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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
October 18, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
On Bye
JAX at HOU SD at KC WAS at IND   *updated

Prediction: PIT 13, ATL 16

What a difference a week makes. The Steelers exploded against the visiting Chiefs to make them look super again while the Falcons leave a disappointing home loss to the Giants that seemingly underscored everything that is wrong in Atlanta. This is a coin flip game to be sure - the Steelers Jekyll and Hyde may not be over and the Falcons are just a different bird that either matches up great or horribly each week. This game is almost impossible to call because it will be defined by two aspects - how well Vick runs and how many times the Steelers take the ball away from him. Throw in Big Ben maybe being Cinderella and maybe being a pumpkin and this game has a myriad of possible endings.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3)
1 28-17 MIA 10 --- NO
2 0-9 @JAX 11 --- @CLE
3 20-28 CIN 12 --- @BAL
4 Open Bye 13 --- TB
5 13-23 @SD 14 --- CLE
6 45-7 KC 15 --- @CAR
7 --- @ATL 16 --- BAL
8 --- @OAK 17 --- @CIN
9 --- DEN - MON THU
PIT at ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 190,1
RB Willie Parker 60 20 0
TE Heath Miller 0 30,1 0
WR Hines Ward 0 60 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0
WR Santonio Holmes 0 20 0
WR Nate Washington 0 20 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: Suddenly everything was right with the world. After struggling and losing for three weeks - against very good opponents mind you - the Steelers served up an old-fashioned whooping on the visiting Chiefs last week that even featured a nice passing effort from Roethlisberger. At home in one game is good, but on the road this week should be another test to see of the Steelers have turned a corner or just enjoyed swamping one visitor. The team has actually been working in most aspects all along, but the passing game had been the Achilles heel until now. With only a road game against the Raiders in week eight, there's no looking past this one as a true test of where the Steelers truly are at now.

Quarterback: While Ben Roethlisberger had never looked worse than he did in his first three starts, he may have never been better than last week against the Chiefs when he completed 16 of 19 for 238 yards and two scores - his first of the season. He also had no turnovers for the first time and it came against a better than average secondary. Big Ben had to shake off some rust understandably after his fun-filled summer and a nice home game was just the ticker. Prior to that effort, he had never scored, always thrown at least two interceptions and never exceeded 220 yards in a game.

Somewhere on the sideline last Sunday was Charlie Batch kicking the dirt and muttering.

Running Backs: Willie Parker continues his trend coming off a 109 yard effort against the Chiefs with two touchdowns. That makes three straight home games with over 100 yards on the ground. Now he hits the road where he has never had more than 57 yards rushing this year though he usually gets an extra pass or two in those games. For the Steelers to regain their once lofty status, they need the rushing game to exist outside of Pennsylvania - it hasn't so far.

Wide Receivers: With Big Ben back in the correct saddle again, Hines Ward finally had a typical game last week when he caught five passes for 59 yards and one touchdown. The other score went to Nate Washington who turned a missed tackle into a nice 47-yard touchdown. Cedric Wilson still only ends up with a couple of catches per week and the rookie Santonio Holmes comes off the best game of his fledgling career when he turned two catches into 58 yards. Roethlisberger only had to complete 16 passes last week and he spread the wealth among the wideouts. Going against a great secondary this week, chances are those "extra" wideouts of Holmes and Washington will need to come into play again this week.

Tight Ends: While it was all laughs and giggles last week, Heath Miller was unable to share in the bounty and ended with only one catch for 16 yards. Since his monster opening game that was really one very long reception, he's been a huge disappointment after such an encouraging rookie campaign.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers have yet to mount much of a rushing attack on the road and go against a defense that has given up only one rushing score this season. Parker could have a decent game here but he'll need to get there by volume of carries. Other than Tiki last week, the Falcons had been stellar against the run and that was party from Atlanta worrying more about the pass. Look for a moderate game here from Parker with likely no score.

