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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 8
October 26, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ARI at DAL JAC at STL* WAS at NYG* TB at SF* BUF at NE
CHI at DET* MIA at NO* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
CLE at HOU MIN at CAR* KC at SD* IND, NYJ BAL at PIT*
GB at CIN OAK at TEN* PHI at DEN ATL, SEA *Updated

Prediction: Baltimore 10, Pittsburgh 24

The only favorable aspect of this for the Ravens is that they are playing in Pittsburgh where the Steelers are only 1-2 this season. But the Steeler offense is clicking again with healthy players while the Ravens offense has been almost non-existent outside of a back-up runner they rarely use. What's even worse - the Ravens defense may be without Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. This is yet another Monday night game that looked a lot more enticing back last spring than it does now.

The Ravens beat the Steelers 30-13 in week two of last year but later lost in Pittsburgh 7-20 in week 16.

Update: Mark Clayton has not been able to practice in all drills this week with a bad ankle and I am removing him from the projections though he may still play.

Baltimore Ravens (2-4)
1 7-24 IND 10 Nov 13 @JAC
2 10-25 @TEN 11 Nov 20 PIT
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 27 @CIN
4 13-3 NYJ 13 Dec 4 HOU
5 17-35 @DET 14 Dec 11 @DEN
6 16-3 CLE 15 Dec 19 GBP
7 6-10 @CHI 16 Dec 25 MIN
8 Oct 31 @PIT 17 Jan 1 @CLE
9 Nov 6 CIN . . MON
BAL at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Anthony Wright 0 0 180,1
RB Jamal Lewis 50 10 0
RB Chester Taylor 20 20 0
TE Todd Heap 0 40,1 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 60 0
WR Randy Hymes 0 20 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 20 0
PK Matt Stover 1 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The only teams that Baltimore has beaten this season were both visitors that included the Jets losing Pennington and the Browns. The offense has completely stagnated against a decent defense and the defense is losing stars. Not a good sign for the Ravens to start any turnaround this week. The Ravens now officially have the lowest scoring offense in the NFL which is averaging 13 points per game.

Quarterback: Anthony Wright has started five games and has four touchdowns and no game over 230 yards. Against the Bears, he finally had a game where he threw no interceptions but after the fantasy world speculating that anyone would be better than Kyle Boller, it appears that may be incorrect. Boller may return to practice this week but he'll serve only as the #3 quarterback this week if that.

Running Backs: Jamal Lewis has only one rushing score this season and has yet to gain more than 95 yards in a game, despite getting up to 29 carries. He averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per carry and comes off a 15 carry, 34 yard effort in Chicago. Chester Taylor continues to provide only relief work but has looked better than Lewis in every game. To date, Lewis has 113 carries for 326 yards while Taylor has only 37 runs that gained a total of 223 yards - an average of just over six yards per carry. It is not uncommon for backs with spot duty to exceed the primary back but it is unusual that he does it every game and gains about twice the yardage. Lewis is the starter, HC Brian Billick has made that clear. The unfortunate thing is that each week has to reiterate that.

Lewis only gained 26 yards last year in Pittsburgh though he did score once.

Wide Receivers: Hopefully you saw when Derrick Mason had a touchdown catch against the Titans in week two because that was the only score thrown to a wideout this season by the Ravens. Outside of Mason, no other wide receiver here has exceeded 44 yards in a game and even Mason has dipped down from his normal 60 yards per game when he only had two catches for 38 yards last week. Whether it is Wright or Boller, there is no fantasy value here outside of Mason and even then - no guarantee every week that he will catch more than a couple of passes.

Tight Ends: For all the offseason moves, this offense continues to be little more than Jamal Lewis (who now runs more like Emanuel Lewis) and Todd Heap. With two receiving scores, Heap is the team leader for receiving and in the last two weeks has been the only aspect of the offense that has worked. Heap has remained about 54 yards for the last three weeks and scored in two of them. He had a season high seven catches last week for 71 yards.

Match Against the Defense: This could become ugly unless the Steelers once again seem asleep in their own stadium. Jamal Lewis is running poorly and the Steelers defense has not allowed any runner to top 77 yards this season, including Tomlinson. Forget about Lewis even managing a moderate game here. Even Chester Taylor is likely to look bad in his few carries.

