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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late

Prediction: HOU 17, PIT 20

The Texans draw the short straw with a trip to Pittsburgh for the season opener. The Steelers were 7-1 at home last year and enter their second season under HC Mike Tomlin. The Texans have a new offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan but the same spotty rushing game from last year. This game may not end up indicative of either team by the end of the season, but definitely favors the Steelers this week.

Houston Texans (0-0)
Homefield: Reliant Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @PIT - +6.5 43
2 BAL - - -
3 @TEN - - -
4 @JAX - - -
5 IND - - -
6 MIA - - -
7 DET - - -
8 BYE - - -
9 @MIN - - -
10 CIN - - -
11 @IND - - -
12 @CLE - - -
13 JAX - - -
14 @GB - - -
15 TEN - - -
16 @OAK - - -
17 CHI - - -
HOU at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Schaub     200,2
RB Ahman Green 30 20  
TE Owen Daniels   30,1  
WR Andre Johnson   60,1  
WR Andre Davis   50  
WR Kevin Walter   40  
PK Kris Brown 2 XP 1 FG  
Pregame Notes: The Texans get a new offensive coordinator but with a name like Shanahan, no surprise that the rushing game still is going to rely on broken down veterans and unknown rookies. Matt Schaub was impressive last year when he was actually healthy and Andre Johnson became a stud once David Carr was gone. This team needs to focus on staying healthy and somehow creating a rushing game where none seems to be growing.

Quarterback: Matt Schaub enters his second season as a starter and 2007 was a success so long as he was healthy. In full games played, Schaub was passing for 260+ yards and bombing defenses with Andre Johnson. But he missed all of five games and parts of others. Sage Rosenfels remains the capable backup here but Schaub just needs to stay on the field. He has the receivers and without a credible rushing game he will be forced to throw every week - he just has to stay on that field.

Running Backs: What a colossal mess. Ahman Green lasts one play in the preseason before being injured yet untouched. Chris Brown was brought in from the Titans so he could experience life from the Texans Injured Reserve. Steve Slaton was drafted as an apparent third down back due to his size but may end up as the last man standing. Chris Taylor is a lock to get some playing time as well. This week Ahman Green is the starter but no guarantee who will carry the ball on offensive play #2.

Wide Receivers: The tough schedule early on could have an effect here but Andre Johnson was nearly unstoppable last year when healthy. Kevin Walter shrinks from fantasy value when Johnson is there but rises up if he is gone. Andre Davis made a solid replacement for Johnson in 2007 and remains as the #3 ready to step in if needed. With the rushing game looking so fragile, no doubt the wideouts will be needed even more this season.

Tight Ends: Owen Daniels may not make a lot of SportsCenter clips, but the Texans tight end turned in 63 catches for 768 yards and three scores in 2007. Like the wideouts, Daniels will be needed to compensate for the lack of rushing against a tougher schedule this year.

Match Against the Defense: Okay, so this could be better. A weak ground game hits the road to visit the #1 team at stopping running backs last year. On their turf. This is why you got Ahman Green so late in your draft. Do not bother unless you have no other options. Schaub faces one of the better passing defenses but one that had better stats last year thanks to facing some weak teams. Look for moderate success from Schaub who will connect with both Johnson and Daniels for scores. The Steelers will be after Johnson first and foremost but that didn't matter last year. Notable - no opponent visiting the Steelers had more than 209 passing yards last year.

Gaining Fantasy Points HOU 13 21 12 11 14 10
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 7 1 13 4 5 17
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) HOU -6 -20 1 -7 -9 7

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 HOU - -6.5 43
2 @CLE - - -
3 @PHI - - -
4 BAL - - -
5 @JAX - - -
6 BYE - - -
7 @CIN - - -
8 NYG - - -
9 @WAS - - -
10 IND - - -
11 SD - - -
12 CIN - - -
13 @NE - - -
14 DAL - - -
15 @BAL - - -
16 @TEN - - -
17 CLE - - -
PIT vs HOU Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 10   220,2
RB Willie Parker 80 20  
TE Heath Miler   20,1  
WR Hines Ward   50  
WR Santonio Holmes   80,1  
WR Nate Washington   40  
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Steelers enter the second season of HC Mike Tomlin and look to win the AFC North again after barely holding off the Browns last year. The change in coaching staff had little effect on the offense other than shifting most of the rushing touchdowns to the passing game. That put a huge dent in Willie Parker's fantasy value but made Ben Roethlisberger the third highest scoring quarterback with 32 passing touchdowns.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger was a hot commodity in many fantasy drafts after tossing the 32 scores last year but he only had 3154 passing yards. If Parker can start scoring again - or the rookie Rashard Mendenhall stop fumbling and score - then Big Ben will take a tumble in fantasy value. On the plus side the schedule is more daunting than in 2007 and the Steelers won't likely get by with just running the ball down and then dumping off a score to the nearest tight end.

Running Backs: Willie Parker gets a chance to make amends for a season where he rushed for 1316 yards on 321 carries and yet could only score one rushing touchdown. Just one. Najeh Davenport bulled in five but Parker had only one. Davenport is gone now but the Steelers added Rashard Mendenhall in the draft but so far he's developed a small fumbling problem and likely won't start the season with too much playing time. At least not until the coaching staff can get some confidence in him. He worth watching since he has the power back size and ability that the offense wants but so far Parker maintains his primary role. I won't project for Mendenhall until it is certain that he will post fantasy relevant numbers.

Wide Receivers: This should be a strong crew this year and in future seasons as well. Santonio Holmes broke out last year and remains the split end and Hines Ward returns from a season marred by knee problems but that should be over for now. Nate Washington will at least start out as the slot receiver but the Steelers added the rookie Limas Sweed who should figure in sooner than later. He's still a little raw but should come around to offer a tall presence over the middle for years to come.

Tight Ends: The new scheme last year made constant use of Heath Miller but rarely more than around 30 or so yards per week. He totaled 566 yards and had seven scores but lacked the consistency to be a viable fantasy tight end. His use also declined as the season progressed and other receivers were used more.

Match Against the Defense: The Texans keep using first round picks on defense but continue to be little more than average and less on the road. The Steelers always play tough at home and should manage to take this win with a balanced attack. I like Roethlisberger to start the year with two scoring passes that favor Holmes the most. Miller is another option too since the Texans were the worst team at stopping tight ends last year. Parker could have a decent showing here but the use of Mendenhall remains to be seen. Parker is a safe start though, just maybe not as spectacular as this matchup may seem to suggest.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 8 17 9 9 16 22
Preventing Fantasy Points HOU 23 23 20 32 25 18
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) PIT 15 6 11 23 9 -4

The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late


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