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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 30,, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
BUF at MIA* HOU at BAL TEN at IND* DEN at KC Mon 9 PM
CIN at PIT JAC at CLE* Sun 4 PM NYJ at NE SEA at PHI
DAL at NYG MIN at DET* ARI at SF* Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Cincinnati 13, Pittsburgh 24

In a weekend chock full of big divisional games, this match-up for the AFC North title is one of the "must see" events on Sunday. The Bengals lead the division with an 8-3 record and are 4-1 on the road this year. But they lost to the Steelers 27-13 in Cincinnati back in week seven this season and Pittsburgh would draw to a tie with the tie breaker if they can pull of the win here. Pittsburgh comes off a short week after losing to the Colts on Monday night.

Cincinnati Bengals (8-3)
1 27-13 @CLE 10 Open Bye
2 37-8 MIN 11 37-45 IND
3 24-7 @CHI 12 42-29 BAL
4 16-10 HOU 13 Dec 4 @PIT
5 20-23 @JAC 14 Dec 11 CLE
6 31-23 @TEN 15 Dec 18 @DET
7 13-27 PIT 16 Dec 24 BUF
8 21-14 GBP 17 Jan 1 @KCC
9 21-9 @BAL . . SAT
CIN at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 0 0 250,1
RB Rudi Johnson 70 10 0
RB Chris Perry 10 30 0
TE Matt Schobel 0 10 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 90,1 0
WR Houshmandzadeh 0 70 0
WR Chris Henry 0 20 0
PK Shayne Graham 3 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Bengals sport a lofty 8-3 record but their three losses - JAX, PIT and IND - all came against the only truly tough match-ups they have faced this season. The win back in week three in Chicago looks more impressive than it did initially, but this week is the match-up of the year on the road. If Palmer has been saving anything, now is the time to let it loose because the Steelers entire season is riding on this week.

Quarterback: There is no denying how effective and productive that Carson Palmer has become this season but he only had 227 yards and no scores against the Steelers in week seven. That was the only game without a score this year and his second lowest passing yardage as well.

Running Backs: Rudi Johnson only had 12 runs for 65 yards earlier this season against Pittsburgh but he's scored five times in the last three games including two touchdowns against the Colts. Johnson comes off a 114 yard effort against the Ravens but that required 27 carries and was the first 100 rushing yard game since week one. Chris Perry had 43 yards on five catches in the previous Steeler game though he only had three carries for one yard.

Wide Receivers: Chad Johnson turned in 94 yards while T.J. Houshmandzadeh had 75 yards against the Steelers in week seven and neither scored. The duo has been red hot in recent weeks and will have to continue to be the key for the Bengals to pull the upset here.

Tight Ends: Not even one catch last week.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers have inexplicably been worse at home than on the road this year but that should not get in the way this week since this is one of those "all the marbles" games. Look for only moderate yardage from Rudi Johnson and his three week scoring spree to likely end.

Palmer struggled against the Steelers in week seven and turned in his worst game of the year despite playing at home. The passing game was great before that game and returned to elite status in the successive weeks, but the Steelers have already been able to keep Palmer at bay. Look for a better game this time from Palmer but anything more than 250 yards and one score would be a major success against this secondary, particularly in such a big game played in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4)
1 34-7 TEN 10 34-21 CLE
2 27-7 @HOU 11 13-16 @BAL
3 20-23 NE 12 7-26 @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 20-19 BAL 17 Jan 1 DET
9 20-10 @GBP . MON SAT
PIT vs CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 170,2
RB Jerome Bettis 30 0 0
RB Willie Parker 100,1 20 0
TE Heath Miller 0 40,1 0
WR Hines Ward 0 70,1 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 welcomed back Ben Roethlisberger for the Colts game though the results were less than spectacular. That loss coupled with the Baltimore game brought the Steelers crashing down and now trailing in the standings. This week either is a win by Pittsburgh - and they have already beaten the Bengals - that likely paves the way for a divisional title or if they lose and fall to 7-5, more likely they will just become one of the teams vying for a wild card. Big week indeed.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger missed the three previous games, but returned to play against the Colts after sitting out due to a meniscus surgery. He only managed to throw 17 of 26 for 133 yards and one score on Monday night but that continues his string of scoring at least once in every game this season. His worst game so far was when he only threw for 93 yards against the Bengals earlier this year but he had two touchdowns and the Steelers had little need to throw in that game.

Running Backs: The Steelers opted to use all four running backs against the Colts but none of them had any success and Willie Parker's 43 yards on 12 carries came almost entirely on the final series when the Steelers were running out the clock. Duce Staley played but only had six yards on three carries while Jerome Bettis fared no better with only nine yards on six runs. But when the Steelers had an easy win over the Bengals earlier this year, Jerome Bettis had 56 yards, Willie Parker ran for 131 yards and a score while even Vernon Haynes gained 35 rushing yards.

Wide Receivers: There was no passing needed in the previous match-up against the Bengals and Hines Ward only had 35 yards against the Bengals in Cincinnati but he scored once and that was a third of all yardage passed. With Roethlisberger back, Ward has a much better chance of producing good numbers since six of his seven touchdowns came from Big Ben. But as always with the Steelers, the passing game is secondary to the rushing game and week seven saw the Steelers run with relative ease. Ward will almost always be the lead receiver, it just depends on how much the Steelers need to throw as to how big his game can be.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller's success has been almost 100% tied to having Roethlisberger around and though he only had four catches for 26 yards last week, that was more than most receivers had. Five of his six scores came from Roethlisberger this year.

Heath Miller was the lead receiver back in week five when he had 58 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.

Match Against the Defense: Very big game in front of a very fervent fan base this week. Look for the Steelers to naturally run a lot this week and once again, Parker should be the clearly best fantasy start here. Neither Bettis nor Staley looked as good as Parker last week and back at home in a game they should win, the Steelers will be using what works best - Parker.

Roethlisberger always throws for at least one score and the Bengals are softer against tight ends and flankers so either Miller or Ward could snare the passing score. This game should be a replay of the week seven victory though the Bengals will undoubtedly be better prepared this go around.