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Predictions & Projections
David M. Dorey
The Huddle
September 9, 2004
Season Ticket
Thu 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
Sun 1 PM SD at HOU OAK at PIT NYG at PHI Mon 9 PM
JAX at BUF TEN at MIA TB at WAS Saturday no byes
Oakland Rush Catch Pass
QB Rich Gannon 0 0 230,1
RB Ty. Wheatley 90,1 10 0
TE Teyo Johnson 0 20 0
WR Tim Gabriel 0 40 0
WR Jerry Porter 0 90,1 0
WR Jerry Rice 0 50 0
PK Seb. Janikowski 1 FG 2 XP -
  Pittsburgh Rush Catch Pass
QB Tommy Maddox 0 0 250,2
RB Duce Staley 70 40 0
RB Jerome Bettis 20 0 0
TE Jay Riemersma 0 5 0
WR Hines Ward 0 60 0
WR A. Randle El 0 60,1 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 80,1 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 1 XP -

OAK (0-0) vs PIT (0-0)

Game Prediction: OAK 17, PIT 20

There's something amiss. Oakland brings smashmouth offense and big defense to the Steelers who feature a diverse offense and a solid passing game. Wasn't this the opposite recently?

Pre-Game Notes - OAK

For all the snickering the Raiders caused last season along with questionable moves in fantasy terms (or rather a lack of them), further review shows this will be a vastly different Raider team in 2004. Across the board. Even the Black Hole may have to pay attention to the actual game now.

Quarterback: Rich Gannon stays as the unquestioned starter even though Kerry Collins was acquired in the offseason and you paid money in your auction league for him. This will not be a 60 passes a game Raiders. This will not be a dink and dunk offense. This will be a whole lot of handing off interspersed with the occasional long bomb.

Running Backs: While Tyrone Wheatley may not have fit well into the west coast offense of recent past - not big enough to be a pure short yardage guy, not fast enough to be a pass catcher - it ends up he is exactly the size and speed that HC Norv Turner wants to cram the ball down opponents' throats. At the age of 32, maybe he won't last the season but if he does it will likely be after 300 carries. Justin Fargas stands patiently behind while silently asking Father Time to kick Tyrone.

Wide Receivers: The Raiders chose to dump Tim Brown back on Jon Gruden but still kept Jerry Rice because, in the end, how can you tell Jerry Rice you don't want him? I mean as long as you are not the 49ers or Cowboys (Emmitt).

The long ball aspect that Oakland intends to use should provide at least some exciting games and Jerry Porter will be a direct recipient of many of those passes, along with most likely Doug Gabriel or Alvis Whitted. Gabriel was impressive on deep routes in the preseason but Whitted is more experienced. Worth watching.

Tight Ends: Norv Turner loves tight ends and that should spell good things for the starter. Will it be Doug Jolley or Teyo Johnson? Or both? Eventually it should be Johnson but since he is still raw and started out on the wrong foot with Turner, Jolley will likely get the earlier looks. It's only a matter of time though.

Match Against the Defense: ILB Kendrell Bell may miss this game due to a shoulder injury and that will help Wheatley's numbers. The Steeler defense has not changed dramatically and could be a little weaker against the run and pass this season. They are also starting two new safeties which could be a problem when Oakland airs the ball out on a deep pattern.

Porter should have a good shot at a nice game here and with those safeties and the new enforcement of the bump rules, at least one long pass or more should connect. This is a new offense not yet seen in its' entirety so beyond Wheatley running and a few long passes, the rest will have to be seen on the field.

Pre-Game Notes - PIT

The Steelers are reverting back to their old style of run-heavy offense after their brief foray last year into passing had bad results, particularly the idea that they needed to throw to the backs more. The Steelers get to start the season at home and while their defense is little improved, the offense should be at least as good as last year.

Quarterback: Tommy Maddox starts the year but eventually, the chance is Ben Roethlisberger steps in for some time eventually, even if only in cameo. For the immediate future, Maddox is unchallenged.

Running Backs: After dumping Amos Zereoue (who now plays his first game in Pittsburgh), the Steelers picked up Duce Staley to bring back a better power rushing game without sacrificing the ability to throw to the back on occasion. The Steelers have long enjoyed mixing backs in their attack but Staley will be the definite primary and Jerome Bettis role will evolve as needed. Initially he'll likely be little more than a relief back and possibly some short yardage carries.

Wide Receivers: Initially this summer this looked like a problem area with Hines Ward wanting more money and threatening a holdout and Plaxico Burress just plain missing and assumed unhappy. By training camp, both were present and ready to play. Burress enters his final season before free agency and has everything to play for in 2003. Likewise, Antwaan Randle El also needs to show improvement so that 2005 can produce a #2 spot for him if and when Burress leaves.

Tight Ends: His name is still Jay Riemersma and there still is no reason to bother with a blocking tight end.

Match Against the Defense: This will be a far different Raider defense than last season. Oakland prevented the run about as much as a five lane freeway slows down cars. But in the offseason they added NT Ted Washington from NE which is in effect like plopping down a big toll both on that freeway. They added Warren Sapp as well which might send some traffic in reverse and by plan Sapp will be the better pass rusher. Oakland has gone to a 3-4 defense that will be far more aggressive than last year and sealing up that middle should pay major dividends to what the defense will allow. They even added DE Bobby Hamilton. This will not be the same " go ahead and run" defense.

Fortunately, Staley is not exclusively an up the middle sort of runner though Bettis is unlikely to do anything even if called on. While it is a stretch to forecast an unseen defense, Chances are best Staley accumulates higher receiving yardage in this game than most. He'll still get rushing yardage, he'll just have to run a bit more laterally to gain the room.

CB Charles Woodson matches up with Hines Ward and that is likely going to depress what Ward can do unless they move him around. This game should slow down with run stopping and force the Steelers into the air where Burress and even Antwaan Randle El have the better matchups. The biggest factor in favor of the Steelers is that Oakland never won on the road last year. The Raiders should be improved but not quite fast enough to get the win here.







Statistical Comparisons begin after Week 1

Raiders (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @PIT
Week 2 BUF
Week 3 TB
Week 4 @HOU
Week 5 @IND
Week 6 DEN
Week 7 NO
Week 8 @SD
Week 9 @CAR
Week 10 bye
Week 11 SD
Week 12 @DEN
Week 13 KC
Week 14 @ATL
Week 15 TEN
Week 16 @KC
Week 17 JAX
Steelers (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 OAK
Week 2 @BAL
Week 3 @MIA
Week 4 CIN
Week 5 CLE
Week 6 @DAL
Week 7 bye
Week 8 NE
Week 9 PHI
Week 10 @CLE
Week 11 @CIN
Week 12 WAS
Week 13 @JAX
Week 14 NYJ
Week 15 @NYG
Week 16 BAL
Week 17 @BUF

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points