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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
November 29, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
ATL at WAS MIN at CHI   TB at PIT Updated

Prediction: TB 10, PIT 24

Hard to say which is faster - the decline of the offense or defense in Tampa Bay? The Buccaneers bring their perfect 0-5 road record to Pittsburgh where the Steelers really, really need to find a soft opponent to beat. Here's a game that may make the Steelers look like everything is all right again for maybe the last time this season. They catch a break with the Steelers having several stars out injured this week but even that won't compensate for not having any stars themselves.

Update: Nate Washington has been named the starter to replace Hines Ward this week and I am shifting some production to him from Santonio Holmes. The Steelers want Holmes to continue to progress but Washington will be on the field much more and deserves to be projected a bit higher.

Michael Pittman missed practice on Wednesday but returned yesterday and will likely play this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8)
1 0-27 BAL 10 10-24 @CAR
2 3-14 @ATL 11 20-17 WAS
3 24-26 CAR 12 10-38 @DAL
4 Open Bye 13 --- @PIT
5 21-24 @NO 14 --- ATL
6 14-13 CIN 15 --- @CHI
7 23-21 PHI 16 --- @CLE
8 3-17 @NYG 17 --- SEA
9 14-31 NO - MON THU
TBB at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Bruce Gradkowski 0 0 200,1
RB Cadillac Williams 50 10 0
RB Michael Pittman 0 20 0
TE Anthony Becht 0 10 0
WR Joey Galloway 0 80,1 0
WR Michael Clayton 0 40 0
WR Ike Hilliard 0 20 0
PK Matt Bryant 1 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Bucs have the second worst scoring offense in the NFL with only 142 points scored this year. On the road they have not scored more than 10 points in the last three trips away from Tampa Bay and even plentiful trash time has not been productive for them. With only ATL and SEA left as home games, the Bucs may have seen their final win of the year already happen.

Quarterback: As the season continues to swirl downward for the Buccaneers, the rookie Bruce Gradkowski is in the lead. He comes off a 120 yard, two interception game in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day and hasn't been over 185 passing yards in a game since week five when he first took the starting role. Gradkowski has nine touchdowns in eight games played and surprisingly has two scores in four different efforts. Only one came in a road game, and that was the week five debut in New Orleans. His last three road games have totaled only one touchdown.

Running Backs: Carnell Williams ran for 78 yards on 17 carries in Dallas but he still has only one touchdown on the season. The Bucs went to using Mike Alstott for the short yardage score last week, making Williams even less relevant in fantasy football. On the road this year, Williams has gained less than 50 yards in most games.

Wide Receivers: Joey Galloway had 71 yards on just three catches last week and he is the only Bucs wideout with any consistency. Galloway has remained above 64 yards in each of the last four games and scored three times in that span. Gradkowski focuses on connecting with Galloway so much that no other wideout here matters. Last week Galloway had nine passes. No other wideout had more than two.

Tight Ends: With Alex Smith out injured last week, Gradkowski never even threw one pass at a tight end.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers rush defense has been rather good this year and great at home. Scratch Carnell Williams off as a consideration this week. If he gains more than 60 rushing yards it would be a major success.

The Buccaneers catch a break with Troy Polamalu injuring his knee but Gradkowski has only scored in one of the last four games. I'll project for him to throw one touchdown because the Steelers secondary is very weak but even that may not happen. This is a big game for the Steelers sense of pride.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points TB 28 24 22 24 32 30
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 18 11 26 23 25 32


Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7)
1 28-17 MIA 10 38-31 NO
2 0-9 @JAX 11 24-20 @CLE
3 20-28 CIN 12 0-27 @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 vs TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 0 0 230,2
RB Willie Parker 110,1 40 0
TE Heath Miller 0 30 0
WR Santonio Homes 0 50,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 70,1 0
WR Nate Washington 0 30 0
PK Jeff Reed 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: Just when the Steelers finally could be happy that they beat a terrible Browns team, the Ravens hung them by their ankles and took turns with a baseball bat on them. Sadly it was not the first shut out of the season for the Steelers though it was their worst loss. Their current 1-5 record on the road this year makes last year's trek through the playoffs look even more miraculous. Now Troy Polamalu may be out for a while and Hines Ward is taking time off after surgery. The Steelers picked a great time to host the Buccaneers.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger has more interceptions (19) than any other NFL quarterback. He continued to cement that superiority last week with two more against no scores and just 214 passing yards in Baltimore. But Roethlisberger, like the rest of the team, always plays better at home and has turned in nice games in each of the last two home stands. The loss of Ward won't help this week, but Big Ben always remains above at least 200 yards each week anyway.

Running Backs: True to form, Willie Parker was on the road and flopped last week, gaining only 22 yards on ten carries. He scored twice in Cleveland the previous Sunday but only had 46 yards on 16 carries. But Parker has been golden at home this year with at least one score in each of the last four match-ups in Pittsburgh and this week should continue that trend. All four of his 100+ rushing yard games came at home.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward had arthroscopic surgery on his knee and will miss at least this week. That leaves Nate Washington likely to step up as his replacement though the Steelers are getting more out of Santonio Holmes lately. Cedrick Wilson will remain the flanker though that hasn't meant more than around 50 yards in most games if that. The Steelers will likely be satisfied running the ball and collecting turnovers from the Bucs this week, so this crew may not have a chance at any big games. Holmes is definitely the one to watch - if anyone here matters.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller should just be called "Mr. 30 Yards" since that is what he has done in each of the last four games.

Match Against the Defense: There is every reason to expect the Steelers to win this game at home against a terrible team. The only question is how. Figure on Willie Parker for a very nice game here against a defense that should allow at least one rushing score and good yardage.

Roethlisberger really needs a "feel good about myself again" game and the Bucs have only had three games where they have intercepted any passes and just one over the last five games. Take away that and Big Ben should notch at least two scores here even without Ward. He could go higher - Romo had five last week. Those passes should favor the wideouts but could go to any of them since Ward's absence shakes up the normal gameplan.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 9 11 6 22 25 16
Preventing Fantasy Points TB 29 20 24 19 15 15