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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 7, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
CLE at CIN* OAK at NYJ SF at SEA MIA at SD* Mon 9 PM
IND at JAC TB at CAR BAL at DEN Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Chicago 6, Pittsburgh 16

The Steelers stumble into this match-up with a three game losing streak and suddenly a realistic chance that they could miss the playoffs unless they win out since they trail both Kansas City and San Diego by one game and the Jaguars by two games for the two wildcards. The Bears have already realistically clinched the NFC North unless they drop a few more games and the Vikings win out, including a week 17 meeting in Minnesota with the Bears. Chicago doesn't have to win here to get their division but the Steelers really have a must win this week - and every week.

Chicago Bears (9-3)
1 7-9 @WAS 10 17-9 SFO
2 38-6 DET 11 13-3 CAR
3 7-24 CIN 12 13-10 @TBB
4 Open Bye 13 19-7 GBP
5 10-20 @CLE 14 Dec 11 @PIT
6 28-3 MIN 15 Dec 18 ATL
7 10-6 BAL 16 Dec 25 @GBP
8 19-13 @DET 17 Jan 1 @MIN
9 20-17 @NOR . . .
CHI at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Orton 0 0 140
RB Thomas Jones 60 10 0
RB Adrian Peterson 10 10 0
TE Desmond Clark 0 10 0
WR Muhsin Muhammad 0 40 0
WR Justin Gage 0 30 0
WR Bobby Wade 0 30 0
PK Robbie Gould 2 FG 0 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Bears defense has become almost ridiculous in how they limit offenses. Over the last four games, no opponent has scored more than 10 points and overall, they only average allowing those 10 points in a game. This is fortunate since the offense has been little help with almost no passing and a decreasingly effective rushing game as the season progresses. But they have won their last eight games - tied with Seattle for the best in the NFL.

Quarterback: Kyle Orton has passed for more than 150 yards only once in his 11 starts this season and he hasn't even been better than 137 yards for the last five games. He always throws an interception, usually has one touchdown and sometimes loses a fumble. The Bears are waiting for Rex Grossman to heal up enough to play which may be an option soon. As good as Orton has been merely managing the game and making minimal mistakes, he's had to rely entirely on having the #1 defense supporting him or he'd be considered the worst quarterback in the league because his numbers are so low.

Running Backs: Thomas Jones comes off his best rushing game in five weeks when he ran for 93 yards on 19 carries against the Packers last week but he hasn't scored in the last six games and hasn't had a 100 yard rushing effort since week six. Jones still gets around 20 carries a game when healthy but teams are entirely loading up against the run when they face the Bears.

Wide Receivers: Muhsin Muhammad has only topped 80 yards twice all season and in most games he just flirts with around 50 yards. He only has three scores on the year and yet is easily the best wideout for the Bears. The return of Grossman could change this, but with Orton as quarterback, Muhammad is little more than a glorified tight end in terms of production.

Tight Ends: In the last six games, Desmond Clark has only once had more than ten yards in a game.

Match Against the Defense: The Bears win solely because of their defense. They are only average rushing the ball and below average scoring. The Steelers have lost most of their mystique at home but this is a "do or die" week for them and the Bears away from Chicago are even worse offensively. Expect Jones to be held to only moderate yardage here and as he has done so often, not score.

Orton will throw for somewhere between 100 and 150 yards and may have one score if the defense can recover a turnover near the Steelers endzone. If he does throw a score, it would almost have to favor Muhammad but the Steelers are very good against wideouts. Tight end Clark would be more within the trend though he is rarely used anymore and almost impossible to rely on. Chances are best that there are no touchdowns unless, of course, they are scored by the defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
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 31-38 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 CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 210,1
RB Jerome Bettis 20 0 0
RB Willie Parker 60 20 0
TE Heath Miller 0 40 0
WR Hines Ward 0 80,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 30 0
PK Jeff Reed 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: Dropping the last three games have put a big damper on playoff plans for the Steelers though both the Bengals and Colts are division leaders. The remaining schedule includes games that should be won by Pittsburgh though the same could be said of several losses. The defense and the running game are failing to meet last year's standards and those are what this team is supposed to be all about.

Quarterback: Last week against the Bengals, Ben Roethlisberger buried all his career bests when he completed 29 of 41 passes for 386 yards and three scores with three interceptions. Big Ben had never thrown more than 29 passes in any game in the NFL and his big game reflected both the Steelers falling behind and the continued lack of a big running game.

Running Backs: Willie Parker only gained 71 yards on 15 carries last week and that was his best rushing game since week seven. Parker remains the best runner on the team but those big games early on the season are not repeating. Jerome Bettis scored once last week but only had 13 yards on eight carries and he's been completely phased out other than short yardage runs. Even Duce Staley had a few carries last week that were even more ineffective. This rushing game has not produced a 100 yard runner in seven games and Parker has the only three big games of the year.

Wide Receivers: The huge passing numbers of Roethlisberger last week only underscored what has been happening all season. Hines Ward (135 yards, 2 TD) was the only wideout that mattered while Antwaan Randle El (5-47) and Cedrick Wilson (4-65) only managed moderate numbers in the biggest pass game out of Pittsburgh of the last several years. Quincy Morgan had a score but it was on his only catch. Ward has typically had big games only against easy or well known opponents like HOU, CIN and CLE.

Tight Ends: It would be reasonable to assume that Heath Miller would have a big game when the Steelers pass for 386 yards but that would be wrong. Miller only had three catches for 44 yards and still has not scored since week eight when he had been scoring in the last four consecutive games. Since then - never more than 44 yards and no scores.

Match Against the Defense: The Bears away from Chicago are a bit easier to run on and yet the defense has only allowed three rushing scores all season. The Steelers likely won't do much more than a moderate output here as have all other teams and the chance to score is very low in this game.

Roethlisberger will have to win this game through the air unless the Bears are finally kind enough to give away more points than they steal from other offenses. The yardage won't be high and Big Ben is nursing a bad thumb, but the best bet for a touchdown here is a pass to the wideouts that than strongly favors Ward.