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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
November 1, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday Late
Sunday night
On Bye
GB at BUF NO at TB CLE at SD *updated NYJ, PHI

Prediction: DEN 17, PIT 16

This is a replay of the AFC Championship game last January when the Steelers won 34-17 in Denver. There is a chance that the 5-2 Broncos will remember that game when they face the 2-5 Steelers. The losing team is not going to be happy here. Either the Broncos get derailed again after starting the year with a five game winning streak and lose to the very team that denied them from the Super Bowl or the Steelers lose and waft ever so gently down to a 2-6 "these guys won what last year?" record. Whatever happens here probably won't have a lot of points involved.

Denver Broncos (5-2)
1 10-18 @STL 10 --- @OAK
2 9-6 KC 11 --- SD
3 17-7 @NE 12 --- @KC
4 Open Bye 13 --- SEA
5 13-3 BAL 14 --- @SD
6 13-3 OAK 15 --- @ARZ
7 17-7 @CLE 16 --- CIN
8 31-34 IND 17 --- SF
9 --- @PIT - MON THU
DEN at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 10 0 170,1
RB Tatum Bell 30 0 0
RB Mike Bell 70,1 10 0
TE Tony Scheffler 0 10 0
WR Rod Smith 0 50 0
WR David Kircus 0 20 0
WR Javon Walker 0 80,1 0
PK Jason Elam 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Talk about mixed emotions. The Denver offense finally shook off the rust and dust and turned in a 31 point game - about twice the previous season high. And the defense coughed up 34 points for the Colts - about twice the previous season high. The "no scoring" spell was broken by Peyton Manning and the secondary over there on the right side did not look nearly so good anymore.

Quarterback: To his credit, Jake Plummer did not get in the way of the recent loss other than losing one fumble. Plummer threw for 174 yards and one touchdown and ran in another score but the Broncos were busy running the ball 28 times and did not ask him to throw but 21 passes in the game. Plummer only has five touchdowns on the year and only once more than one in a game.

Plummer only had 223 yards and one touchdown last January against the Steelers and had two interceptions and two lost fumbles. It was not a banner day for Plummer but it did help get Jay Cutler drafted.

Running Backs: Tatum Bell was nursing a turf toe last week and only came up with 27 yards on 13 carries before telling HC Mike Shanahan that it was okay to use Mike Bell. Limited to almost nothing but the second half, Mike rang up 136 yards and two scores on just 15 carries. Makes you wonder what would have happened with a full game of Mike instead Tatum starting (at least it should make Shanahan wonder).

Whether that great showing by Mike Bell will buy him any playing time is only a guess that Shanahan will go to great lengths not to answer. With Tatum obviously limited by his toe, the safe bet is that Mike gets at least some playing time and maybe most of it this week. There is a big difference between hosting the Colts and going to Pittsburgh though. The assumption for now is a limited Tatum and heavier use of Mike Bell.

Denver only had 67 rushing yards from Mike Anderson (9-36) and Tatum Bell (5-31) against the Steelers and Anderson ran for one score.

Wide Receivers: Minimal passing numbers spell little fantasy value from this crew other than Javon Walker who looks like he will be a major factor once Cutler starts next year. Walker scored his second touchdown on the season last week and while he is easily the primary target each game, he rarely comes up with more than 75 yards in a game. They just don't throw enough to get him much yardage or true consistency. The one major factor playing into this week is that Walker has only two great games this year - 130 yards and two scores against the Pats and 107 yards against the Browns - both road games. At home - Denver runs. On the road - they start chunking the ball to Walker. Rod Smith has a similar spike on the road, only with him it means 50 instead of 30 yards.

No wideout had more than 68 yards in the previous meeting with the Steelers and Ashley Lelie scored once. Rod Smith had four catches for 61 yards.

Tight Ends: After going for two weeks without a catch by a tight end, Tony Scheffler came up with four catches for 51 yards last week. That's 35 more yards than his entire season up to that game.

Match Against the Defense: For a team that is 2-5, you cannot really blame the Steelers defense. They have only allowed two rushing scores in the six games and held Larry Johnson to just 26 yards on 15 carries. At home, the Steelers are 2-1 with only one loss to the Bengals. But the Broncos are sure to run and have a tough time getting much done on the ground. Look for the Bells to turn in around 100 rushing yards total and score just once.

The Steelers secondary has been outstanding unless faced with a top passer which Plummer clearly is not. There should be moderate passing yardage that has to favor Walker because he gets so much of the action anyway. I like one passing score here but no more. This should be a low scoring, defensive game with the Broncos running as much as they can get away with.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 31 18 24 32 19 29
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 11 7 20 27 17 28


Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5)
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 38-41 @ATL 16 --- BAL
8 13-20 @OAK 17 --- @CIN
9 --- DEN - MON THU
PIT vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 210,1
RB Willie Parker 70 10 0
TE Heath Miller 0 20 0
WR Hines Ward 0 80,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 20 0
WR Nate Washington 0 60 0
PK Jeff Reed 3 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: HC Bill Cowher has done the proper thing by taking all the blame for the losses but the reality is that the offensive line is not blocking well, the special teams have declined without Randle El and above all, if Roethlisberger would limit his passes to guys wearing black jerseys, the Steelers would probably be 6-1 right now. Back at home the Steelers play much better but now go against a great defense that is still mad about that playoff loss last January.

Quarterback: It's a safe assumption that Ben Roethlisberger has not gotten his Fathead yet. After all, he only has six touchdowns on the season against 11 interceptions and his four last week provided the Raiders with more points than their offense could come up with. Big Ben throws for more than 220 yards in every game and had been scoring well until last week. But until he cures his decision making problems, the Steelers will continue to languish.

Roethlisberger threw for 275 yards and two scores against Denver in the Championship game. He had no interceptions.

Running Backs: Willie Parker has run well in most games and is limited more by the number of carries than the defenses. He has two monster games this year - both at home. But his worst games, easily, have come whenever he faced an upper tier defense. Against the Jaguars, he only had 20 yards on 11 carries. He had just 57 yards on 14 runs against the Chargers. This week is the toughest defense yet but Parker is at home where better games usually happen.

The Steelers lost Verron Haynes for the season with a knee injury. That should promote Duce Staley up as the primary back-up.

Parker only gained 35 yards on 14 carries against the Broncos last season.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward has been solid in the last three games with a monster effort against the Falcons and 81 yards on eight catches just last week. Cedrick Wilson continues to be good for three catches in most weeks that total around 40 or 50 yards. Nate Washington scored in two games but last week had just one catch - for 49 yards. Roethlisberger has been hitting his own wideouts fairly well recently - just not exclusively. Most interceptions have happened on passes to Ward.

Cedrick Wilson turned in five catches for 92 yards and one score in the Championship game last January while Ward had 59 yards and one score.

Tight Ends: While Heath Miller scored in week seven, he's been a near non-factor this year. Miller only had two catches for 31 yards against Denver last season.

Match Against the Defense: Willie Parker is at home but the Broncos have never allowed a running back to score this year and most weight in at 60 yards or less. Figure on Parker getting a bit better than that but not to score.

If Roethlisberger can only be like Peyton Manning, then no problem here. But if he is like every other quarterback (including himself), he'll do well enough to end with one touchdown and sub-200 yards. With such an aggressive defense, it is almost guaranteed that both offenses will be conservative and run the ball as much as possible. Unless they change assignments, Ward will get the Darrent Williams side while Cedrick Wilson will disappear with Champ Bailey on him.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 14 13 8 22 20 4
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 3 5 1 18 14 5