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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 17
December 24, 2003
Season Ticket
Sat 1:30 PM Sat 8:30 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM
BUF at NE PHI at WAS CHI at KC JAX at ATL CAR at NYG
Sat 5 PM Sun 8:30 PM CLE at CIN NYJ at MIA MIN at ARZ
SEA at SF PIT at BAL DAL at NO STL at DET DEN at GB
  IND at HOU TB at TEN OAK at SD
   
Pittsburgh vs Baltimore Sun, Dec 28; 8:30 PM on ESPN at Ravens Stadium
  Pittsburgh at BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Tommy Maddox 0 0 210,2
RB Amos Zereoue 20 10 0
RB Jerome Bettis 60 10 0
TE Jay Riemersma 0 20 0
WR Hines Ward 0 80,1 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 20 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 60,1 0
  Baltimore vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Anthony Wright 10 0 150,2
RB Jamal Lewis 160,2 0 0
TE Todd Heap 0 40,1 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 60,1 0
WR Frank Sanders 0 20 0
WR Marcus Robinson 0 30 0

Game Prediction: PIT 14, BAL 31

The J2K game will be the final regular season offering on ESPN and with 154 yards needed to break an all-time record, it will be worth watching. The Ravens must win this game if the Bengals are successful earlier in the day while the Steelers are playing out an unavoidable losing season.

Pittsburgh Notes

The Steelers rocket up to 6-9 on the season with their win over the Chargers.

Tommy Maddox had an unusually easy time against the Charger secondary last week and threw 11 of 18 for 160 yards and three touchdowns. He spent most of the game feeding Bettis the ball. Maddox also had three scores and 260 yards in week one against the Ravens.

Jerome Bettis comes off his second 100 yard effort of the season, logging 115 yards on 32 carries and scoring once. Bettis has said that he wants to play one more season for the Steelers but that will not be handled until the offseason. While Bettis is only 14 yards from surpassing Jim Brown as sixth on the all-time rushing list, he has only one game in which he gained at least four yards a carry this season. He comes in right at 3.4 yards per tote on the season and that can be had much cheaper than even veteran minimum.

Bettis only gained 14 yards on four carries in week one against Baltimore when he was still a backup to Zereoue. Bettis never played against the Ravens last season since he was injured in both games (and different injuries as well).

Plaxico Burress had two touchdowns last week which doubled his season total but still has only one 100 yard game to his credit in 2003. Hines Ward also scored on the Chargers and totals 10 touchdowns on the year with only two 100 yard games himself. In week one, Ward had two scores and 91 yards against the Ravens while Burress had his best game of the season with 116 yards but no touchdowns.

Match against the Defense: Maddox has enjoyed good games against the Ravens and has seven touchdowns in the last three matchups. His 260 yards to start the season was his high against Baltimore and last season he stayed around 210 yards. This game could produce some nice yardage and scores from Pittsburgh since the Ravens will likely be tackling Bettis before he can reach his 3.5 yard average carry.

Look for a low rushing effort here but solid plays on Hines Ward and Burress who had two scores in Baltimore last season as well. The mitigating factor is that the Ravens could chew up a lot of lock time running the ball and prevent the Steelers from getting enough plays to produce much.

Baltimore Notes

Baltimore rises to 9-6 and are in a must win game to take the AFC North division away from the Bengals. Since this is the final game of the day, the Ravens will already know if the Bengals won or not. If the Bengals beat the Browns, which is likely, then the Ravens need this win.

Anthony Wright only threw for 90 yards and one score last week and completed only 10 of 19 passes. He has struggled to make the longer throws lately and has not exceeded 200 yards in the last four games. He has thrown a touchdown pass in each of the last five games. Back in week one, Kyle Boller only had 152 yards passing against the Steelers with one touchdown.

The Ravens need two things in this game and they are not mutually exclusive. Jamal Lewis needs 48 yards to surpass the 2,000 yard mark and that is pretty much a lock. But he needs 154 yards to exceed Eric Dickerson's all-time record of 2,105 yards rushed in a season. Lewis only had 69 yards in week one against the Steelers and had 34 and 86 yards in the two meetings last season. But the feat can be done - Curtis Martin gained 174 yards against the Steelers only two weeks ago and as HC Brian Billick has already said "If he's got to run 50 times on Sunday to win ... run 50 times."

This game is a great season ender since there is no Monday night game this week and the nation can watch as Lewis tries to capture the record and the Steelers do everything they can to prevent it.

Match against the Defense: As noted, it can be done against the Steelers but Lewis never has been the one to gain that sort of yardage. 154 yards is more like a two game total against Pittsburgh historically but none of us have ever seen a back get the ball 50 times either.

The emphasis on the run will likely allow a long pass completion or two as the Steelers freak out to stop Lewis. When you know the other team is aiming at nothing less than 154 yard rushing, play action fakes go a long way.

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
23
20
9
31
20
21
BAL Allows
9
8
19
3
19
18
PIT AP
-14
-12
10
-28
-1
-3
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
BAL Scores
22
4
22
5
3
3
PIT Allows
8
18
13
9
13
3
BAL AP
-14
14
-9
4
10
0
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
BAL
2003 Game Averages
BAL
PIT
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
216
197
Pass yards
174
202
1.2
1.2
Pass TDs
1.5
1.0
0.5
1.3
Interceptions
1.2
1.2
1
7
Rush yards
14
7
0.0
0.0
Rush TDs
0.0
0.0
---
---
RB's
---
---
99
98
Rush yards
155
123
0.8
0.2
Rush TDs
1.3
0.7
31
44
Receive yards
26
41
0.0
0.0
Receive TD's
0.0
0.2
---
---
WR's
---
---
179
126
Receive yards
104
134
1.0
1.2
Receive TD's
1.0
0.7
---
---
TE's
---
---
7
27
Receive yards
45
27
0.2
0.0
Receive TD's
0.5
0.2
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.3
1.8
Field Goals
1.8
1.5
2.2
1.3
Extra Points
3.3
1.7
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
1.0
1.2
Fumbles
1.5
0.5
1.0
1.2
Interceptions
1.3
0.5
0.2
0.0
Touchdowns
0.5
0.0
1.7
3.0
Sacks
2.8
2.0
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.0
Ravens (9-6)
Score Opp.
15-34 @PIT
33-13 CLE
24-10 @SD
10-17 KC
Week 5 BYE
26-18 @ARZ
26-34 @CIN
26-6 DEN
24-17 JAX
22-33 @STL
6-9 @MIA
44-41 SEA
44-6 SF
31-13 CIN
12-20 @OAK
35-0 @CLE
Week 17 PIT
Steelers (5-10)
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
0-6 @NYJ
40-24 SD
Week 17 @BAL

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points