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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late

Prediction: PIT 20, NEP 24

Update: Santonio Holmes has not appeared on the injury report and is back to practice so I am adding him back into the projections and removing Cedrick Wilson. Nate Washington will remain in the slot. This will be a significant boost for the Steelers offense and makes the game closer.

This is the last chance for a team with reasonable chances to pull a upset goes against the Patriots. The last two games have seen the Eagles and Ravens nearly pull it off and fall just short. This has the 9-3 Steelers going to New England but they are only 2-3 on the road. Most attractive of all, this is the #1 passing attack facing the #1 passing defense. One factor that will come into play here is that the Patriots have "struggled" for two weeks against very motivated opponents that would have been easy to take lightly. This week, however, the Pats know the Steelers are the final big hurdle and cannot be taken lightly. Unfortunately, there is a shorter week to prepare on the heels of a Monday night game.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @CLE 34-7 -4.5 37
2 BUF 26-3 -10 37.5
3 SF 37-16 -9 35.5
4 @ARI 14-21 -6 42.5
5 SEA 21-0 -6 41
6 BYE - - -
7 @DEN 28-31 -3.5 38.5
8 @CIN 24-13 -3.5 48.5
9 BAL 38-7 -4 48
10 CLE 31-28 -9.5 47.5
11 @NYJ 16-19 -9.5 40.5
12 MIA 3-0 -16 35.5
13 CIN 24-10 -7 46
14 @NE   +10.5 51
15 JAC 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 @STL 20-Dec THU 8:15 PM
17 @BAL 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
PIT at NEP Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     260,2
RB Willie Parker 60 10  
TE Heath Miler   40,1  
WR Hines Ward   60,1  
WR Santonio Holmes   80  
WR Cedrick Wilson 30
WR Nate Washington   50  
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Steelers come of a nice win over the Bengals to end a two game nightmare when they barely clipped the visiting Dolphins 3-0 and lost in New York to the Jets. The Steelers enter this week as the final hop for knocking off the Steelers but have to do that on the road where they have a losing record and without Santonio Holmes. Or Najeh Davenport. And a Willie Parker that runs slower than last year and who apparently just stops all together when the goal line nears. But this week will be about defense and the Steelers are bringing one of the best.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger's 25 touchdown passes this season are a career high and rank third best in Steelers history with four games left to play. In games not involving copious amounts of Heinz Field mud, he has always passed for at least one score but he only averages 213 passing yards per game and that was with Santonio Holmes healthy. Big Ben also has not enjoyed nearly the run support this year so defenses have loaded up against him more. In favor of the passing game, the running game is usually much worse on the road and Roethlisberger has turned in his better games away from Pittsburgh - at least statistically.

Running Backs: Najeh Davenport has developed an inflammation in his right foot that not only made him inactive last Sunday, it has led the team to consider re-signing Verron Haynes. Davenport apparently injured his foot while on an exercise machine. Problem there is that the Steelers will be without their short yardage, goal line back. And Willie Parker has only scored twice this season and not since week eight.

Parker has also struggled in several road games this year despite facing only an average defense. In Arizona, he only gained 37 yards on 19 carries and against the Jets, he ran 21 times for only 52 yards. Despite this, he is still #2 in the NFL with 1093 rushing yards even if he cannot score.

Wide Receivers: Santonio Holmes never practiced last week because of a high ankle sprain and was inactive on Sunday. He is unlikely to play this week as well. in his absence, Hines Ward came up with his best game of the year, catching 11 passes for 90 yards and scoring two touchdowns against the Bengals. Cedrick Wilson has never been more than around 35 yards in a game and Nate Washington had the chance for greater playing time last week and only turned in two catches for 16 yards. If for only last week, Ward was the only wide receiver of any note with Holmes gone. That could happen again this week.

Tight Ends: With Holmes out, the Steelers still did not turn any more to Heath Miller than usual. He ended with just four catches for 30 yards but plays a consistent role in the offense around that mark. He has six scores on the year though none in the last two weeks.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriots have never allowed more than 74 rushing yards to a visiting running back this year and while two have scored against them, it's highly unlikely that Parker makes it three. Worse still, Parker has never had much of a role in the passing game so expect a lackluster effort this week.

