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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
Divisional Week
January 14, 2005
Season Ticket
Washington at Seattle
4:30 PM Saturday on FOX
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis
1:00 PM Sunday on CBS
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New England at Denver
8:00 PM Saturday on CBS
Carolina at Chicago
4:30 PM Sunday on FOX

Prediction: Pittsburgh 13, Indianapolis 27

Oddly enough, almost all these playoff games this season have been rematches. This one reprises week 12 when the visiting Steelers lost 7-26 against the Colts during Ben Roethlisberger's first game back after missing three weeks due to his thumb injury. The Colts have already beaten the Steelers and have been resting for two weeks ready to start their most promising playoff run in franchise history.

Line: Colts by 9.5, Over/Under = 47.5
Weather: Around 73 degrees because it is a dome

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 0 210,1
RB Jerome Bettis 20 0 0
RB Willie Parker 60 20 0
TE Heath Miller 0 30 0
WR Hines Ward 0 70,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 60 0
WR Antwaan Randle El 0 20 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Steelers come off a big win over the Bengals, reversing the loss in Pittsburgh and giving them a chance to reverse their previous loss to the Colts. But that win did come with Carson Palmer sidelined and the two impressive wins at the end of the season were only against the Browns and Lions. Roethlisberger was still recovering from his knee injury in the previous match-up though and comes off a three touchdown effort last week when it mattered most. This game has the Steelers as the biggest underdogs of the weekend and while they lost by 19 points six weeks ago, the team is hitting on all cylinders now and ready to make amends for another previous loss.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger only completed 17 of 26 passes for 133 yards and one score against two interceptions in the previous game against the Colts. Roethlisberger has thrown for at least one score in all but one road game this year though only once did he top 225 yards in a road game. Roethlisberger threw for three scores last week against the Bengals but also had three in the previous meeting with them.

Running Backs: Willie Parker only gained 43 yards on 12 carries in the previous match-up with the Colts while Jerome Bettis was held to just nine yards on six carries. Bettis has been playing stronger in the last three games and scored in each though he rarely has more than ten carries in a game. Parker was very productive against teams like Cleveland, Houston and Cincinnati but in other road games did not score and topped out at 81 yards against the Vikings.

Wide Receivers: The lone passing score against the Colts last time, of course, was caught by Hines Ward though he only ended with 28 yards on three catches. Cedrick Wilson was the lead wideout in that game and that came from only three catches for 48 yards. Wilson has not scored this year and Antwaan Randle El had his only touchdown come in week one. Otherwise, all scores have gone to Ward other than two to Quincy Morgan who is now on injured reserve. Lee Mays has been signed and knows the offense, but likely won't be a factor this week.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller had four catches for 26 yards in the previous meeting and he only turned in two receptions for 15 yards last week. Miller has not scored since week eight and on the road this year has been hanging around 30 yards in most games.

Match Against the Defense: The Colts already handled the Steelers with relative ease this year though Roethlisberger should be better this time with a healthier thumb. The Colts rushing defense has never been better than they were in week 12 when they completely shut down the Steelers. The Steelers should have more success passing which will help the running game but both DT Corey Simon and DE Dwight Freeney are expected back this week after missing time. Look for only moderate gains via the rush here that favors the quicker Parker on the carpet instead of Bettis. The Colts only allowed three rushing scores by visiting opponents this year so neither Bettis or Parker is likely to score.

Roethlisberger will be the key to the success of the offense and he faces a defense that not only has shut him down this season, but that has never allowed more than one passing score to a visiting opponent this year. The Steelers passing game has, literally, used only Hines Ward to score and the Colts will be devoting plenty of resources to stopping him. That should give up yardage gains to other wideouts though it did not in any great measure in the previous game.

Indianapolis Colts (14-2)
1 24-7 @BAL 10 31-17 HOU
2 10-3 JAC 11 45-37 @CIN
3 13-6 CLE 12 26-7 PIT
4 31-10 @TEN 13 35-3 TEN
5 28-3 @SFO 14 26-18 @JAC
6 45-28 STL 15 17-26 SDC
7 38-20 @HOU 16 13-28 @SEA
8 Open Bye 17 17-13 ARI
9 40-21 @NE . MON SAT
IND Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 270,2
RB Edgerrin James 90,1 10 0
TE Dallas Clark 0 20 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 90,1 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 70,1 0
WR Brandon Stokley 0 30 0
WR Troy Walters 0 20 0
PK Mike Vanderjagt 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: It all starts now. The Colts cruised to a 14-0 record before finally falling to the Chargers. That led to a near mail-in loss to the Seahawks before wrapping up the season with a win over the Cards who could not even beat the Colts second string. Indianapolis comes into this game with a much needed bye week to rest some ailing players but the league's best record team will be ready this week.

Quarterback: Peyton Manning threw for 245 yards and two scores in the previous meeting with the Steelers and remained with multiple scores in eight consecutive games until slowing down at the end of the season. Manning's chance to show that he can win the big games starts this week.

Running Backs: Though Edgerrin James had a very rare game without a score back in week 12, he still gained 124 yards on 29 carries while never catching a pass for the only time this year. James slowed down at the end of the regular season to rest him and has not had a game with more than 13 carries for three weeks now. He'll be back to form this week when games once again have meaning.

Wide Receivers: Marvin Harrison had four catches for 128 yards and one score against the Steelers in week 12. He broke a bone in his hand during the loss to the Chargers though he played almost the entire game with the injury. After holding out in week 17 coupled with a first round bye, Harrison is expected to be at full strength this week. Reggie Wayne had five catches for 62 yards back in week 12 and has not scored in the last three games - he's more "overdue" than he is slipping.

Brandon Stokley did not play in the season finale against the Cards because of a bruised knee but is expected to be almost 100% this weekend and will play. He only had one catch for eight yards in the previous game with the Steelers.

Tight Ends: Bryan Fletcher had a score during his three catches for 28 yards against Pittsburgh and that came in the middle of a three game streak for scoring. He has not scored in the last four games though and has been held to no catches in two match-ups. Dallas Clark had two catches for 19 yards in week 12 and has not been above 45 yards since week 11.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers rushing defense has been stellar this year and only one player has topped 100 rushing yards against them - Edgerrin James. Look for James to once again have moderate to good yardage depending on the volume of carries with a chance that a refreshed James can punch in one score.

Manning already had 245 yards and two scores against the Steelers in a game he only needed to throw 25 times. That should go up this week in a game that the Colts will want to serve notice that they are still the cream of the NFL crop this year and the Steelers should see at least two passing scores this week - if not more. In a dome, on the road for the third straight week going against the Colts - not a kind place to be.