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

Prediction: JAC 17, PIT 20

Update: There are two concerns going into this game. First, Ben Roethlisberger has been held out of practice for the last two days because of what is described as a sore shoulder. HC Mike Tomlin says it is nothing serious but it has been enough to sit him for two important days of preparation. If you intend on using Roethlisberger this week, then make sure that he is active for the game. The other issue at hand is that the forecast calls for snow before and during the game and the temperatures will be below freezing so it will stick. That will effect both teams and particularly the Jaguars who don't get a lot of snow back in Florida. I already figured on this being a defensive battle and now with the snow and Roethlisberger ailing, it will almost certainly come in with lesser points for both teams. Much depends on the conditions of the field and the win is expected to be around 17 miles per hour which is plenty strong enough to affect longer passes. I like the PIT defense to score a touchdown now and for Roethlisberger to have one less. This will be a hard game to call since it will be affected by the weather to some degree.

This is the best match-up of the weekend with the Jaguars trying to hold on to their one game lead for a wild card and the Steelers wanting to get the AFC North title locked away before next week. Both teams have 9-4 records but the Steelers are 7-0 at home while the Jaguars are just 4-2 on the road.

In week two of 2006, The Steelers were shutout 0-9 in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4)
Homefield: J'ville Municipal Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 TEN 10-13 -6.5 37.5
2 ATL 13-7 -10.5 34.5
3 @DEN 23-14 +3 35.5
4 BYE - - -
5 @KC 17-7 -2 35
6 HOU 37-17 -7 37
7 IND 7-29 +3.5 45
8 @TB 24-23 -4 32.5
9 @NO 24-41 +3.5 40
10 @TEN 28-13 +4 35
11 SD 24-17 -3 41
12 BUF 36-14 -7.5 36
13 @IND 25-28 +7 44.5
14 CAR 37-6 +10.5 38
15 @PIT   +4 39
16 OAK 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 @HOU 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
JAX at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB David Garrard 20   160,1
RB Fred Taylor 50 10  
RB Maurice Jones-Drew 30,1 20  
TE Marcedes Lewis   20  
WR Dennis Northcutt   20  
WR Ernest Wilford   20  
WR Reggie Williams   40,1  
PK Josh Scobee 1 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Jaguars have to get through this week but even a loss here is not a huge deal with remaining games against the Raiders and at Houston. It's not official yet but the Jags would almost have to try to miss getting a wildcard. The road has not been kind to the Jags this year but the team has been building offensively and may be peaking right at the best time. The last seven games have all contained at least 24 points and the defense remains one of the better overall units in the league.

Quarterback: David Garrard has been back for four games now and never failed to score at least once. In fact, he has scored two touchdowns in four of his last five full games played and only has one interception on the year. He's made good use of Reggie Williams when Leftwich never could and is a solid game manager with the ability to step up when needed.

Leftwich was the starter last year when he passed for 260 yards and no scores against the visiting Steelers in week two of last season.

Running Backs: While Maurice Jones-Drew remains a good scorer with four touchdowns over the last five games, his yardage has rarely been above 50 in most games this year and lately Fred Taylor has been rejuvenated. After plodding along in the first nine games without a score, he had one touchdown in week ten but only 45 yards on 16 carries. Then he had 85 rushing yards against the Chargers which has led to three straight games over the 100 rushing yard mark and he has scored twice over the last three weeks. If's like everything expected of Jones-Drew happening with Taylor. Jones-Drew still gets his ten carries per game but hasn't been doing much with it while Taylor is breaking long gainers almost weekly lately. That's great for the Jaguars who have a formidable one-two punch in the backfield and a boon to Taylor owners. Not quite so happy for the Jones-Drew people.

Taylor rushed for 92 yards on 22 carries against the Steelers last year while the fresh rookie Jones-Drew only had two carries for four yards.

Wide Receivers: After languishing for a couple of years with Byron Leftwich and not even playing in week one, Reggie Williams has finally had the break out season hoped for when he was a first round selection by the Jaguars. He has scored seven times this year - one more score than all other wideouts combined - and he has been around 60 to 90 yards per game for the last four weeks. With a strong running game, Williams has finally ended up as the reliable receiver the Jaguars always wanted.

Williams had eight receptions for 95 yards versus the Steelers last year while Matt Jones caught six passes for 73 yards.

Tight Ends: Marcedes Lewis has been a solid contributor when Garrard plays and usually has 30 to 40 yards in most of those games. He has scored twice over the last four games.

