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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David M. Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 16
December 22, 2004
Season Ticket
Friday Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
GB at MIN CHI at DET ATL at NO * NE at NYJ * CLE at MIA
Saturday NYG at CIN * BAL at PIT BUF at SF * Mon 9 PM
DEN at TEN 8:30 HOU at JAX * CAR at TB WAS at DAL PHI at STL
OAK at KC 5 * SD at IND * Good Luck!!! ARZ at SEA *updated
  Baltimore Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Boller 0 0 170,1
RB Jamal Lewis 80 10 0
TE Todd Heap 0 50,1 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 40 0
WR Clarence Moore 0 30 0
WR Kevin Johnson 0 30 0
PK Matt Stover 1 FG 2 XP -
  Pittsburgh Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 190,1
RB Jerome Bettis 90,1 10 0
WR Hines Ward 0 70,1 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 50 0
WR Lee Mays 0 20 0
PK Jeff Reed 1 FG 2 XP -

BAL (8-6) vs PIT (13-1)

Game Prediction: BAL 10, PIT 17

This is a rematch of the week two game that the Ravens won 30-13 and that has been the only loss by the Steelers this season.

Pre-Game Notes - BAL

The Ravens come off a tough loss in Indianapolis but the defense slowed down Manning better than any other team has managed this year. At 8-6, the Ravens have no room for error any more because one loss will likely spell no playoffs this season. Week 17 will be at home against Miami, so this one game means everything for Baltimore.

Quarterback: Kyle Boller enjoyed the Giants defense last week. He threw for four touchdowns and 219 yards with no interceptions. But he never scored in the two previous games and against the Steelers back in week two, he only managed to complete 10 of 18 passes for 98 yards.

Running Backs: Jamal Lewis finally returned to a full load last week and gained 130 yards on 20 carries against the Colts. Lewis only had 62 yards on 24 carries in the first meeting against the Steelers though he scored twice. He only had 69 yards in Pittsburgh last season with one score and the Steelers currently sport one of the best rush defenses in the NFL.

Wide Receivers: With Lewis and Heap healthy again, Boller went against one of the softest secondaries last week and still mainly used just Heap and Lewis. Travis Taylor had a game high nine passes but only caught two for 39 yards to lead all wideouts. There's no reason to believe that will change this week against a motivated Steelers playing in Pittsburgh.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap has three touchdowns in the last two weeks and has regained his role as the primary receiver. He aggravated his ankle sprain in the game last week but is expected to practice and play.

Match Against the Defense: With the Patriot loss to the Dolphins, suddenly the Steelers are in the driver's seat for the #1 AFC seed. There's plenty of reason to want to beat the only team that has won against Pittsburgh this season and the Ravens are only 3-4 on the road this season.

Expect that the Ravens will play a standard gameplan of Lewis and Heap with only enough passing to the wideouts to keep the defense honest. The Steelers have not allowed any runner to gain more than 65 yards against them in the last two months though Lewis will get the workload to challenge that by sheer volume of carries.

Heap as always is a safe enough play though his ankle sprain might end up limiting him. There are no other players for Baltimore that have fantasy relevance.

Pre-Game Notes - PIT

This is a huge game. Not only do the Steelers have the advantage for the homefield throughout the playoffs against the Patriots with just one more win, but this is also the only team that has beaten them this year. The Steelers have stumbled to wins in most of their last six games but have always been good enough. Even the Giants almost caught them in a trap game last week but this Sunday there will be no overlooking their opponent and every reason for wanting to do well against them.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger comes off his career best game when he faced the Giants and threw 18 of 28 for 316 yards and one touchdown. It was his first 300+ yard game in the NFL. For what it is worth, Roethlisberger has been on an odd trend of doing well every other week. For the last six games, he always throws touchdowns in odd-numbered weeks and three of those four had two scores. In even-numbered weeks, he has been blanked in his last three efforts and never thrown more than 145 yards. Roethlisberger had his first NFL playing time back in week two when he played for about one half in the Ravens game and threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

Running Backs: Since Duce Staley was a scratch last week, Jerome Bettis took the full load for the fifth time this season and for the fifth time as well - he gained over 100 rushing yards. He ended with 36 carries for 140 yards and one touchdown against the Giants.

