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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 15
December 10 2003
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ATL at IND HOU at TB SF at CIN CLE at DEN NYG at NO
BUF at TEN JAX at NE SEA at STL CAR at ARZ Mon 9 PM
DAL at WAS MIN at CHI Sun 4 PM GB at SD PHI at MIA
DET at KC PIT at NYJ BAL at OAK *updated Times EST
   
Pittsburgh vs NY Jets Sun, Dec 14; 1 PM on CBS at Giants Stadium
  Pittsburgh Rush Catch Pass
QB Tommy Maddox 0 0 200,1
RB Amos Zereoue 20 10 0
RB Jerome Bettis 90,1 10 0
TE Jay Riemersma 0 20 0
WR Hines Ward 0 80,1 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 30 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 50 0
  New York Jets Rush Catch Pass
QB Chad Pennington 0 0 240,2
RB Curtis Martin 60 10 0
TE Anthony Becht 0 20,1 0
WR Reggie Swayne 0 30 0
WR Curtis Conway 0 50 0
WR Santana Moss 0 100,1 0

Game Prediction: PIT 17, NYJ 19

This game is a coin flip. The Jets are able to put together nice games at times - they did beat the Titans two weeks ago. Back at home, they are 3-3 this season but defeated JAX and TEN in the last two homestands. The Steelers are only 2-4 on the road and the game should shape up to see if Bettis can run better than Pennington can throw.

Have to favor the young quarterback more than the old running back at home.

Pittsburgh Notes

The Steelers rise to 5-8 with hopes for a .500 season not yet dashed.

Quarterbacks:: Tommy Maddox extended his streak of games with a touchdown to seven but has failed to have more than one in the past four weeks. Maddox ended with 19 of 38 for 266 yards against Oakland with one interception but since the Steelers led handily in the second half, he could have thrown for more.

Maddox now hits the road again where he last had only 73 yards passing in the win over Cleveland and he had 327 in the previous road game in San Francisco. The relative success of the rushing game has caused poor numbers from Maddox in games he did not need to throw to win but in the two worst pasting for Pittsburgh (TEN and SF), Maddox threw for over 300 yards.

Running Backs: Jerome Bettis may not be back next season, but he is trying to go out with a bang. Bettis had his first 100 yard game of the season last week against the Raiders, ending with 106 on 27 carries with one touchdown. He has had at least 20 carries in each of the last three games and the Steelers are willing to ride the Bus as long as he can still run. He still has yet to crack four yards a carry in any game this season.

Receivers: Last week was a special treat - Burress caught his second touchdown of the year. Granted, he only had 38 yards on three catches but even Hines Ward only managed 67 yards on 4 receptions. In a game that Pittsburgh controlled, Maddox was able to spread the ball around more than usual last week.

All these handoffs to Bettis lately has almost killed the one consistent fantasy player from the Steelers receiving group - Hines Ward. In the last four games, he had a monster one in week 13 against the Bengals but in the other three (OAK, CLE, SF) he never had more than four catches or 67 yards.

Ward only has two touchdowns on the road this season and none in the last two away games.

Match against the Defense: The Steelers will want to establish Bettis and get those last few miles on his odometer before the season is over. The Jets have consistently had one of the worst rushing defenses this season and without DE John Abraham yet again this week there is little reason to expect that to change.

The Jets have allowed 13 rushing touchdowns this season and seven different runners to top 100 yards on the ground. Bettis may need a lot of carries but the Steelers seem content to give him just that.

Leftwich is the only visitor to New York who left without a passing score though the Jets have allowed more than one only once this year. Since most teams rush well against New York, passing numbers become artificially deflated. Most opponents hover around 180 yards though Manning (401) and Collins (303) proved more was there for the taking.

Look for average passing numbers from Maddox unless Jets force the Steelers into throwing. There has been no real trend as to which receiver is most likely to catch a touchdown. Consider Ward due since Burress just had one but none of the receivers is really any more likely to score.

NY Jets Notes

The Jets fall to 5-8 with their loss to the Bills.