Anthony Wright faces a secondary that has only allowed four touchdowns in the six games this season and since the Ravens already have the lowest scoring offense in the NFL, there is really no chance that there will be a touchdown here. There is always a chance that the Steelers try to mail in the game and accidentally allow a touchdown, but that is hard to rely on. Since the Ravens defense will likely miss Reed and Lewis, there is even less chance that the Steelers will not be in control this week. If there is any score here, it will be to Todd Heap since the Steelers have allowed a few decent games and two scores to tight ends this season, but it is not as if the Steelers are not aware of Heap's importance.

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)
1 34-7 TEN 10 Nov 13 CLE
2 27-7 @HOU 11 Nov 20 @BAL
3 20-23 NE 12 Nov 28 @IND
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 CIN
5 24-22 @SDC 14 Dec 11 CHI
6 17-23 JAC 15 Dec 18 @MIN
7 27-13 @CIN 16 Dec 24 @CLE
8 Oct 31 BAL 17 Jan 1 DET
9 Nov 6 @GBP . MON SAT
PIT vs BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 10 0 160,1
RB Jerome Bettis 50,1 0 0
RB Willie Parker 100,1 0 0
TE Heath Miller 0 40,1 0
WR Hines Ward 0 60 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 20 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 20 0
PK Jeff Reed 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Steelers come off a very big win, taking down the Bengals in Cincinnati and rising to only a half game back. There's a chance that the Steelers do not take this game too seriously but after two home losses, it's likely they'll be preparing to play. With only GB, CLE and then BAL again in week 11, there's no game on the horizon that should take their attention away.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger returned in week six and while he only threw 14 passes with nine completions for 93 yards, he had two more touchdowns which maintains his pace of two scores every week this season. His passing numbers were down since the Steelers just ran all over the Bengals, but he still could not resist throwing to Heath Miller and Hines Ward in the endzone. He had two scores in each of the two matchups against the Ravens last year.

Running Backs: Jerome Bettis ran 13 times for 56 yards last week but once again Willie Parker was the stud. He had 18 carries for 131 yards and one 37-yard touchdown run. That makes two weeks of Parker getting at least 18 carries in a game while Bettis offers more of a support role than being the primary back. Bettis had more work than he did when he only had four carries against the Jaguars the previous week.

When the Ravens visited the Steelers last season, Bettis ran for 117 yards and Haynes tacked on 61 more. And that when Lewis and Reed were playing.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward was able to play last week after missing the Jaguars game with a hamstring strain and he also had to leave the game last week when he landed hard on his hip. He returned to play and ended with only three catches for 35 yards but did score a touchdown - his fifth of the season. The Steelers just did not pass last week and both Cedrick Wilson and Antwaan Randle El had no catches, so it is notable that Ward accounted for a third of all the successful passes in the game. No other wideout besides Ward has scored a touchdown this season since week one.

The use of Heath Miller has really affected the wideouts. Over the last three weeks, Miller has become a preferred target in the passing game and combined with Ward accounts for all but one of the ten passing touchdowns this season. The non-Ward wideouts only serve to stretch the defense.

Tight Ends: As noted, Heath Miller has become a big part of the offense and has scored in four of the five games that he has played. It's not enough that he is an endzone target now, he's also being targeted up to seven times a week and had 166 yards in the last three weeks. For a team that never threw to a tight end for years, Miller has already become one of the better tight ends in the league and will only get better.

Match Against the Defense: On paper this should be a blowout though the Steelers can be caught napping at home after a big road win in Cincinnati. Then again - the Ravens have little to accomplish that with anyway. With safety Ed Reed out with a high ankle sprain and Ray Lewis likely questionable with a thigh injury he aggravated last week, the Ravens defense could be surprisingly soft where no team has been before - right up the middle. Last week Thomas Jones shredded them for 139 yards. Look for the Steelers to run the ball enough so that both Parker and Bettis get plenty of work that will produce at least moderate numbers here and have a great chance of a big game since the Ravens offense won't be holding the ball on many long drives.

With the probable success of the Steelers defense and rushing game, it is likely that Roethlisberger won't be throwing much this week and he could see his first game with only one score if he can resist hitting Miller with a touchdown pass for the fourth straight week. The Ravens have only allowed one wideout to score all season - Harrison back in week one. Look for no more than one passing score that does, amazingly, favor Heath Miller yet again. But the yardage should be low with the chance to run the ball and control the clock. If Bettis does not score here it will be because Big Ben takes it in himself as he did against the Chargers.