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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David M. Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 8
October 27, 2004
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM Mon 9 PM
ARZ at BUF NYG at MIN* ATL at DEN SF at CHI* MIA at NYJ
DET at DAL* NE at PIT CAR at SEA Bye Week: Bye Week:
IND at KC CIN at TEN* BAL at PHI CLE NO
JAX at HOU* GB at WAS OAK at SD* TB STL
  New England Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 240,1
RB Kevin Faulk 10 30 0
RB Corey Dillon 80,1 10 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 30 0
WR David Patten 0 60,1 0
WR Bethel Johnson 0 20 0
WR David Givens 0 80 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 2 FG 2 XP -
  Pittsburgh Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 190,1
RB Duce Staley 80 20 0
RB Jerome Bettis 10,1 0 0
TE Jay Riemersma 0 10 0
WR Hines Ward 0 50 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 40 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 60,1 0
PK Jeff Reed 3 FG 2 XP -

NE (6-0) vs PIT (5-1)

Game Prediction: NE 20, PIT 23

The Patriots now have the only undefeated record in the AFC and continue to win in spite of injuries and the fact that every team is motivated to do what no one else has done. Beat the Patriots.

The Steelers have had two weeks to prepare for this game and come off their bye having won their last four games. There's no stars in the eyes of the Steelers this week because the Patriots are coming to town.

No one has gone broke betting on the Patriots in the past two seasons but their incredible string is bound to be broken eventually. This is a good chance it happens though no lock to be sure.

Pre-Game Notes - NE

The Patriots outlasted the Jets last week to extend their string and after an exhausting stretch with every must win game in the bank, this will be the most likely spot to fall. In fact, if it doesn't happen here, it might not happen this season since their schedule is likely not tested until week 13 in Jacksonville.

Quarterback: Tom Brady has certainly calmed down the last three weeks, throwing only one touchdown twice and never exceeding 231 yards passing in a game. Then again, they were all wins. The Patriots had an easy schedule for several weeks but these past two games and this week are much bigger challenges and Deion Branch and Troy Brown injuries have reduced the wider scope of targets that Brady typically uses.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon is one reason why the passing numbers are down. His rushing attempts and yards are up. Dillon has three straight games of 94 or more rushing yards and he's already had three 100 yard games this year. His load is being lightened (slightly) since Kevin Faulk returned but his role has been more as a third down back catching passes. He had six catches for 44 yards last week.

Wide Receivers: David Patten has emerged as the best option for Brady and has four scores on the season including one each in the last two games. The absence of Branch and Brown show up in the distribution between receivers. Whereas Brady would hit eight to ten receivers in a game under normal conditions, he's now just using five different players and preferring the wideouts to the tight ends as was done earlier this season.

David Givens is still a solid play and had 107 yards on six catches last week but he's not as consistent as Patten. Branch and Brown are expected to miss this week as well though updates will be made if warranted.

Tight Ends: Daniel Graham was a touchdown machine in the first four weeks, but he's getting more attention lately by better defenses and hasn't scored in the last two weeks. He only had two catches for 21 yards against the Jets.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers defense is not as good as their offense and can be beaten - the question is if opponents hold the Steelers to less points. Corey Dillon is on a roll and faces a tougher gig this week against a defense that has been tough against opposing runners, allowing only one 100 yard effort and squashing all running attacks outside of the one Rudi Johnson effort. Expect that the Patriots will be using Dillon in good measure this week with moderate success but Dillon will need a big effort to net good fantasy points. Kevin Faulk is another good start against a defense that will likely force Brady to dump off more than a few passes.

Brady goes against a defense that has not allowed more than one passing score to any team in the last five games but those were some of the weakest passing attacks in the league - BAL, MIA, CIN, CLE and DAL. Both Givens and Patten are safe plays here and there should be at least one passing score if not two. The PIT linebackers and safeties have held all opposing tight ends at bay, so Graham is more likely to have a lesser output this week.

Pre-Game Notes - PIT

The Steelers come off their bye week with an impressive 5-1 record with only a road loss to the Ravens. The next two games are brutal - New England and Philadelphia.