Roethlisberger faces a secondary that has been about average this year considering the trash time yards allowed. Almost half the opponents have scored two passing touchdowns but without Holmes, the Steelers are down to Hines "I'm covering you dude" Ward and as of yet unproductive Nate Washington. I like Big Ben to eventually throw for two scores here that would almost have to end up with Ward and Miller. This could have been a better picture with a healthy Holmes

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 6 19 9 6 12 14
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 15 7 11 13 1 1


New England Patriots (12-0)
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @NYJ 38-14 -6.5 40.5
2 SD 38-14 -3 47
3 BUF 38-7 -16.5 41
4 @CIN 34-13 -7.5 54
5 CLE 34-17 -15.5 48
6 @DAL 48-27 -5 52.5
7 @MIA 49-28 -17 51
8 WAS 52-7 -16 48
9 @IND 24-20 -5.5 56.5
10 BYE - - -
11 @BUF 56-10 -15.5 46.5
12 PHI 31-28 -22.5 50.5
13 @BAL 27-24 -20.5 51.5
14 PIT   -10.5 51
15 NYJ 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 MIA 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 @NYG 29-Dec SAT 8:15 PM
NEP vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady     260,3
RB Laurence Maroney 40 10  
RB Kevin Faulk 20 20,1  
TE Ben Watson   30,1  
WR Randy Moss   50  
WR Donte Stallworth   50  
WR Wes Welker   70,1  
PK Stephen Gostkowski 1 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: There was a collective "whew" released in Boston when the Patriots squeaked past the Ravens and no matter how you slice it, they got it done on the scoreboard. These last two weeks have seen the once high and mighty Pats reduced to mere mortals but they are still winning as mortals. A stretch of three home games should be easy enough if they can just get past this week. The finale's in New York may be interesting if they have to play all starters to secure the road win despite long ago locking up the #1 seed. If you own Patriots on your fantasy team and are going to your playoffs (rather likely actually), then you better hope they win this game and have no reason to start resting players in week 16.

Quarterback: After establishing a ridiculous pace, Tom Brady has gone from throwing three or more touchdowns in every game to having just three over the last two games. What's even more telling is that he has been sacked three times in each of the last two games which pretty much only requires a defender to lightly touch him and send him to the ground curled in a fetal position. He's not exactly one to stand strong in the face of a pass rush because he so rarely has to worry about it. This week will be another test of sorts playing against a top defense against the pass but Brady handled IND well enough in week nine and this time it is at home. The Steelers may blitz on every play in this game.

Running Backs: Maroney Sharoney. He's not so bad. Laurence Maroney has broken the heart of every fantasy owner dreaming of Dillion-esque touchdown numbers this year since he only has scored twice. And he has not rushed for more than 59 yards since week three before he was injured. Too much passing to do and he has not been all that electric when he does run. Add in that the Patriots randomly use Kyle Eckel, Kevin Faulk or Heath Evans and there's no relying on a Patriots back this year.

Wide Receivers: Hard to believe that Brady has gone from no weapons to so many that he has to pick and choose. Sure, he likes Randy Moss with his league leading 17 touchdowns but Wes Welker has been outstanding this year though he went from 13 catches for 149 yards to only three receptions for 18 yards last week. Donte Stallworth has been consistent around 50 or 60 yards per week and now even Jabar Gaffney has scored in each of the last two games. Plenty of passing yards means a lot of fantasy points to distribute - and a lot for a defense to worry about when Brady drops back.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson has really cooled down in the last five games with only one touchdown and never more than 43 yards. He's there if they need him but they just haven't really needed him.

Match Against the Defense: This is where it gets interesting. The Steelers have only allowed three running backs to rush in a score this entire year and almost all have remained below 50 rushing yards. That fits well into the apparent limitation on Maroney. Minimal to moderate yardage and no score.

But Brady faces a secondary that has only yielded 11 passing scores in total on the season. No quarterback has passed for more than 248 yards against the Steelers this year and only three topped 200 yards. Like Derek Anderson? He has not thrown for more than 184 yards. Carson Palmer? 205 yards. But - Cutler and Anderson both had three passing scores against them. In both cases, the three passing scores were spread out among a RB, TE and WR. This is highly unlikely to produce a Pats receiver with a big yardage game but should re-involve Ben Watson if not Maroney, Faulk, Evans or Eckel as a receiver. The Steelers have excellent cornerbacks so other means must be used.

I like Brady to throw for three scores here in this big game with one going to Watson, one to Welker as the slot working away from the corners and the other to Maroney or a fullback. The Patriots have to adjust away from the wideout heavy attack they have been using. This game changes too if the Steelers get the pressure on Brady.

Gaining Fantasy Points NE 1 7 1 11 3 3
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 2 1 1 6 2 18

The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
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