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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
 
The Huddle
Wildcard
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket
Saturday
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Sunday
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4:30 P.M. EST
8 P.M. EST
1 P.M. EST
4:30 P.M. EST
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Prediction: JAX 24, PIT 20

This is a replay of the game just three weeks ago when the Jaguars went to Pittsburgh and won 29-22. The only difference this time is that Willie Parker is gone and numerous other Steelers are ailing. If any road team wins this week, the Jaguars are the most likely.

Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5)
Homefield: J'ville Municipal Stadium
Grass
  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 29-22 +4 39
16 OAK 49-11 -13 40
17 @HOU 28-42 +4 41
P1 @PIT   PK 38.5
JAX at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB David Garrard 20   190,2
RB Fred Taylor 90 10  
RB Maurice Jones-Drew 40,1 20  
TE Marcedes Lewis   20  
WR Dennis Northcutt   30,1  
WR Ernest Wilford   40  
WR Reggie Williams   30,1  
PK Josh Scobee 1 FG 3 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Jaguars have been on a roll in the second half of the season with Fred Taylor running like it was five years ago and David Garrard passing like Byron Leftwich was supposed to. Combine in one of the top defenses in the league and the Jags look like a team that is peaking at the right time and that could be one of those rare wildcards that could potentially reach the conference championship. They are playing well in every aspect of the game and yet not relying on individual players to get the job done.

Quarterback: David Garrard was a big surprise as the starter this year when the Jags parted ways with Byron Leftwich to start the season but it was a move that has paid dividends. Garrard was passing for one score in every game until he was injured in week seven. When he returned, he started throwing two scores in every game. His yardage rarely exceeds around 220 yards but those two scores have been there in six of the last seven games.

Garrard threw for 197 yards and three scores in Pittsburgh three weeks ago. It was his only game of the year with more than two passing scores.

Running Backs: Perhaps Fred Taylor had a fantasy team with him on it that was about to miss the playoffs but whatever the reason, Taylor has been running possessed for the last five games that he played. He topped 100 yards in each and scored in four of them. Against the Steelers in week 15, Taylor gained 147 yards on 25 carries and scored once - IN PITTSBURGH. That wasn't supposed to happen since it never had.

Maurice Jones-Drew hasn't been the scoring machine we saw in 2006 thanks mostly to Taylor catching on fire. But he still has nine touchdowns on the season and against the Steelers he rushed for 69 yards on just 12 carries and added five receptions for 30 yards.

Wide Receivers: The Jaguars have a Patriot-like set of receivers (think Patriots pre-2007). None of this group can string together two straight games with big stats and all four will see use during the game and in the end, they combine for a solid yardage and scoring game. Reggie Williams has been a scoring machine with ten touchdowns on the year but he rarely has more than around 50 yards in a game.

In week 15 against the Steelers, Williams caught a score on his only catch. Ernest Wilford had a touchdown as well but only two catches., Dennis Northcutt led all wideouts with 81 yards on just four catches and he scored as well. They all work well in combination, but individually only Williams is reliable for a score.

Tight Ends: The tight ends get minimal play since they primarily block for the run game but Marcedes Lewis has scored twice this year. In most recent weeks, the better passing numbers have not benefited the tight ends. The wideouts as a group have stepped up and the tight ends have actually decreased.

Match Against the Defense: The question here is how will this week be any different than week 15? The Steelers are running out of left tackles and have Najeh Davenport as a running back. It's entirely possible that there is even more rushing by the Jaguars this week. Previous to the last meeting which was also the last home game played by the Steelers, there had been only two rushing scores allowed in Pittsburgh. No runner had gained more than 64 rushing yards. It could be that the Steelers just had a bad game and that all will be well but since that week Steven Jackson gained 85 yards on just 12 carries and the Ravens rushed for 155 yards in an admittedly meaningless game. But the Steelers offense is not as full strength as it was in the first game and that should lead to a better chance to rush for the Jaguars. Taylor and Jones-Drew should have nice numbers here because they should have a nice volume of carries to share.