Back in week two, Bettis did not have a carry while Duce Staley got all the work but only gained 57 yards on 16 carries in Baltimore. Bettis will start again this week since Staley will likely take the next two weeks off to rest his hamstring up for the playoffs.

Wide Receivers: Finally, Antwaan Randle El had a big game as an NFL wideout. He gained 149 yards on five receptions last week with one touchdown against the Giants while Hines Ward gained 134 yards on nine catches for his second best effort of the year and only his second time over 100 yards in a game this season. Plaxico Burress was held out last week for the fifth straight game.

Back in week two, Ward did have his best game of the year when he totaled 151 yards and one score on six receptions against the Ravens. It was the final game of Tommy Maddox and until last week, the last time that Ward had a disproportionately higher production than any other wideout. Plaxico Burress only had two catches for 30 yards in that game.

Tight Ends: This crew never had a catch last week and other than the odd touchdown scored every few weeks, there is nothing here that has any fantasy relevance or predictability.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers will again be without Staley but that's almost a good thing since they offense has been clicking with Bettis. Expect that Bettis turns in a good game here from volume alone but the Steelers will need a good sized lead to protect before Bettis will get enough to challenge the 100 yard mark. There is also a slight concern that they do not want to overuse Bettis if they can avoid it since he has remained healthy this season.

The Steelers started the last meeting with Maddox for the last time this season and Roethlisberger stepped in to being his amazing run. With Burress still out, there's no chance that the Steelers will pass for major yardage against the same defense that stunted Manning last week but Roethlisberger should end up closer to his norm - close to 200 yards with one score. Ward had his best game of the year when he last faced the Ravens but this time shouldn't be 151 yards again. The Steelers will want a controlled game and only the big scoring deficit last time prompted all that throwing.

The Ravens are coming off a short week here but that should not matter much against a familiar foe.

BAL PIT 2004 Averages PIT BAL
Gains Allows QB's Gains Allows
160
192
Pass yards
186
207
0.9
1.0
Pass TDs
1.1
0.8
0.7
1.2
Interceptions
0.7
1.1
10
10
Rush yards
11
9
0.3
0.0
Rush TDs
0.1
0.1
---
---
RB's
---
---
120
68
Rush yards
137
90
0.6
0.4
Rush TDs
1.0
0.5
24
30
Receive yards
22
20
0.0
0.1
Receive TD's
0.2
0.0
---
---
WR's
---
---
93
135
Receive yards
139
149
0.4
0.6
Receive TD's
0.7
0.6
---
---
TE's
---
---
43
28
Receive yards
12
39
0.4
0.2
Receive TD's
0.3
0.2
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.9
1.6
Field Goals
1.5
1.7
1.9
1.4
Extra Points
2.6
1.4
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.9
0.4
Fumbles
0.8
0.9
1.2
0.7
Interceptions
1.2
0.7
0.6
0.2
Touchdowns
0.3
0.2
2.6
2.4
Sacks
2.8
2.5
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.1
0.0
Steelers (13-1)
Score Opp.
24-21 OAK
13-30 @BAL
13-3 @MIA
28-17 CIN
34-23 CLE
24-20 @DAL
Week 7 bye
34-20 NE
27-3 PHI
24-10 @CLE
19-14 @CIN
16-7 WAS
17-16 @JAX
17-6 NYJ
33-30 @NYG
Week 16 BAL
Week 17 @BUF
Ravens (8-6)
Score Opp.
3-20 @CLE
30-13 PIT
23-9 @CIN
24-27 KC
17-10 @WAS
Week 6 bye
20-6 BUF
10-15 @PHI
27-13 CLE
20-17 @NYJ
30-10 DAL
3-24 @NE
26-27 CIN
37-14 NYG
10-20 @IND
Week 16 @PIT
Week 17 MIA