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

Prediction: PIT 20, PHI 24

Update: Ben Roethlisberger is on the injury report as probable with a shoulder sprain but he underwent full practices all week and should not be a problem to start. Reggie Brown has a chance to play this week but he is not expected to start and may only get a handful of plays and even fewer passes. Too early to project for Brown but he is coming around and hopefully will be ready to start by next week.

Unfortunately this is just a late Sunday game because it should have been a Monday night. The Steelers are undefeated and showing up with the dominating defense of old while the Eagles have also rekindled their dominant ways of recent years and barely missed taking down the Cowboys in Dallas. This is one of the must see games of the weekend and should be a defining game for both teams. Philly cannot afford to be 1-2 and the Steelers have not yet played any team that has won a game.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 HOU 38-17 -6.5 43
2 @CLE 10-6 -6 45
3 @PHI - +3 45
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 at PHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     250,2
RB Willie Parker 70    
TE Heath Miler   30,1  
WR Hines Ward   70  
WR Santonio Holmes   80,1  
WR Nate Washington   30  
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Steelers may have not faced a top team yet but they have certainly throttled their opponents so far. The Texans were overwhelmed in the season opener until the Steelers resorted to using back-up players to finish the game. Last week was a nail biter only thanks to the weather conditions of rain and strong winds. Heading into Philly will be a big test for the defense and Big Ben will probably need to crest 200 passing yards for the first time this season.

Quarterback: Two good wins and Ben Roethlisberger has barely played. Last week was his biggest game of the young season when he completed 12 of 19 for 186 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked three times in Cleveland and twice by the Texans and that won't begin to approach what the Eagles will throw at him. On the plus side, Santonio Holmes owners will welcome the Steelers throwing more. And the return of the rushing game this year will help the passing game as well.

Roethlisberger has a low-grad sprain of his AC joint in his right shoulder but is not expected to be kept from playing this week because of it.

Running Backs: Willie Parker has a hot start to the season and already has logged two 100 yard rushing games and scored three touchdowns. Granted - the defenses he has faced may be about as easy as it is going to get but no argument that Parker is back and that Rashard Mendenhall can cool his heels at least one season before expecting more playing time. If Parker can maintain his performance in this road game, he'll lock down his role for the rest of the year - if he hasn't already.

Wide Receivers: Although Hines Ward was overlooked in many drafts, he has resumed his place as the preferred target for Roethlisberger when the endzone gets nears. Big Ben has thrown for three scores this year - all have gone to Ward. Santonio Holmes had a bad start to the season but even in the bad wind last week he had five catches for 94 yards and even had one run for ten yards. Both Holmes and Ward will need to be at the top of their game this week.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller is just another tight end now good for only two or three catches per week. Only a marginal fill-in for a bye week now.

Match Against the Defense: The Eagles defense is still a challenge to pin down since they have had the extremes of Dallas on the road and the Rams at home. One thing is certain - the rushing defense is sound this year and stuffed Steven Jackson. Even Marion Barber only had 3.5 yards per carry. Look for a decent game from Parker but he should end up below 100 total yards and likely not score.

Roethlisberger faces a secondary that has been dinged the most by opposing tight ends - but the Steelers do not use Miller much anymore. Look for him to become involved again and for Holmes to have a decent showing here. I like Roethlisberger to throw for at least two scores.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 18 11 11 21 20 4
Preventing Fantasy Points    PHI 21 9 11 30 16 21

Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Homefield: Lincoln Financial Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 STL 38-3 -7 44
2 @DAL 37-41 +7 47
3 PIT - -3 45
4 @CHI - - -
5 WAS - - -
6 @SF - - -
7 BYE - - -
8 ATL - - -
9 @SEA - - -
10 NYG - - -
11 @CIN - - -
12 @BAL - - -
13 ARZ - - -
14 @NYG - - -
15 CLE - - -
16 @WAS - - -
17 DAL - - -
PHI vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Donovan McNabb     260,2
RB Brian Westbrook 60,1 60  
TE L.J. Smith   20,1  
WR DeSean Jackson   100  
WR Hank Baskett   20  
WR Jason Avant   40  
PK David Akers 1 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: Bit of a shift for the defense that held the Rams to only three points and then gave up 41 in Dallas. But there's nothing wrong with the offense this year with a healthy McNabb throwing like he did a few years back and Brian Westbrook still one of the most indispensable players on any team in the NFL. What has been a pleasant surprise is that the passing game has not missed a step despite being without the two starters from last year.

Quarterback: Two weeks in and Donovan McNabb has four touchdowns and 642 passing yards with no interceptions. He never runs anymore but he is throwing and moving better than he has in years and making the right decisions at the right time. In the Monday night game in Dallas, McNabb had all new mobility in getting out of a bad situation and salvaging what would have been a loss last year. The Steelers bring in a good challenge for McNabb but so long as Westbrook is handy, no play is ever dead.

Running Backs: Going against the Rams, Brian Westbrook had a decent game with 91 rushing yards and one score though he had only two catches for one yard. In Dallas in a much tougher venue, all he did was gain 58 yards on 18 runs with two touchdowns and added six catches for 45 yards and a third touchdown. The tougher the game, the more Westbrook shows up all over the field and eventually in the endzone. In Dallas, no other back had even one carry besides Westbrook.

Wide Receivers: The little guy DeSean Jackson may have celebrated a bit too early in Dallas when he spiked the ball at the one yard line by mistake but he has something to be happy about. He is one of only two players to ever start out with back to back 100 yard receiving games. While he and Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett all topped the century mark against the Rams, only Jackson was effective in Dallas. When Reggie Brown ever gets over his hamstring strain, the one player he won't push aside is Jackson.

Tight Ends: A bit surprising but L.J. Smith had a score and 39 yards on five catches against the Rams but in Dallas where the wideouts were better covered, he only had one catch for ten yards. Smith has been a security blanket for McNabb in the past but was little used last week.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers have been incredible so far on defense but that was only against the Texans and Browns. Look for the Eagles to use the same sort of offensive push that nearly worked in Dallas only with Smith as a receiver more. Jackson will be angling for his third big game and the Steelers will make it very tough. Expect a great game from Westbrook and McNabb, with scores being passed to Smith and Jackson.

Gaining Fantasy Points PHI 4 3 4 8 5 15
Preventing Fantasy Points    PIT 13 3 9 16 9 8

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