Garrard had little trouble throwing against the Steelers and there's a good reason why - the normal match-ups of cornerback to wideout doesn't matter as much with the Jaguars who will throw three and four wideouts into patterns. Look for Garrard to pass for at least one score here and possibly two. His passing yardage should remain only moderate but after the last game, figure the Steelers to pay too much attention to the run and pay for it with a couple of short scores.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points
JAC
11
3
11
15
20
13
Preventing Fantasy Points
PIT
7
1
13
3
5
17

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  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 21-27 -6 35
P1 JAX   PK 38.5
PIT vs JAX Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     220,1
RB Najeh Davenport 70,1 20  
TE Heath Miler   20,1  
WR Hines Ward   50  
WR Santonio Holmes   60  
WR Nate Washington   40  
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: Unlike the Jaguars, the Steelers have the look of a team that peaked too early and is now beset with injuries that will be hard to compensate for. Willie Parker is gone and now they may be without DE Aaron Smith, OT Max Starks (who replaced Marvel Smith) and S Ryan Clark. And they lost Special Teams captain Clint Kriewaldt. Troy Palomalu still has swelling on his knee and missed practice on Wednesday though he will still likely play. Hines Ward was held out last week because of a sore knee and also did not practice on Wednesday. The team is beat up and now has to face the Jaguars who embarrassed them in the most recent home game. That may be motivation but that also may be a tall order.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger will return to start Saturday after missing the final regular-season game with a sprained ankle. The Steelers will likely need a good game from him with Parker out and Roethlisberger did throw for three scores against the Jaguars in week 15. However, he only completed 15 of 32 passes for 142 yards and was sacked five times. This has been a career year for big Ben with a franchise record 32 passing scores but it won't mean much if he cannot get a win this week.

Running Backs: The loss of Willie Parker hasn't really hurt... at least not yet. Against the Rams, Najeh Davenport rumbled for 123 yards and a score and even had two catches for 44 yards and another touchdown but then again - that was against the Rams. In week 17, he only gained 27 yards on 12 carries against the Ravens in a meaningless game though he scored once. Davenport will bring a much different style of running into this game than Parker had but then again, there was a reason why Parker was the starter.

Parker rushed for 100 yards on 14 carries against the Jaguars in the last full game that he played before injuring his knee. Davenport only had one carry in that game for a four yard loss.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward was held out last week to rest his sore knee and did not practice on Wednesday but is still expected to practice later in the week and start. Ward only had three catches for 27 yards but scored once against the Jaguars in week 15. Santonio Holmes only had four catches for 34 yards in that game and has been less effective when the Steelers face a great defense. Nate Washington has turned in two very nice games in the last two weeks but that reflected the Steelers lack of concern about those games more than anything. Holmes and Ward have to come up big this week to keep the Steelers in the game.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller started the year strongly but has really faded in the second half of the season. He only caught one touchdown in the last six games and never had more than 36 yards. To his credit, the one score he did have came against the Jaguars during his two catches for 24 yards.

Match Against the Defense: How Davenport will match up against the Jaguars is still largely speculation but it is not encouraging that he only had a four yard loss on his one carry in the previous meeting. He doesn't possess the speed that Parker had but should get a good volume of carries in this game unless the Jags somehow had a big lead early. Expect moderate to good rushing yardage with a shot at one rushing score.

Roethlisberger struggled to complete passes in the last game and this time he will be without his left tackle and the Steelers may reshuffle the line - that doesn't bode well for the rushing or passing game. The Jags had five sacks last time and could have more if the blocking doesn't hold up. Assumedly Ward will be healthy to play without limitation this week but the Jaguars secondary is one of the best in the league. Look for at least one passing score here by Roethlisberger that most favors Miller. It all depends on how well Davenport can run and how well the offensive line holds out the pass rush.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points
PIT
8
17
9
9
16
22
Preventing Fantasy Points
JAC
16
12
7
29
7
7

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