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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
November 22, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
  CIN at CLE NYG at TEN   Updated

Prediction: PIT 17, BAL 27

This is the battle for the AFC North assuming the Steelers can win out and the Ravens lose almost every remaining game. Given that not being likely, here is the first match-up between two teams that have evidently traded places from last year. The Steelers rise to 4-6 with their exciting win over the Browns that should never have been so close while the Ravens are 8-2 and have a four game winning streak. The Steelers are only 1-4 on the road and bring along the NFL's interception machine. That cannot be good.

When these two teams played in 2005, the home team always won. The Steelers took their game 20-19 and the Ravens won 16-13 in Baltimore.

Update: Hines Ward is questionable to play with a sprained knee and was held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He will attempt to practice on Friday. He has not been ruled out this week but I am lowering his projections and make sure he is active before you start him this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6)
1 28-17 MIA 10 38-31 NO
2 0-9 @JAX 11 24-20 @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 20-31 DEN - MON THU
PIT at BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 210,2
RB Willie Parker 50 10 0
TE Heath Miller 0 30,1 0
WR Hines Ward 0 50 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0
WR Santonio Holmes 0 50,1 0
PK Jeff Reed 3 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: Pittsburgh finally comes off a road win when they mounted a comeback last week after trying hard to give the game away in Cleveland. The positive from that game was that Willie Parker had a nice game that was not at home and the defense only gave up 20 points. The schedule clears up after this week with two home stands against the Bucs and Browns but this week will be a very big challenge indeed if Roethlisberger starts chunking interceptions again.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger comes off his fourth straight game over 264 yards and he has thrown12 touchdowns over the last six games but once again he had three interceptions for a total of 17 on the year - more than any other player, even Charlie Frye who the Steelers faced last week. Roethlisberger has thrown for seven interceptions over the last two road games and those came in Oakland and Cleveland - not Baltimore.

Roethlisberger threw for 177 yards and two scores against the Ravens in Pittsburgh last year abut was injured for the game in Baltimore.

Running Backs: Willie Parker finally had a nice fantasy game on the road when he scored twice against the Browns last week but even then he only gained 46 rushing yards on 16 carries. Parker continues to be a far less effective runner on the road where he has never gained more than 83 yards and has averaged just 51 rushing yards per game. That won't fly in Baltimore, especially if Ray Lewis is back.

Parker never had much success against the Ravens in 2005, gaining just 63 and 59 yards against them without any scores.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward remains good for at least 80 yards in each of the last five games and he remains as good as it will get for Pittsburgh receiving each week. Ward remains consistently used no matter where the game is played though he has scored in only one road game this year. Santonio Holmes has been coming on stronger in the last three weeks and scored his first NFL touchdown just last week against the Browns. Both Cedrick Wilson and Nate Washington still figure in though they are losing ground to Holmes as the season unfolds.

Ward turned in games of 75 and 81 yards against the Ravens in 2005 though he had no scores.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller is being used more consistently lately with the last three weeks around 30 yards including a score against the Saints. Miller had two touchdowns on just three catches for 18 yards at home against the Ravens last year and had 37 yards in Baltimore without any touchdowns.

Match Against the Defense: LB Ray Lewis had blood drained from a pocket in his back, a minor procedure that should allow him to return Sunday after missing the last two games. That won't be a benefit for Parker who struggles on the road anyway. Expect a lower rushing effort from Willie with no scores.

