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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey  

Sortable Player Projections | Game Predictions Summary | Projections by Team

WEEK 8
2011
* ARI at BAL * DET at DEN * MIN at CAR * SD at KC (mon)
* CIN at SEA IND at TEN * NE at PIT Bye Week
* CLE at SF * JAC at HOU * NO at STL ATL, CHI, GB
* Updated DAL at PHI * MIA at NYG WAS at BUF NYJ, OAK, TB

Prediction: NE 30, PIT 24

Update: BenJarvus Green-Ellis is listed as questionable but is expected to play this week.

Sure to be a great game. The Patriots are 5-1 with their only loss on the road against the Bills who just outscored them. The Steelers are 5-2 with losses in Houston and Baltimore but 3-0 at home.

The Patriots won 39-26 in Pittsburgh last year.


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New England Patriots
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @MIA 38-24 10 @NYJ -
2 SD 35-21 11 KC -
3 @BUF 31-34 12 @PHI -
4 @OAK 31-19 13 IND -
5 NYJ 30-21 14 @WAS -
6 DAL 20-16 15 @DEN -
7 Bye - 16 MIA -
8 @PIT - 17 BUF -
9 NYG - - - -
Patriots Report | Statistics | Roster
NEW ENGLAND at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady - - 300,2
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis 40,1 10 -
TE Rob Gronkowski - 50 -
TE Aaron Hernandez - 70,1 -
WR Chad Ochocinco - 20 -
WR Deion Branch - 50,1 -
WR Wes Welker - 90 -
PK S. Gostkowski 3 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Patriots come off their bye and prepare to meet likely the toughest defense yet. But this team has scored above 30 points in every game until the Cowboys showed up and will be rested and prepared for their trip to Pittsburgh. The Pats are in great shape to take the division and winning the tough games like this can make the week 17 matchup with the Bills become a moot point.

QUARTERBACK: Last season we almost forgot what Tom Brady could do when his first six games had only produced an average of 240 pass yards per game and just 11 touchdowns. He had not thrown any 300 yard games to open that year. For 2011, he has averaged 360 yards per game, scored 16 times and put his name in the record book with a 517 yard season opener. He has already tied 2010 with four games over 300 yards and he has ten more to play.

Brady passed for 350 yards and three touchdowns in Pittsburgh last year.

There is no reason to ever bench Brady though this should be likely the toughest venue for him all year. But the same could be said last year.

RUNNING BACKS: BenJarvus Green-Ellis remains the big dog in the backfield and while both Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead figure in time to time, it is still mostly the BGE show. He has scored five times and topped 70 yards in half of his games so far including the 136 yards on 27 carries when he beat down the Jets. This is still a committee, but BGE gets the biggest part nearly every week.

Green-Ellis ran for 87 yards and had 36 yards on four catches in Pittsburgh last year.

The Steelers are a bit less dominating against the run with four rushing touchdowns allowed and four different runners topping 85 rush yards on them. Consider Green-Ellis as a moderate play here but with more downside than upside.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Chad Ochocinco has proven to be a complete nonfactor and never had more than two inconsequential catches in any game. Wes Welker has been on fire with four efforts over 120 yards and once breaking 200 yards in a game to set the franchise record. And unlike past years, Welker is also scoring - he currently leads the team with six touchdowns. Deion Branch is a lesser figure than Welker but still figures in almost every week and has two scores over the last three games and one 100+ yard effort to his credit so far.

Branch (7-71) and Welker (8-89) had good games but did not score in Pittsburgh last season.

Consider both Welker and Branch as decent to good plays against a secondary that has been good but faced mostly marginal passing teams. Of the four touchdowns allowed by the Steelers to receivers, three of them went to the #2 guy. The Pats are bringing in the best pass offense the Steelers have yet faced so previous games have less comparative value.