Which Ben do we get this week? Whichever one shows up, he will be facing a defense that has only allowed two passing scores in five games this year and both went to Manning last week. Four of the five opponents have turned in less than 200 passing yards against the Falcons, so look for a very moderate effort here from Roethlisberger here He is getting back into gear again, but a road game in Atlanta is a tall order to expect a repeat of last week.

CB DeAngelo Hall is one of the very best corners in the league but he would be pitted against Cedrick Wilson which would be a tremendous waste. There has been no word given yet that they will move Hall around, but given the pattern of the Steelers, it would be no surprise to see Hall match up on Ward at least some of the time. Figure on Roethlisberger getting one passing score here should favor Miller since Shockey has the only touchdowns against Atlanta this year but that seems hard to rely on given Miller's reduced role this season. The Steelers really need their defense to either set up a short field or score.

Atlanta Falcons (3-2)
1 20-6 @CAR 10 --- CLE
2 14-3 TB 11 --- @BAL
3 3-23 @NO 12 --- NO
4 32-10 ARZ 13 --- @WAS
5 Open Bye 14 --- @TB
6 14-27 NYG 15 --- DAL
7 --- PIT 16 --- CAR
8 --- @CIN 17 --- @PHI
9 --- @DET - MON SAT
ATL vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 60,1 0 150
RB Warrick Dunn 70 10 0
RB Jerious Norwood 20 0 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 50 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 40 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 20 0
WR Roddy White 0 20 0
PK Morten Andersen 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Falcons had the worst of all scenarios happen last week when they fell behind on the scoreboard. That meant that all the rushing was moot until Vick could move the team via the pass and that didn't happen because it rarely does. This week will be another big challenge and the third home game in a row before heading off for a tough stretch with three of four games on the road. The defense will have to win this game because the offense will be facing their toughest opponent so far this year.

Quarterback: Michael Vick has finally become comfortable with who he is on the football field (a glorified running back) and he's not going to try to be what he is not (an NFL quarterback). Unfortunately for the Falcons, that means he has never had more than 154 passing yards in a game this year and hasn't scored via the pass since week two. However - his rushing yardage is on pace to gain almost 1300 yards this season and that cannot be discounted. He had two rushing touchdowns against three passing scores. He is truly a unique player to prepare against and at home has consistently turned in his best efforts of the year.

Running Backs: Okay, so it was a losing effort. But Warrick Dunn broke off a team record 90 yard touchdown run last week and ended with 146 yards on just 14 carries against the Giants. That game reversed the slide of the two previous weeks when he only had 44 and 55 yards on the ground and it was his first touchdown on the year. The Falcons will always prefer to run and that means heavy doses of Dunn when the game situation allows but he hasn't had over 20 carries since week two.

When the going gets tough, Jerious Norwood remains on the sideline. He only had four carries for nine yards last week and should end up with lesser time again this week.

Wide Receivers: This is fantasy football and it is a fantasy to rely on any Atlanta wideout. Not only have they not scored in the last four games, they often have dropped the few passes that are directed to them. The only marginally interesting player here was Ashley Lelie since he had a couple of long catches in weeks three and four but only had one catch for 14 yards last week when they needed him most.

Tight Ends: While Alge Crumpler has not scored since week one, he at least comes off his biggest game of the year when he had five catches for 66 yards against the Giants last week. He's pretty much a lock for more than 30 yards every week but so far has not exceeded 70 yards in a game thanks to the minimal passing by Vick this year.

Match Against the Defense: Dunn goes against a defense that has pretty much shut down every runner this year though two have scored. No doubt the Steelers will be keying on Vick which may give Dunn a bit more breathing room but could just as easily shut him down as well. I would expect a lot of misdirection plays this week that could result in some long gainers but the average run likely won't be for much. Look for only moderate numbers here from Dunn without a score. Vick will face a 3-4 defense that should be able to deny him the corner and could bottle him up as well but as usual, the important stat won't be the average run but the number of long gainers. The Steelers are playing in a dome, on the road and have not faced anyone like Vick so far this year.

As for Vick passing, expecting anything outside of the standard to Crumpler is optimistic. This game will not be won in the air. The defining stat in the game will be turnovers and either defense could do well there.