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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 14, 2005
Season Ticket
Saturday Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
KC at NYG CAR at NO* SD at IND CLE at OAK* Mon 9 PM
  NYJ at MIA SF at JAC* Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Minnesota 16

Interesting match-up between two teams that were never supposed to be 8-5. The Steelers have disappointed while the Vikings and their six game winning streak still has every one scratching their head. The Steelers are getting back into top form now while the Vikings are still trying to figure out what it is that they are holding onto.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
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 21-9 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 at MIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 210,1
RB Jerome Bettis 30,1 0 0
RB Willie Parker 60 20 0
TE Heath Miller 0 40,1 0
WR Hines Ward 0 70 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 30 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: After three tough losses, the Steelers finally got on track by taking down the Bears last week and ending their winning streak. This is the second chance to put a surprise team back in their place and a game that the Steelers cannot afford to lose.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger's thumb may be bad, but he is playing well within what he can do. Big Ben threw for just 173 yards last week against Chicago but more importantly completed 13 of 20 with no interceptions of fumbles. The Vikings biggest ally has been a defense that thrives on taking the ball away and Roethlisberger will limit the chances that it happens this week.

Running Backs: Willie Parker has been running well for the last six weeks though never more than 76 yards in a game. He ended with 64 yards on 17 carries against the Bears and he usually has around 15 carries in a game. The difference last week was Jerome Bettis firing up the bus and cruising for a season high 101 yards and two scores on just 17 rushes. Bettis had been little more than a short yardage back until last week but the weather conditions were perfect for him to go bashing through the snow last week. Not likely in a dome on Sunday.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward has varied between 27 and 135 yards over the last five games but one thing has been constant - he scores. He has five touchdowns in the last five weeks and remains the sole consistency to wideouts here. Cedrick Wilson, Quincy Morgan and Antwaan Randle El have all had a few games of minor note, but Ward is the only wideout here with fantasy relevance.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller had no catches last week for only the second time this season but he had been on a roll of around 30 yards per game. Miller had to block last week but should return to the passing game in Minnesota.

Match Against the Defense: The Vikings rushing defense has been very good as of late and has only allowed three scores over the last seven games. Since week three, the best any runner has done is 73 yards as a visitor though the opponents have not been "upper tier". Expect the Steelers to run both Parker for some decent yardage and Bettis who should score but only once.

Roethlisberger needs to tread lightly here against a team that has recorded 17 interceptions in just the last six games. Big Ben won't force the ball and should end with numbers just over 200 yards with one score. That touchdown strongly favors Heath Miller against one of the worst defenses against tight ends. The Vikings have already allowed nine scores to the tight end this season.

Minnesota Vikings (8-5)
1 13-24 TBB 10 24-21 @NYG
2 8-37 @CIN 11 23-20 @GBP
3 33-16 NOR 12 24-12 CLE
4 10-30 @ATL 13 21-16 @DET
5 Open Bye 14 27-13 STL
6 3-28 @CHI 15 Dec 18 PIT
7 23-20 GBP 16 Dec 25 @BAL
8 13-38 @CAR 17 Jan 1 CHI
9 27-14 DET . . MON
MIN vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Brad Johnson 0 0 200,1
RB Michael Bennett 40 20 0
RB Mewelde Moore 20 0 0
TE Jermaine Wiggins 0 20 0
WR Koren Robinson 0 30 0
WR Nate Burleson 0 30 0
WR Marcus Robinson 0 30,1 0
WR Troy Williamson 0 20 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 40 0
PK Paul Edinger 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: Six consecutive wins and the Vikings are only one game behind the Bears with a week 17 match-up that could decide which team takes the division and which team needs luck to get a wildcard. During this string of six games, the Vikings have consistently remained between 21 and 27 points and in most have won by less than a touchdown.

Quarterback: Brad Johnson went against the terrible Rams secondary last week but only came away with 146 yards and no scores. Johnson is only a game manager unless the scoreboard turns him back into a quarterback. That should happen this week.

Running Backs: Mewelde Moore ended up inactive last week and Michael Bennett again surprised by running for 70 yards and one score against the Rams. HC Mike Tice says that this week all three runners - Moore, Bennett and Ciatrick Fason - will be considered but going against the Steelers should make them all ineffective. Moore hasn't done much since week 12 while Fason gets a cameo role that has produced three short scores this season. Safest bet is for Michael Bennett to remain the primary runner though he followed up his big week nine with a terrible game of 19 carries for 16 yards against the Giants.

Wide Receivers: Koren Robinson keeps surprising as well, turning in a long touchdown in week 13 and then adding a rushing touchdown last week against the Rams. Like the running backs, this unit uses a rotation system that gives no preference to Koren or Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson, Nate Burleson or Troy Williamson. The lower passing numbers has meant that none have fantasy value this season and aside from Marcus Robinson's three scores in week 12, none have been good enough to consider a viable option. Consider too that Robinson's three scores came on his only three catches for 32 yards that game.

Tight Ends: Jermaine Wiggins had been a bigger part of the passing offense when he was turning in good yardage with Brad Johnson but he's only had three catches for 18 yards over the last two weeks.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers have a top rushing defense and unless their opponent has a formidable passing game (like CIN or IND), then the Steelers have consistently shut down their opponents, Consider Bennett unlikely to turn in much yardage this week.

Consider too that the Steelers secondary has only allowed two teams to throw for more than one score or over 250 yards - CIN and IND again. All others usually have one score, never two and remain around 200 passing yards where the Vikings usually end up anyway. That passing score does not favor anyone because there is no preferred receiver for the Vikings this year.