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

Prediction: PIT 20, BAL 10

Update: Ben Roethlisberger is still nursing a sprained shoulder and a sprained ankle and may not play a full game and could even be benched this week during a meaningless game. I am not changing the projections but be aware that Charlie Batch is likely to get playing time this week up to possibly taking the start from Roethlisberger.

The Steelers have the #4 seed which means likely playing in New England in the divisional round but all teams are likely going to have to play there to get to the Superbowl anyway. The Steelers are only 3-4 on the road and dealing with the loss of Willie Parker. The Ravens are a nine game losing streak and there is no reason to expect anything better this week with Willis McGahee out because of fractured ribs. The Steelers just have to get through this game - the same as the Ravens.

The Steelers won 38-7 when the Ravens visited in week nine.

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)
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 22-29 -4 39
16 @STL 41-24 -7.5 45
17 @BAL   -6 35
PIT at BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     200,2
RB Najeh Davenport 60    
TE Heath Miler   20  
WR Hines Ward   60,1  
WR Santonio Holmes   60,1  
WR Nate Washington   40  
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: Solid win over the Rams last week but losing Willie Parker puts an entirely different slant on this team. Fortunately Ben Roethlisberger is passing better than ever and Najeh Davenport has at least one decent game under his belt this year. The Steelers could elect to rest players this week with nothing to really play for and the Ravens are unlikely to put up much of a fight.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger is ending up the season on a high note with three scored in both of the last games and he hasn't thrown an interception for three games. He's getting sacked more often lately with 12 in just those three weeks. He had a decent game back in week nine against the Ravens when he only completed 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards but threw five touchdowns. With 32 touchdowns on the season already, he has passed Terry Bradshaw for the franchise single-season record. Roethlisberger injured his ankle against the Rams but continued to play and it is not expected to be an issue this week.

Running Backs: Willie Parker broke his fibula on last Thursday and has been lost for the balance of the season and playoffs. That leaves Najeh Davenport and Carey Davis left to carry the load though the Steelers are likely now to re-sign Verron Haynes if only for some depth. Davenport ran very well against the Rams with 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and added two receptions for 44 yards with another score. It was a huge game that benefited no fantasy teams. Those with Parker are crying in the beer now. Davenport will carry the load from here on out but even he sprained his ankle against the Rams though he did return. This is a bad time for the Steelers to need to adjust their weekly game plans and without a bye in the playoffs, there is no time to wait.

Parker only gained 42 yards on 23 carries in the last meeting against the Ravens.

Wide Receivers: Though the rushing game took a hit with the loss of Parker, the passing should be even more heavily used in the playoffs with Hines Ward filling in as the possession receiver and Santonio Holmes adding a deep threat. Nate Washington rarely gets more than two catches per game but both were for scores in St. Louis and he scored the previous week against the Jaguars. Holmes hasn't scored since week 11 but started out the last game with an 83 yard catch where he surprisingly ran out of gas before scoring. The receiver crew here is strong and will be even more important without Parker in the backfield.

Holmes had four receptions for 110 yards and two scores against the Ravens this year. Ward only had three receptions for 51 yards and also scored twice.

Tight Ends: While Heath Miller started the season out as a regularly used receiver but his use over the last five games has really declined progressively every week starting out with just 36 yards and winding up with only one catch for seven yards against the Rams on Thursday. After scoring six times in the first nine games, he only has one score in the last five weeks and has just been overlooked in the game plan.

Miller only caught two passes for 17 yards versus the Ravens but one went for a touchdown.

Match Against the Defense: The Ravens defense has fallen apart with both cornerbacks gone and Ray Lewis out. Still, the Ravens have been solid against the run and the Steelers are fresh out of Willie Parkers. Look for a decent game here by Roethlisberger that could be very nice - unless he gets pulled from the game. This is yet another game that could see players rested. I will assume a nearly full effort from the starters but that could change with game situation.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 9 18 10 7 16 23
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 22 3 28 3 32 25


Baltimore Ravens (4-11)
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @CIN 20-27 +3 40.5
2 NYJ 20-13 -9.5 33
3 ARI 26-23 -7 35.5
4 @CLE 13-27 -4 40
5 @SF 9-7 -3.5 34.5
6 STL 22-3 -9 36.5
7 @BUF 14-19 -3 35
8 BYE - - -
9 @PIT 7-38 +4 48
10 CIN 7-21 -4.5 44.5
11 CLE 30-33 +2.5 43.5
12 @SD 14-32 +9.5 38.5
13 NE 24-27 +20.5 51.5
14 IND 20-44 +9.5 44
15 @MIA 16-22 -4 37
16 @SEA 6-27 +10 40
17 PIT   +6 35
BAL vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Troy Smith     180,1
RB Musa Smith


TE Quinn Sypniewski   30  
WR Mark Clayton   40  
WR Devard Darling   40  
WR Derrick Mason   40  
PK Matt Stover 1 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Ravens are mercifully ending their season and the nine game losing streak will be a back breaker to a team that could see changes in both coaches and players by next year. The lone good addition last year of Willis McGahee is ending the year with broken ribs and OT Jonathan Ogden is contemplating retirement. Troy Smith is the starting quarterback and this team just needs to get through this week. It's been a bad year that will force changes for 2008.

Quarterback: Troy Smith completed 16 of 33 for 199 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start last week against the Seahawks. He also lost two fumbles and now gets to face a great pass defense. And he gets to do that without McGahee. Smith is getting valuable playing time to show his stuff but he comes into a bad situation that is only getting worse.

The Ravens only passed for 84 yards between Steve McNair and Kyle Boller in the previous meeting with the Steelers.

Running Backs: As the final insult to the season, Willis McGahee fractured two ribs and will not play this week. The Ravens will turn to Mike Anderson who ... no wait... he has a sore quadriceps. It just isn't fun being a Raven this year. Anderson may play but Musa Smith will likely get the bulk of carries this week against the #1 defense against running backs. Smith has not had more than seven carries in any game this year and scored only once back in the season opener. Mike Anderson gained 44 yards on eight carries last week but hurt his quadriceps and only had seven other carries this year.

McGahee ran for 50 yards on 12 carries but scored once against the Steelers in week nine.

Wide Receivers: Derrick Mason topped 1000 yards last week when he had five catches for 98 yards and a score in Seattle - he was the only wideout in the game with any notable production with Smith as the quarterback. Mason has 97 catches for 1015 yards on the year but only five touchdowns. Going into the offseason, all the Ravens have for next year is the aging Mason while Mark Clayton took a major step backwards this year and Demetrius Williams never stepped up before landing on injured reserve in week 11. Bound to make changes to this crew for 2008 though in fairness the quarterback play was never better than mediocre this year.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap was but one of many, many, many disappointments for the Ravens and fantasy drafters alike. The one-time safe pick for fantasy tight end hasn't played since week ten and only scored once on the year. While Quinn Sypniewski has stepped in, even he has only one touchdown on the year and has been nearly invisible since week nine.

Match Against the Defense: McGahee is out and Troy Smith is the starting quarterback. Even though the Steelers have nothing to play for this week and may be playing second-stringers in part of the game, the Ravens are already down to third-stringers so none of these players have any fantasy value this week, not even Mason who faces a Steelers team that held him to only 35 yards in the first meeting.

Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 26 17 23 23 18 22
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 5 1 10 4 5 17

The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late

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