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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
Wildcard Week
January, , 2005
Season Ticket
Washington at Tampa Bay
4:30 PM Saturday on ABC
Carolina at New York Giants
1:00 PM Sunday on FOX
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Jacksonville at New England
8:00 PM Saturday on ABC
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
4:30 PM Sunday on CBS

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 27

Here's the third time these teams will go against each other this season. In week 7, the Steelers visited and throttled the Bengals 27-13 on their home turf. In week 13, the Bengals returned the favor by going into Pittsburgh and winning 38-31. The Steelers have been on a roll since that second game and are far more experienced at these playoff games than are the Bengals (understatement of the year). Two meetings this year with dramatically different results and both road teams were the winners. Most trends point toward the Steelers here with experience and a better defense, but this is a game between two very familiar opponents that happens in Cincinnati. Both teams have always won when they absolutely had to - now only one can be successful.

The line: Steelers by 3
The weather: Currently look like a chance of rain with temperatures about 40 degrees or so.

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
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 18-3 @MIN
7 27-13 @CIN 16 41-0 @CLE
8 20-19 BAL 17 35-21 DET
9 20-10 @GBP . MON SAT
PIT Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 240,2
RB Jerome Bettis 30,1 0 0
RB Willie Parker 80 20 0
TE Heath Miller 0 40 0
WR Hines Ward 0 100,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 40,1 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 30 0
PK Jeff Reed 1 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Steelers lost at home against the Bengals but have been steam rolling teams since including the 41-0 shutout of the Browns. The running game has been almost as good as the defense which has been outstanding. The Steelers have been in this place before and know what to expect unlike the Bengals. If defense wins championships, it should at least win this game. Then again - the Bengals had a lot better luck figuring out that defense the second time.

Quarterback: When Ben Roethlisberger played in Cincinnati, he only had 93 passing yards and two scores because the Steelers ran all over the Bengals. When the Steelers were at home and had to throw, Roethlisberger had his best game of the season by throwing for 386 yards and three touchdowns. Roethlisberger has only thrown one score in the three games since because the Steelers ran all over the Vikes, Browns and Lions.

Running Backs: In Cincinnati, the Steelers ran for over 220 yards and scored once with Willie Parker (18-131) doing most the damage followed by Jerome Bettis (13-56) and even Vernon Haynes (11-35). In the second meeting in Pittsburgh, Parker only gained 71 yards on 15 carries and Bettis was held to just 13 yards on eight carries.

Wide Receivers: In the big win in Cincinnati, the only wideout to catch any passes was of course Hines Ward who had three catches for 35 yards and one score. Back at home in a game that the Steelers had to play catch-up, Ward had nine catches for 124 yards and two scores. While Quincy Morgan also scored, it was on his only catch and as with most games - only Ward really matters for the wideouts.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller had a score in the first game along with six catches for 58 yards - almost all the catches in that game. But he has not scored since week eight and in the second meeting only had three receptions for 44 yards.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers run game was dominating in the first meeting but then was far less effective in Pittsburgh. The Bengals did just give up 201 yards to Larry Johnson but that meaningless game doesn't count. The Steelers should score at least once on the ground as has any team with a good runner but that major yardage will be harder to come by. It all depends on which Bengals show up but the later version was improved.

Roethlisberger threw for five scores in two games and should do no less than two in this game. His yardage depends on the game situation. Needless to say, Hines Ward will be the primary target and should net one of those scores if not both. Heath Miller has had some success against the Bengals this year but has not been scoring in a long time now that teams know how to defend against him.

CB Deltha O'Neal should be back for this game after missing last week with a bruised knee.

Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
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 38-31 @PIT
5 20-23 @JAC 14 23-20 CLE
6 31-23 @TEN 15 41-17 @DET
7 13-27 PIT 16 27-37 BUF
8 21-14 GBP 17 3-37 @KCC
9 21-9 @BAL . . SAT
CIN Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 0 0 230,2
RB Rudi Johnson 80,1 10 0
RB Chris Perry 10 30 0
TE Matt Schobel 0 10 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 70,1 0
WR Houshmandzadeh 0 60,1 0
WR Chris Henry 0 40 0
PK Shayne Graham 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Bengals enter this game as underdogs despite winning in Pittsburgh mainly because the Bengal's defense has not looked good for the second half of the season and no opponent has failed to score at least 20 points in the last seven games other than Detroit. The win in Pittsburgh was huge, but Cincinnati went just 2-2 since that game. This is an all new world for a franchise that last went to the playoffs several presidents ago.

Quarterback: In the first meeting this year, Carson Palmer only threw for 227 yards and two interceptions though he did rush in one touchdown (his only one of the year). In the week 13 meeting, Palmer threw for 227 yards and three scores with no turnovers. Quite the turnaround on the scores and interceptions and yet the exact same yardage.

Running Backs: Rudi Johnson only had 12 carries in the first meeting with the Steelers but gained 65 yards. In the second meeting, he carried 21 times for 98 yards and two scores in a game that the Bengals had the luxury of running. In two games against the Steelers, Chris Perry only had three carries for one total yard though he caught a few passes in each game.

Wide Receivers: Chad Johnson had four catches for 94 yards in the first meeting and later just 54 yards on five catches when the Bengals won. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had 75 yards on seven receptions at home and later five catches for 88 yards and two scores when in Pittsburgh. Chris Henry came to life in that second game as well, with 52 yards on five catches.

Tight Ends: The tight ends for the Bengals rarely do much in any game and though they have only scored two touchdowns in the entire season, Reginald Kelly did have one of the touchdowns in week 13 against the Steelers.

Match Against the Defense: Rudi Johnson should manage a moderate game here which mostly depends on volume of carries. He has been fairly successful in both meetings against the Steelers and was just limited by the need to pass in the first match-up.

Palmer has thrown for exactly 227 yards in both games but either no scores or three touchdowns. He is further removed from his minor groin strain and has gotten better against the Steelers. Weather could affect his numbers, and Palmer can cap a great season with a solid showing here.