fantasy football     JOIN THE HUDDLE    


Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
September 25, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
CAR at MIA NOR at MIN Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM

Prediction: New England 20, Pittsburgh 27

If you only watch one game this week, let it be this one. The Pats and Steelers traded wins last year with the Patriots taking the most important one - the AFC Championship and ticket to another Super Bowl. The Patriots come off a loss in Carolina and the Steelers are 2-0 and still ticked about last January. These two teams met in week eight last year when the Steelers won 34-20 and ended the Patriots' winning streak. These two teams also met in the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh where the Patriots won 41-27.

New England Patriots (1-1)
1 30-20 OAK 11 Nov 13 @MIA
2 17-27 @CAR 12 Nov 20 NOR
3 Sep 25 @PIT 13 Nov 27 @KCC
4 Oct 2 SDC 14 Dec 4 NYJ
5 Oct 9 @ATL 15 Dec 11 @BUF
6 Oct 16 @DEN 16 Dec 17 TBB
7 Open Bye 17 Dec 26 @NYJ
8 Oct 30 BUF 7 Jan 1 MIA
NEP Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 290,2
RB Corey Dillon 60 10 0
RB Kevin Faulk 10 20 0
TE Bubba Watson 0 40,1 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 10 0
WR David Givens 0 50 0
WR Deion Branch 0 80,1 0
WR Troy Brown 0 50 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Patriots handled the Raiders in the opener but only after a minor scare and then dropped their first road game of the season in Carolina with a shocking inability to run and more turnovers and penalties than a Bill Belichick team is supposed to have. A win here refutes that losing both coordinators have hurt the team. A loss drops them to an unimaginable 1-2 record.

Quarterback: Tom Brady came up big in the opener with 306 yards and two scores but managed 270 and one score against two turnovers last week in Carolina. He's still spreading the ball around Patriot-style but in Carolina couldn't avoid making errors or getting the scores when it mattered most.

Brady threw for 271 yards and two scores against the Steelers in week eight last year and had two scores and 207 yards in the Championship game.

Running Backs: The formidable rushing attack of Corey Dillon has not shown up yet this season. Dillon scored twice in the opener but only had 63 yards on 23 carries. Last week he had just 36 yards on 14 runs. That's averaging only 2.7 yards per carry and that won't fly in Pittsburgh.

Corey Dillon did not play in the regular season match-up last season when the Patriots had only five rushing yards in total but in the Championship game he had 24 runs for 73 yards and one score.

Wide Receivers: Deion Branch remains the preferred wideout and he turned in eight catches for 60 yards last week but Troy Brown has had a rejuvenation of sorts. Brown had 51 yards on six catches against the Raiders and then added 87 yards on three receptions last week thanks to a blown coverage allowing him 71 yards on one catch. David Givens remains good for only about 50 yards per game. Brady is spreading the ball around enough that no one receiver is truly that important and he had no scores to the wideouts last week.

David Givens caught both of the touchdown passes in the game last year and ended with eight catches for 101 yards and two scores. Branch did not play and no other wideout had more than 59 yards. During the Championship game, Branch had 116 yards and one score receiving and also ran in a 23 yard touchdown. Givens also scored while gaining a total of 59 yards.

Tight Ends: There was little action here last week though Daniel Graham had a touchdown. Ben Watson only had one catch and he fumbled that but he was targeted five times and is the primary receiving tight end - if there is one.

No tight ends caught a pass in the last match-up with Pittsburgh since they were far too busy blocking. They had only one catch in the playoffs.

Match Against the Defense: Here is where the Patriots need to show something offensively or they'll end up questioning if having the coordinators leave really mattered. Corey Dillon is not rushing well at all and he goes against a team that has not allowed any runner more than 63 yards or any rushing touchdowns. With the Steelers at home and still mad about last January, figure on Dillon extending his rushing woes another week.

Brady has been throwing for some decent yards and the Steelers have only faced McNair and Carr, so there is still room for Brady to see some success. Expect he'll end up with a nice yardage game here - he'll have to. Matching up wideouts to corners matters little with the complex scheme used by New England. What is likely is for Ben Watson to figure into the passing scheme more this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)
1 34-7 TEN 10 Nov 13 CLE
2 27-7 @HOU 11 Nov 20 @BAL
3 Sep 25 NE 12 Nov 28 @IND
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 CIN
5 Oct 10 @SDC 14 Dec 11 CHI
6 Oct 16 JAC 15 Dec 18 @MIN
7 Oct 23 @CIN 16 Dec 24 @CLE
8 Oct 31 BAL 17 Jan 1 DET
9 Nov 6 @GBP . MON SAT
PIT Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 210,1
RB Verron Haynes 20,1 10 0
RB Willie Parker 80,1 20 0
TE Heath Miller 0 30,1 0
WR Hines Ward 0 60 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 20 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 60 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Steelers are flying high so far this season and after two blowout wins over the Texans and Titans, this is a good test that comes back at home again. The rushing and passing games look better than ever and the defense could be even more tough than last year. Rest assured - the Steelers want this game badly.

Quarterback: Big Ben Roethlisberger has feasted on the soft secondaries of Houston and Tennessee, throwing for 218 and 254 yards with two scores in each game. Just as important - no interceptions yet this season. He's been nearly flawless so far and mixing up his wideouts and tight end well.

Roethlisberger threw for 196 yards and two scores in the regular season meeting last year and had 226 yards and two more scores in the AFC Championship game.

Running Backs: What's not to love about a running back with 272 yards and two scores after only a couple of games? Willie Parker followed up his magical 161 yard effort against the Titans with a 111 yard game in Houston. Verron Haynes provides relief when needed and some short yardage duty. It's like Bettis and Staley only younger and faster.

Jerome Bettis ran for 65 yards and one score in the matchup with New England in week eight. In the playoffs, Bettis ran for 64 yards and one score.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward was conspicuously quiet in week one but roared back with six catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns last week. Antwaan Randle El has enjoyed nice success from the slot as the deep threat and has games of 89 and 75 yards already this season with one touchdown scored. Even Cedrick Wilson got into the passing game last week with 76 yards on only two catches.

Plaxico Burress had both passing scores in the week eight match-up last year. In the playoffs, Ward had 109 yards and a score while Burress was held to 37 yards with one late score.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller did not have any catches last week mainly because there was no need in the blowout.

Match Against the Defense: The New England rush defense has held Lamont Jordan and Stephen Davis to only around 70 yards per game this year but Davis scored three times last week. And neither team has the blocking of Pittsburgh or the speed of Willie Parker. Look for a solid effort from the surprise of the year Parker but he'll be challenged to crest the 100 yard mark unless he receives a high volume of carries because of the game situation. The weaker part of the Patriots seems to be the middle which doesn't play to the strengths of Parker and his outside running style.

Roethlisberger goes against a defense that was quite good last week against the Panthers but balanced by a strong defense and what should be at least an adequate rushing game. He won't be forced into having to win the game through the air. Look for a more controlled passing game that focuses on ball control and eliminating errors. The Patriot secondary has been playing well and there is no need to challenge it if not necessary. That could still see Randle El with one nice long reception.