the lower side in many weeks, he has been a scoring machine with seven touchdowns over the last five games and even 121 yards on 27 carries against the Jets for only his fourth 100+ rushing yard effort on the year. Mendenhall has around 15+ carries every week and in the playoffs has been even more heavily relied on with 47 runs over these last two weeks. But he only had 46 yards on 20 runs against the Ravens and that was in Pittsburgh. Three of his last six road games ended with less than 50 rushing yards even though they always had at least 14 runs. Mendenhall has been golden thanks to scoring 16 times over these last 18 games and he adds in a catch or two as well.

The Packers rushing defense has been stellar. Even in the 11 road games played so far they have only allowed a total of five touchdowns to running backs and never more than one each. Only one runner had more than 70 yards in a road game with the Packers. Mendenhall has been money as a scorer and has a shot at one touchdown but anything more would be a first for the Packers defense and yardage should remain only moderate.

WIDE RECEIVERS: The troublesome part of the Steelers offense in the post season so far is the disappearance of the receivers. Granted - facing the Ravens and Jets is plenty tough. But both games were at home and yet Mike Wallace and Hines Ward still have yet to gain more than 25 yards in either playoff game. Last week Mike Wallace was held to only one catch for six yards thanks to Darrelle Revis but he only had 20 yards on three catches against the Ravens. His only scores in the last eight game came against the Browns and the Panthers. Hines Ward has been held to less than 40 yards for the last five games though he has scored twice and one came against the Ravens. The only wide receiver with any success the last two games was #4 wideout Antonio Brown against the Ravens when he had 75 yards on three catches but he was held to just one catch for 14 yards versus the Jets.

The Packers secondary is very good and has given up only five touchdowns to wide receivers over the 11 road games this year. The one passing score will most likely end up here as it has for the three playoff games even though by rankings it appears likely to end up with a tight end.

TIGHT ENDS: Heath Miller rarely has turned in more than around 50 yards in a game and in both playoff games ended up just below 40 yards. The Packers have been far better against tight ends than their rankings suggest because earlier in the season a few teams had success. But in the three playoff games so far, no right end has scored or had more than 30 yards and that includes Tony Gonzalez, Greg Olsen and Brent Celek.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 17 12 9 25 8 3
Preventing Fantasy Points GB 4 4 3 25 9 9
Advantage(+) or Disadvantage(-)   -13 -8 -6 0 -1 6

 

Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Homefield: Lambeau Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @PHI W 27-20 10 Bye -
2 BUF W 34-7 11 @MIN W 31-3
3 @CHI L 17-20 12 @ATL L 17-20
4 DET W 28-26 13 SF W 34-16
5 @WAS L 13-16 14 @DET L 3-7
6 MIA L 20-23 15 @NE L 27-31
7 MIN W 28-24 16 NYG W 45-17
8 @NYJ W 9-0 17 CHI W 10-3
9 DAL W 45-7 - - -
Packers Report | Statistics | Roster
GREEN BAY Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Rodgers 30,1 - 270,2
RB Brandon Jackson 10 20 -
RB James Starks 60 - -
TE Andrew Quarless - 10 -
WR Greg Jennings - 80,1 -
WR Jordy Nelson - 40 -
WR Donald Driver - 50 -
WR James Jones - 60,1 -
PK Mason Crosby 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: This has to be one of the most thrilling seasons ever for the Packers who have battled tremendous adversity this year losing so many players to injury and yet still ending up in the playoffs. And once there they have ripped off three straight wins - all on the road - and Aaron Rodgers has been nearly flawless though in Chicago he was less effective. The Packers defense has been the saving grace and will need to come up just as big in this game for the Packers to win.

QUARTERBACK: Aaron Rodgers has joined the ranks of the elite quarterbacks and a win in the Super Bowl would cement his place in the pantheon of Packers quarterbacks. Rodgers passed for three touchdowns in both Philadelphia and Atlanta but then was held scoreless by the Bears who had only given up one score in each of the other two meetings this year with the Packers. Rodgers had 13 games with two or more total touchdowns. He has rushed in six scores including one each in the last two playoff games.

The Steelers have allowed at least one passing score to all but one team in road games but only twice gave up two scores and never three touchdowns in those games. The passing yardage has almost always been 250+ in those games though and the cast of opponents have not always been stellar. Drew Brees posted 305 yards and two scores on the visiting Steelers this year and Carson Palmer ended with 248 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers has been a difference maker in the playoffs but for once is not playing in the opponent's home stadium. The Steelers have been #1 against the running backs so expect Rodgers to once again carry the offense on his shoulders.

RUNNING BACKS: James Starks has really come on during the playoffs and will make the backfield more diverse next year if not just replace Ryan Grant when he returns. Starks offers a big, bruising addition to the game which is a nice complement to the passing attack that opponents already fear. Starks finally scored once last week for the first time in the NFL and his last two games have seen him run over 22 times each week but languish around three yards per carry. Brandon Jackson has been phased out as a runner in the playoffs and only has one or two catches per week. Starks now is the primary runner with minimal sharing.

The Steelers have only allowed four rushing touchdowns to running backs in their 18 games played. They are ranked #1 against the position and rarely allow more than 50 rushing yards in any game. Expect a mediocre showing by Starks this week.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Donald Driver was held to only one catch in the Chicago game but ended up with at least five receptions in both of the other playoffs matchups. He has not yet scored or gained more than 76 yards in these three games. Greg Jennings has not scored either but has eight catches in each of the last two games with 101 ands 130 yards respectively. He remains the primary target and one that almost no defense has managed to take away. But the strength of this passing attack is that it is not limited to just two wideouts. James Jones scored in both Philly and Atlanta but only had yardage of note in Atlanta (4-75). Jordy Nelson had no catches in the first playoff game and then scored once on his eight catches for 79 yards in Atlanta and gained 67 yards on four catches in Chicago. There are four viable options here and therein lies the problem for secondaries used to covering only two.

The Steelers secondary ranks well against wide receivers but it is the bigger weakness of the defense more set up to stop the rushing games of the AFC North. They allowed eight passing scores to wideouts in road games this year and that considers facing such teams as TEN, MIA, TB, BAL and CLE in road games. Both Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin had 100+ yards on this defense and the Packers bring the best set of wideout to face the Steelers this year. When the Steelers played the Saints (in a game they lost), they allowed passing scores to both Marques Colston (6-75) and Lance Moore (7-54) and Robert Meachem (6-76) also had a good showing. This is where the Packers have to compete and here the Steelers will win or lose this game.

TIGHT ENDS: Andrew Quarless never scored in a road game and has been little used during the season. He has not produced more than two meaningless catches per game for the last month.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points GB 2 31 2 20 15 5
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 5 1 6 4 8 8
Advantage(+) or Disadvantage(-)   3 -30 4 -16 -7 3


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