Quarterback: The way that Ben Roethlisberger is playing, he just might hit some nifty performance bonuses in his contract which could boost his first season up from $230,000 salary up to $5 million in addition to the $9 million signing bonus he already had. This will be a nice Christmas in the Roethlisberger family.

Big Ben has already won all four games that he started this season and thrown at least one touchdown in each game. He has seven touchdowns so far against only two interceptions. Rumors are that Tommy Maddox still has a locker but no one is sure why.

Running Backs: While Duce Staley only has one touchdown so far this year, he's still been a solid producer for the Steelers and even fantasy owners considering where he was likely drafted. Staley has turned in over 100 total yards in each of the past four games and exceeded 100 rushing yards in three of them. He typically hovers around 20 to 22 carries a game and has been getting better.

Staley hurt his ankle and did not practice this week but pending practice reports I am assuming he will play in good health this week.

Jerome Bettis already has seven touchdowns this season which trends out to over 18 scores on the year if he holds up. Since he rarely does more than come in and bust in from the one yard line, he's had no wear this year to open him to injury. He has become the #1 touchdown hawk in the NFL.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward still is the preferred receiver for Roethlisberger. After four full starts by Roethlisberger, Ward has 30 catches for 281 yards and one touchdown. This compares to Plaxico Burress who caught only 15 passes in those games though Burress did score twice. What Roethlisberger has opened up for the Steelers is a better long ball that has favored Burress who has 313 yards in the last four games. While Ward is only getting around nine yards per catch, Burress has shot up to almost 21 yards per catch over the last month.

Antwaan Randle El remains a token pass or two each game and has not gained more than 29 yards in any game started by Roethlisberger.

Tight Ends: As proof they exist, Jerame Tuman did have a touchdown against the Cowboys but there's only been seven completions over four games to the position and week five had no throws to them. They've topped out at 24 yards this season in games they have managed to catch anything.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriot defense came up big last week when they held Curtis Martin to only 70 yards on 20 carries but the interesting reality is that they are on the road now and have only faced two teams as a visitor this season- ARZ and BUF. This will be a new challenge for them and Staley with Bettis should test them better than any other runner since James back in week one.

The Patriot defense has also been sound and only allowed four passing scores this year and none in the last two games against the Seahawks and Jets. Roethlisberger has his own winning string that will have to be supported by error free play this week. Ty Law will go on Hines Ward and should hold him in check for the most part as he did with Santana Moss last week. Burress is the better chance to score here but that will rely on one or two long passes which are his standard.

The Steelers can win this game but it will require an error-free effort. They've had two weeks to prepare.

NE PIT 2004 Averages PIT NE
Gains Allows QB's Gains Allows
231
183
Pass yards
191
239
1.8
0.8
Pass TDs
1.2
0.7
0.8
1.2
Interceptions
0.7
1.2
1
15
Rush yards
7
10
0.0
0.0
Rush TDs
0.2
0.2
---
---
RB's
---
---
125
85
Rush yards
124
95
0.7
0.6
Rush TDs
1.3
0.5
27
30
Receive yards
9
24
0.0
0.2
Receive TD's
0.2
0.0
---
---
WR's
---
---
164
117
Receive yards
169
169
1.0
0.6
Receive TD's
0.8
0.7
---
---
TE's
---
---
38
36
Receive yards
14
46
0.8
0.0
Receive TD's
0.2
0.0
---
---
PK's
---
---
2.0
2.0
Field Goals
1.0
1.5
2.7
1.6
Extra Points
2.7
1.2
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.8
0.8
Fumbles
1.2
0.8
1.2
0.8
Interceptions
1.0
0.8
0.2
0.4
Touchdowns
0.2
0.2
3.2
1.6
Sacks
2.8
1.5
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.0
Patriots (6-0)
Score Opp.
27-24 IND
23-12 @ARI
Week 3 bye
31-17 @BUF
24-10 MIA
30-20 SEA
13-7 NYJ
Week 8 @PIT
Week 9 @STL
Week 10 BUF
Week 11 @KC
Week 12 BAL
Week 13 @CLE
Week 14 CIN
Week 15 @MIA
Week 16 @NYJ
Week 17 SF
Steelers (5-1)
Score Opp.
24-21 OAK
13-30 @BAL
13-3 @MIA
28-17 CIN
34-23 CLE
24-20 @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