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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 4
September 24, 2003
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM Bye Week:
ARZ at STL KC at BAL ATL at CAR *IND at NO Miami
TEN at PIT *NE at WAS DAL at NYJ Mon 9 PM NY Giants
CIN at CLE *PHI at BUF *DET at DEN *GB at CHI Seattle
JAX at HOU *SF at MIN *SD at OAK *updated Tampa Bay
   
Tennessee vs Pittsburgh Sun, Sep 28; 1 PM on CBS at Heinz Field
  Tennessee Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve McNair 30 0 220,1
RB Eddie George 80,1 10 0
TE Erron Kinney 0 40 0
TE Shad Meier 0 30,1 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 60 0
WR Justin McCareins 0 30 0
WR Drew Bennett 0 40 0
  Pittsburgh Rush Catch Pass
QB Tommy Maddox 0 0 260,2
RB Amos Zereoue 50,1 30 0
RB Jerome Bettis 30 0 0
TE Jay Riemersma 0 20,1 0
WR Hines Ward 0 100,1 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 20 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 70 0

Game Prediction: TEN 20, PIT 24

The Titans responded to their blowout loss to the Colts in week two by dominating the visiting Saints and limiting them to only 23 rushing yards while holding Joe Horn to only one catch for five yards. That will beat the Saints every time.

Tennessee was a bit fortunate to meet the Saints last week when the New Orleans defense has been already decimated with injuries. It allowed Eddie George to notch a 100 yard, 29 carry effort with one touchdown. George is still gaining around three yards a carry, but when he gets it almost 30 times in one game, good numbers will result. George's production mainly is a direct function of how many times he gets the ball.

Steve McNair threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns in the game and he clearly enjoyed the missing members of the Saints secondary. McNair's finger and knee are still sore but he made it through the game with no setbacks and is expected to practice and play this week.

After two weeks of no catches, Drew Bennett exploded for eight catches for 105 yards and one touchdown but don't expect that is the start of great things. The Titans threw to him 12 times in the game after only calling his number three times in the past two games thanks to the Saints losing CB Dale Carter the week before and using 5'9" Fred Thomas instead. Bennett even threw a 14 yard pass on a trick play.

Chris Brown dressed for the game but was never used since George's three yard gains were enough to consume the clock and get first downs. The plan is to get some carries to Brown this week.

Frank Wycheck is still out with his concussion and in his place Erron Kinney (2-28) and Shad Meier (4-53) have been nice complements and neither have proven to be that much better than the other.

The Steelers escaped Cincinnati with a 17-10 win, made less impressive with the knowledge that Corey Dillon only had seven carries before he left injured.

Statistically, the Steelers are actually the #1 defense and the #2 offense in the AFC. The switch to the passing scheme has them #1 in their conference for passing yardage.

Tommy Maddox threw for 240 yards against the Bengals with the one obligatory score to Hines Ward (4-48) who otherwise had a down afternoon. Plaxico Burress (5-56) also fell behind his usual numbers but the Steelers were determined to reestablish the run that they abandoned the previous week against the Chiefs.

It worked. Amos Zereoue ran 16 times for 69 yards mainly through the third quarter when Jerome Bettis came in and banged the line sixteen times for 59 yards including a touchdown plunge. After Zereoue tired out the defense chasing him, Bettis came in and knocked them back on their heels with short but effective runs.

The best improvement made by the Steelers so far this season has clearly been the pass defense. The last time the Bengals met the Steelers, they threw for 298 yards. Last Sunday, they only managed 157 yards and most of that was late in the game. Switching to a Cover-2 has helped the cornerbacks against the wideouts that killed them last season. With better safety help, Chad Scott and Dewayne Washington have less concerns about the deep ball and are playing closer to the line.

Steeler and Titan games are always great to watch since both teams normally take off the gloves and come out swinging. Previous divisional rivals, the genuine dislike for each other has not gone away. Last year McNair carved up the Steeler secondary for 257 yards and two scores during the 31-23 Titan home win. Tennessee has won eight of the last ten meetings, owning the Steelers every year except for the Pittsburgh sweep in 2001.

This game could go either way and invariably, the final score is effected by odd defensive or special teams plays when these two teams meet. The Steelers have strengthened their pass defense from last season and are using the same Cover-2 that befuddled Steve McNair against the Colts though he was banged up in the game. Then again, he almost always is anyway.

Trying to draw a line for the season for these two team, you have Tennessee that beat the Raiders to open the season but that no longer looks like quite the feat it once did. They were blown out at Indianapolis and responded by waxing the Saints who had no defense to counteract Drew Bennett. The Steelers are also 2-1, their lone loss to the formidable Chiefs in Kansas City and then outlasting the Bengals on the road though Dillon missed much of the game.

It all adds up to another Steeler-Titan matchup that probably throws the records out the window. Look for the Titans to once again have problems passing to their wideouts, settling for more use of Kinney and Meier over the middle along with heavy use of Derrick Mason anywhere they can get him open. The Steelers will not have the same success running the ball and by the second half will be trying to pretend that anyone other than Ward and Burress are worth covering.

In the end, homefield with a better passing defense edges out.

TEN
PIT
2003 Averages
PIT
TEN
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
240
145
Pass yards
279
207
1.7
1.0
Pass TDs
1.7
1.3
0.7
1.0
Interceptions
1.3
0.0
8
9
Rush yards
0
7
0.0
0.0
Rush TDs
0.0
0.0
----
----
RB's
----
----
70
84
Rush yards
98
54
0.3
1.3
Rush TDs
0.7
0.3
11
20
Receive yards
28
50
0.0
0.0
Receive TD's
0.0
0.3
----
----
WR's
----
----
155
82
Receive yards
231
105
1.7
0.7
Receive TD's
1.3
1.0
----
----
TE's
----
----
74
43
Receive yards
20
52
0.0
0.3
Receive TD's
0.3
0.0
----
----
PK's
----
----
1.7
1.0
Field Goals
1.7
2.3
2.0
2.7
Extra Points
2.7
2.0
----
----
DEF/ST
----
----
1.0
0.7
Fumbles
0.3
1.0
0.0
1.3
Interceptions
1.3
0.7
1.3
0.7
Touchdowns
0.3
1.0
1.3
2.7
Sacks
2.3
2.0
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.3
Tennessee (2-1)
Score Opp.
25-20 OAK
7-33 @IND
27-12 NO
Week 4 @PIT
Week 5 @NE
Week 6 HOU
Week 7 @CAR
Week 8 @JAX
Week 9 BYE
Week 10 MIA
Week 11 JAX
Week 12 @ATL
Week 13 @NYJ
Week 14 IND
Week 15 BUF
Week 16 @HOU
Week 17 TB
Steelers (2-1)
Score Opp.
34-15 BAL
20-41 @KC
17-10 @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 )