Quarterbacks:: Chad Pennington comes off the worst start of this season when he only completed 15 of 29 passes for 155 yards and one interception. He broke his perfect string of five scoring games in a row and was battered in the process by effective blitzing by Buffalo. Pennington was sacked five times last week.

Running Backs: Curtis Martin gained 84 yards on 25 carries against the Bills. He still only has one touchdown this season and though he has received over 20 carries a game in the past three weeks, he has yet to exceed the 84 yards of last week. He has not gone over 3.4 yards per carry either.

Lamont Jordan no longer takes any carries from Martin, but part of that is a function of the fact that the Jets are not getting close to the goal line very often.

Receivers: The lower passing totals of last week hit all receivers in the box score stats and Santana Moss led receivers with five catches for 61 yards. Moss is now two games away from his incredible seven straight weeks with a touchdown. Curtis Conway had three catches for 51 yards last week which has been about his average the past month.

Jonathan Carter did not have a catch last week and Kevin Swayne could take over as the No. 3 receiver and kickoff returner for the rest of the season due to Carter's knee injury.

Match against the Defense: The Steelers are very tough against the run and Martin is already a step slower than his prime so expect moderate rushing numbers from him.

One of the biggest advantages in this game should be Pennington versus the Pittsburgh secondary. Recent games have seen Rattay (254, 2 TDs), Blake (307, 2 TDs) and Bulger (375, 1 TD) do quite well when the rushing game was not working well. Two weeks ago, Jon Kitna (271, 3 TDs) destroyed the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Pennington has a good shot at two touchdowns passing which the Steelers have allowed six times this season. In the favor of Santana Moss, the most common scorer has been the favored target of the quarterback - Holt, Jackson, Owens, Chad Johnson and so on.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
PIT Scores
24
25
9
31
19
20
NYJ Allows
4
29
12
8
8
6
PIT AP
-20
4
3
-23
-11
-14
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
NYJ Scores
10
21
7
25
14
27
PIT Allows
22
3
28
25
20
17
NYJ AP
12
-18
21
0
6
-10
Offensive ranks = #1 gains most points, Defensive ranks = #1 allows least points
AP = Advantage Points, the net difference between a positional rank gained or allowed by the teams.
PIT
NYJ
2003 Game Averages
NYJ
PIT
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
224
207
Pass yards
223
220
1.0
0.8
Pass TDs
1.6
1.5
1.0
0.7
Interceptions
0.7
0.7
2
3
Rush yards
3
9
0.0
0.1
Rush TDs
0.0
0.1
---
---
RB's
---
---
81
138
Rush yards
97
85
0.7
1.1
Rush TDs
0.4
0.5
34
36
Receive yards
48
26
0.0
0.1
Receive TD's
0.1
0.1
---
---
WR's
---
---
173
132
Receive yards
151
156
0.9
0.7
Receive TD's
1.4
1.2
---
---
TE's
---
---
17
39
Receive yards
24
38
0.1
0.0
Receive TD's
0.2
0.3
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.5
1.2
Field Goals
1.5
1.5
1.9
2.3
Extra Points
2.3
2.3
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.6
0.5
Fumbles
0.6
0.5
0.7
0.6
Interceptions
0.7
1.1
0.1
0.2
Touchdowns
0.0
0.2
2.5
2.4
Sacks
2.6
2.6
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.1
Steelers (4-9)
Score Opp.
34-15 BAL
20-41 @KC
17-10 @CIN
13-30 TEN
13-33 CLE
14-17 @DEN
Week 7 BYE
21-33 STL
16-23 @SEA
28-15 ARZ
14-30 @SF
13-6 @CLE
20-24 CIN
27-7 OAK
Week 15 @NYJ
Week 16 SD
Week 17 @BAL
Jets (5-8)
Score Opp.
13-16 @WAS
10-21 MIA
16-23 @NE
6-17 DAL
Week 5 BYE
30-3 BUF
19-14 @HOU
17-24 @PHI
28-31 NYG
27-24 @OAK
31-38 @IND
13-10 JAX
24-17 TEN
6-17 @BUF
Week 15 PIT
Week 16 NE
Week 17 @MIA

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points