TIGHT ENDS: Aaron Hernandez missed two weeks but has otherwise been stellar with never less than 56 yards in any game and three scores over his four games played. He plays more as a wideout and usually rings in with the most targets of any receiver besides Welker. Rob Gronkowski has been a big less solid in yardage since opening the season on a torrid pace with 85+ yards and a total of five scores over the first three weeks. He's been far less productive since, with no scores and only 120 yards over those three weeks.

Gronkowski not only caught five passes for 72 yards on the Steelers last year, he had three touchdowns while Hernandez did not record a catch.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NE 3 13 2 1 9 24
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 3 18 2 8 1 19


Pittsburgh Steelers
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @BAL 7-35 10 @CIN -
2 SEA 24-0 11 Bye -
3 @IND 23-20 12 @KC -
4 @HOU 10-17 13 CIN -
5 TEN 38-17 14 CLE -
6 JAC 17-13 15 @SF -
7 @ARI 32-20 16 STL -
8 NE - 17 @CLE -
9 BAL -      
Steelers Report | Statistics | Roster
PITTSBURGH vs NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger - - 310,2
RB Rashard Mendenhall 60,1 10 -
TE Heath Miller - 30 -
WR Antonio Brown - 70 -
WR Emmanuel Sanders - 40 -
WR Mike Wallace - 130,2 -
PK Shaun Suisham 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Steelers are on a three game winning streak but these three games before the bye will be telling - NE, BAL and @CIN. Each game will be critical to the opponent as well and so far the only two losses went against teams likely to reach the playoffs. The Steelers have to win games like this one in order to expect to do anything in the post season.

QUARTERBACK: The Steelers rely on Ben Roethlisberger to move the ball since the rushing game has been lackluster almost every week. Big Ben has scored in all but one game and posted nine scores over just the last three matchups. He was limping after the Arizona game but is not expected to be limited this week. The Steelers will have to compete with the pass in this game.

Roethlisberger passed for 387 yards and three scores on the Pats last year.

The Patriots have allowed a score in every game this year if not two and that has been facing mostly substandard quarterbacks. Look for a nice effort here from Big Ben in a game that could end up as a shootout.

RUNNING BACKS: While Rashard Mendenhall has been mostly a disappointment this season, at least one trend remains true - he has scored in all home games. His best two yardage game also occurred while in Pittsburgh (19-66 vs. SEA and 12-146 vs JAC). Mendenhall has been a dog on the road and never had more than 50 total yards but at least at home he's been better.

Mendenhall only rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries against the Patriots last season.

No back has gained more than 83 yards on the Patriots but mostly because all matchups end up as as shoot out and the rushing game gets shelved. Mendenhall cannot be relied on for more than moderate yardage but a score is definitely possible.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Hines Ward sprained his ankle and is no lock to play this week. He's only had one decent game anyway and is not a safe start. Mike Wallace continues his blazing pace with a score in five of the last six games and never less than 76 yards in any matchup. He's as close to automatic as they come this year. Antonio Brown comes off his breakout game of 102 yards on seven receptions in Arizona but he has been far less effective in previous games. This unit is basically Wallace and then dividing the other catches up with the rest.

Wallace recorded eight receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns on the Patriots in 2010 while Emmanuel Sanders scored once on his 41 yards on five catches.

This is clearly the weakness of the Patriots and why their games are so much fun. Wallace should be a lock for 100 yards and a score if not two. With Ward potentially out, Brown becomes a bye week filler but a risky one to use.

TIGHT ENDS: Heath Miller has been a bigger factor with a score in two of the last three games but his yardage is never much and the Patriots have been outstanding against the position. Miller is a marginal play this week.

Miller turned in five catches for 60 yards on the Pats last year.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 10 22 3 17 23 28
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 32 20 32 7 8 12

WEEK 8
2011
ARI at BAL DET at DEN MIN at CAR SD at KC (mon)
CIN at SEA IND at TEN NE at PIT Bye Week
CLE at SF JAC at HOU NO at STL ATL, CHI, GB
  DAL at PHI MIA at NYG WAS at BUF NYJ, OAK, TB

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