Match Against the Defense: The big problem here is that the Steelers are #1 against running backs and have never allowed more than 64 rushing yards to any visiting runner this year. They have only surrendered three rushing scores over 13 games. While there is a chance that the Jags could score a rushing touchdown here, it's unlikely to be accompanied by many yards. This game should be well below freezing and there is a chance of snow as well. That should result in a low scoring game with not much production on either side and even less for the Florida-based Jaguars. I like the Jaguars to eventually get one passing score but the yardage on that will not be big as well. That has to favor Williams who plays the slot anyway and won't draw the cornerbacks like Northcutt or Wilford.

Gaining Fantasy Points JAC 17 5 19 15 15 13
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 4 1 5 6 5 15


Pittsburgh Steelers (9-4)
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 13-34 +10.5 51
15 JAC   -4 39
16 @STL 20-Dec THU 8:15 PM
17 @BAL 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
PIT vs JAC Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     200,1
RB Willie Parker 60 10  
TE Heath Miler   20,1  
WR Hines Ward   60  
WR Santonio Holmes   40  
WR Nate Washington   40  
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Steelers come off their thumping by the Patriots and while there could be some emotional downturn here from getting drummed in a game they were motivated to win, likely it won't happen since they had to know it was a likely outcome and they still have not clinched the NFC North yet. This week will not be a gimmee game either. And on the road for the last two weeks when the Steelers are only 2-4 away from Pittsburgh has to help keep them focused to win this game. The Browns could very well win out and that means the Steelers have to keep winning as well.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger has been enjoying a career year with 26 passing scores against only 11 interceptions so far but he's been less productive in recent weeks when the last four games have not seen him top 195 passing yards and he only has four scores in that time span. Going against the Patriots (187 yards, 1 TD) was an understandable drop but the Jets, Bengals and Dolphins? The loss of Santonio Holmes for a couple of weeks helps explain it some,but he still has not been nearly as good for the last month.

Roethlisberger passed for 141 yards and two interceptions in Jacksonville last year.

Running Backs: Willie Parker comes off a nice 124 yard, 21 carry effort in New England and that was his first 100 yard effort since week ten against the visiting Browns. Parker currently ranks #1 in the NFL with 306 carries on the season and 1217 yards as well. He only has two rushing scores though and overall has just a hair under a four yard per carry average. He gets more work than any other running back and while he has more yardage than any other, he only has 17 more yards than #2 Adrian Peterson who has108 less carries than Parker. Parker has been a workhorse this year, but he has hardly been a thoroughbred. The Steelers as a team only have five rushing touchdowns by running backs.

Parker only gained 20 yards on 11 runs in Jacksonville last season.

Wide Receivers: Santonio Holmes missed two games with a high ankle sprain but returned last week. With only one catch for 13 yards, he probably could have waited another week. Holmes had been a favorite deep ball threat for Roethlisberger until he was injured and his absence has hurt the offense since neither Nate Washington or Cedrick Wilson stepped up to fill the void. Holmes is expected to play this week and should be healthier but in a cold game with possible snow, his outlook is not that rosy yet.

Hines Ward did play very well in Holmes absence with 20 catches for 178 yards and two scores over those two games but he too settled for only five receptions for 39 yards in New England. Both players need to show up this week against a good Jaguars rush defense that could limit Parker.

No wideout had more than 32 yards in Jacksonville last year.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller remains in the mix for about 30 yards in each of the last three games but it is a step down from when he had five scores over five weeks during midseason. He has spend more time blocking and rarely gets more than four passes per game.

Match Against the Defense: The Jaguars rushing defense has been outstanding and only allowed three rushing scores this season. No runner has topped 85 rushing yards since week one and most settle for under 60 yards. This falls into the pattern of Parker who had been running like he is starting to wear down until his showing in New England that was propped up with 49 yards on two runs and otherwise was 19 carries for 76 yards - back below his four yard average. His five previous games only averaged around three yards per carry, Look for a moderate game by Parker but not the home explosion we saw last year.

Roethlisberger faces a secondary that can be beaten with the last four road opponents throwing for over 250 yards per game and around two scores. Despite the cold weather, I like Roethlisberger to manage the same with scores likely for Ward as the possession guy and Miller.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 8 17 11 8 13 20
Preventing Fantasy Points JAC 22 8 11 29 7 4

The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
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