Roethlisberger faces a defense that should be a great match for him. Big Ben has thrown 17 interceptions and the Ravens defense also has 17 interceptions. Of the five games in Baltimore, opposing quarterbacks have ended under 200 yards in all but one and had just one score in four of the five. Ben is tending to rack up more yardage in the second half but has to be concerned with throwing too much given his penchant for interceptions. Best bet here is to expect a moderate game here but he could end up with higher yardage if the Ravens get a bigger lead and force the pass. Ward seems the best bet for a touchdown here but he has not done that well against the Ravens. Look for one score to head to one of the other three wideouts but it could be any of them. I'll credit it to Holmes only because he has been better as of late. I also like Miller to snare the other score if it happens.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 5 6 3 20 19 9
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 19 1 11 4 5 3


Baltimore Ravens (8-2)
1 27-0 @TB 10 27-26 @TEN
2 28-6 OAK 11 24-10 ATL
3 15-14 @CLE 12 --- PIT
4 16-13 SD 13 --- @CIN
5 3-13 @DEN 14 --- @KC
6 21-23 CAR 15 --- CLE
7 Open Bye 16 --- @PIT
8 35-22 @NO 17 --- BUF
9 26-20 CIN - THU MON
BAL vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve McNair 0 0 200,2
RB Jamal Lewis 70 10 0
TE Todd Heap 0 60,1 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 50 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 70,1 0
WR Demetrius Williams 0 10 0
PK Matt Stover 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Ravens are flying high at 8-2 but the rest of the schedule won't be a cakewalk. They face this match-up and then road games in CIN, KC and PIT with one home stand against the Browns sandwiched in. With a three game lead over the Bengals, the Ravens are in a comfortable spot to win the division and at 8-2 they now have a reason to keep winning - a possible first round bye. Fortunately that potential week one bye could keep the Colts, Chargers and Ravens all striving through week 17.

Quarterback: After winning the last four games, Steve McNair is playing exactly how the team wants and how fantasy owners hate - just well enough to ensure a win. That has been as high as 373 yards (vs TEN) or as low as 159 yards (vs NO). He hasn't thrown a score in the last two home games but he has not needed to and with Lewis running so well lately, he may not need to for a while longer.

Running Backs: Jamal Lewis comes off a three touchdown effort against the Falcons after only scoring twice in the previous nine games. He still fell below the century mark when he had 91 yards on 22 carries and only had 45 yards in Tennessee the previous week. His production is purely a function of how many carries he gets because he will gain around three yards or so on average every week.

Lewis had bad games each time he faced the Steelers in 2005, gaining just 61 yards at home and later just 28 yards in Pittsburgh.

Wide Receivers: The reuniting of McNair and Derrick Mason was expected to have a nice impact on the passing game but that hasn't happened much. Mason only has one game over 67 yards this year and just one score. But Mark Clayton has gained favor from McNair with two big efforts in the last couple of weeks. Clayton comes off a five catch, 89-yard effort last week and had 125 yards and a score in Tennessee. He leads all Ravens wideouts with three scores on the year. Heap remains a primary target in the passing game but Clayton is coming on lately.

Mason had 83 yards at home against the Steelers last year but only managed 42 yards in Pittsburgh.

Tight Ends: Daniel Wilcox injured his hamstring last week and should miss a couple of games. That leaves Todd Heap even more alone as the tight end that matters in this offense. Heap has been turning in around 50 to 60 yards in most games but has not scored in the last three weeks after turning in five touchdowns through week eight.

Heap had mirror image games of just 39 and 41 yards against the Steelers last season.

Match Against the Defense: The Steeler defense has taken a step backwards this year but still has not allowed any runner to top 100 yards this year. Lewis may have turned in a big game last week but he's not likely to get the 30 carries he would need to crest the century mark. Expect only moderate rushing yards here and likely no score unless the Ravens end up with first down on the one-yard line.

McNair goes against a secondary that has been fairly shredded by top quarterbacks but McNair is not going to throw for more than he needs to in this game. Look for two scores that will favor Heap for sure and the other that likely goes to Clayton. The passing game here is hard to forecast given that it won't happen more than needed and that in turn depends on what PIT does offensively, which depends on how many interceptions that Roethlisberger throws, which in turn depends on... Just expect a decent game here by McNair but nothing big. Lewis is not going to carry this game by running so McNair will have to make a difference and I like a late defensive score here.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 16 24 27 3 7 2
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 21 10 29 19 21 31