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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 1
September 3, 2003
Season Ticket
Thu 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
NYJ at WAS DEN at CIN MIN at GB ATL at DAL OAK at TEN
Sun 1 PM HOU at MIA NE at BUF CHI at SF Mon 9 PM
ARZ at DET IND at CLE SD at KC NO at SEA TB at PHI
BAL at PIT JAX at CAR STL at NYG Times EST no byes
   
Baltimore vs Pittsburgh Sun, Sep 7; 1 PM on CBS at Heinz Field
  Baltimore Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Boller 20 0 240,2
RB Jamal Lewis 80 20 0
TE Todd Heap 0 50,1 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 80,1 0
WR Frank Sanders 0 D 0
WR Marcus Robinson 0 20 0
  Pittsburgh Rush Catch Pass
QB Tommy Maddox 0 0 230,2
RB Amos Zereoue 90,1 30,1 0
RB Jerome Bettis 30 0 0
TE Jay Riemersma 0 20 0
WR Hines Ward 0 60,1 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 30 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 70 0

Game Prediction: BAL 17, PIT 27

Update: Frank Sanders is listed as doubtful to play due to an injury to his toes. While the Ravens plan on evaluating him later in the week, the safest bet is to not play him.

The Ravens start the season out with the a great defense and have added Kyle Boller as the quarterback of the future which is, apparently, starting now. Boller comes off a good Senior year at CAL and one that was even more impressive since he had no standout receivers to rely on. He upgrades his wideouts some with Travis Taylor who has shown that players can get incrementally better each season. No need for a breakout with Taylor, he just improves about 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns a season.

The Ravens also added Frank Sanders who will be the #2 receiver this season and Marcus Robinson who will be expected to run the deeper routes. Sanders will find himself in a similar role like Arizona where he will provide the possession catches, few touchdowns and allow the #1 receiver to shine while the #3 receiver catches touchdowns. This is all aided by one of the best pass catching tight ends in the game of Todd Heap who will provide the final piece of the best set of receivers in Baltimore since HC Brian Billick took over.

Jamal Lewis remains the focus of the offense and he will be following FB Alan Ricard into the line this season. Since Lewis has a injury history, the Ravens plan on using Chester Taylor a bit more this year in a third down role to keep Lewis fresh and lessen his load a bit. The Ravens also drafted Musa Smith to provide depth but he should see little action this year barring injury to Lewis.

The Steelers have made the change in offensive schemes official by jettisoning the runner Kordell Stewart and retaining the better passer of Tommy Maddox. They promoted the faster Amos Zereoue over power back Jerome Bettis and finally added Jay Riemersma as a pass catching tight end - something that has not really existed in Pittsburgh. All the moves added to the formidable trio of Plaxico Burress, Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El makes for the most explosive offense, potentially, that Pittsburgh has had since the days of Disco music.

The biggest problem facing the Steelers is to create and maintain a good offensive line that can hold off the defenders from the less than mobile Maddox. With the line problems of the Steelers, look for the Ravens to go Maddox hunting early and often until they get burned badly enough to drop back. It harkens back to one of the most basic defensive tenets - if you cannot cover all the receivers, then you better stop the pass before it is made.

This will be a great game to watch since it features two rivals that both are evolving into different offenses and yet both have good defenses to stop their opponent. While Boller will help turn the Ravens offense back into something that matters, it is not going to happen in his first game. Look for the Steelers to come hot and heavy after the rookie quarterback while Maddox takes the shorter game that the Ravens will force the Steelers into playing.

The interesting quirk about this game is that the last regular season for both teams in 2002 was this exact game. And these two typically defensive teams had a 34-31 shoot-out with Jeff Blake throwing for 336 yards. This time out it will not be quite the fireworks, but a good first game between two teams that will battle in the standings this year.

 

Comparison Stats
Starting Week Two

 

Ravens (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @PIT
Week 2 CLE
Week 3 @SD
Week 4 KC
Week 5 BYE
Week 6 @ARZ
Week 7 @CIN
Week 8 DEN
Week 9 JAX
Week 10 @STL
Week 11 @MIA
Week 12 SEA
Week 13 SF
Week 14 CIN
Week 15 @OAK
Week 16 @CLE
Week 17 PIT
Steelers (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 BAL
Week 2 @KC
Week 3 @CIN
Week 4 TEN
Week 5 CLE
Week 6 @DEN
Week 7 BYE
Week 8 STL
Week 9 @SEA
Week 10 ARZ
Week 11 @SF
Week 12 @CLE
Week 13 CIN
Week 14 OAK
Week 15 @NYJ
Week 16 SD
Week 17 @BAL
(Statistics are game averages from current season )