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

Prediction: BAL 10, PIT 20

Update: Willis McGahee is probable to play and will suit up this week despite having problems seeing because of his swollen eyelid this week. The venue is about as bad as it gets for a runner anyway so I am not changing the projections.

Other than in 2006 when the Ravens swept the Steelers, these teams have swapped home wins in each of the last five years. The Steelers won 38-7 when the Ravens visited in week nine of 2007 but later lost 21-27 in Baltimore in week 17. The difference coming into this game is that the Ravens are undefeated but have only played CIN and CLE and the Steelers just got thumped by the Eagles and lost Willie Parker. Ben Roethlisberger is banged up as well. Played at home will favor the Steelers but this game smacks of the lowest scoring Monday night game of the year.

Baltimore Ravens (2-0)
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 CIN 17-10 +1 39
2 BYE - - -
3 CLE 28-10 -2 38.5
4 @PIT - open -
5 TEN - - -
6 @IND - - -
7 @MIA - - -
8 OAK - - -
9 @CLE - - -
10 @HOU - - -
11 @NYG - - -
12 PHI - - -
13 @CIN - - -
14 WAS - - -
15 PIT - - -
16 @DAL - - -
17 JAX - - -
BAL at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Joe Flacco     140
RB Willis McGahee 40 10  
RB Le'Ron McClain 40,1 10  
TE Todd Heap   30  
WR Mark Clayton   20  
WR Demetrius Williams   20  
WR Derrick Mason   40  
PK Matt Stover 1 FG 1 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Ravens look very good right now but that has more than a little to do with only playing two home games against teams that are both 0-3 so far. This week is an entirely new slant to the game that perhaps merely running the ball is not going to be enough. The Ravens catch a break with injuries to the Steelers but the new offense is about to get a real test for the first time.

Quarterback: Have to respect consistency. Two games into the season and Joe Flacco has back-to-back efforts of 129 passing yards with no scores. He had two interceptions in Cleveland but has only been sacked once. Starting his career out against the Bengals and Browns as visitors is about as good as it is going to get this year. His time to be a game manager and just let the rushing game take care of business is about to come to an end.

The Ravens never passed for more than 171 yards and one score against the Steelers last year.

Running Backs: The return of Willis McGahee had him rushing 15 times for 64 yards and one score against the Browns last week. But Le'Ron McClain was given 17 carries and gained 66 yards with two scores himself. The return of McGahee did not change the workload for McClain but shoved Ray Rice to the back of the team bus. Rice only ran five times last week and while the team will continue to employ a committee backfield, he is going to be the odd man out at least until the other two are injured or become mysteriously unproductive.

McGahee gained only 50 rushing yards in Pittsburgh last year but scored once. In the home meeting, McGahee was injured and Musa Smith rushed for 83 yards and a score.

Wide Receivers: Once again, we have consistency. Derrick Mason has caught four passes for 43 yards in both games and never scored. The only shred of fantasy value here comes from the one 42-yard run for a score by Mark Clayton. Since that is unreliable, there is no reason to carry Ravens receivers on your roster. The Ravens will need to throw more in coming games, but that doesn't mean it will be any better than what they had against the Browns and Bengals.

Mason only managed to gain 35 yards on six catches in Pittsburgh last year but later had a team high six receptions for 72 yards.

Tight Ends: The anemic passing game here has even hit Todd Heap who has topped out with two catches for 32 yards this year. With a tougher schedule looming, Flacco will need to pass and likely will try to rely on his tallest and closest receiver.

Match Against the Defense: This is where the rushing game is challenged. The Steelers have not yet allowed more than 43 yards to any runner this year and none have rushed in a touchdown yet. The Ravens will be splitting duty between McGahee and McClain and they only had 50 rushing yards here last year. Expect a low stat day here with moderate numbers unlikely. The Steelers know enough to not worry yet about Flacco as a passer so will load up against the run. That will shortcut the offense entirely and the passing game hasn't been that impressive anyway.

Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 29 4 24 30 30 2
Preventing Fantasy Points    PIT 10 4 8 7 11 21

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1)
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 HOU 38-17 -6.5 43
2 @CLE 10-6 -6 45
3 @PHI 6-15 +3 45
4 BAL - open -
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 BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     220,2
RB Rashard Mendenhall 50 10  
TE Heath Miler   20  
WR Hines Ward   60,1  
WR Santonio Holmes   80,1  
WR Nate Washington   30  
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Steelers come off a disappointing loss to the Eagles that not only exposed some offensive weaknesses, it also knocked Willie Parker out this week and beat Ben Roethlisberger to a pulp. The Steelers defense has played very well every week and has only allowed three touchdowns this year but the offense has only scored one touchdown in the last two weeks. The schedule opened with easier games against HOU and CLE but starting last week is a three game stretch against PHI, BAL and JAX - that is no way to get the offense back on track.

Quarterback: As noted, Ben Roethlisberger has been taking more than his share of hits this year and has already has been sacked 12 times this year including eight just last week. He injured his right hand against the Eagles but x-rays revealed no damage and he is expected to play this week. So far, Big Ben only has three passing scores and has only been averaging around 150 passing yards per game. He has been playing with a slightly separated shoulder and a hyperextended knee as well.

Roethlisberger passed for 209 yards and five touchdowns when the Ravens visited last year and later had 218 yards and two scores in Baltimore.

Running Backs: Willie Parker sprained his knee last week but continued to play. Now HC Mike Tomlin has already ruled Parker out this week. That means the rookie Rashard Mendenhall will get his first start and he'll be facing one of the very best rushing defenses in the league this week. So far the only carries that Mendenhall had this year came when he was given 10 carries and gained 28 yards against the overmatched Texans in the opener. There has been no early word how long Parker is expected to be out but for this week, Mendenhall gets his shot.

Parker only gained 42 yards on 23 carries when the Ravens came to town last year and was injured in the week 17 meeting in Baltimore.

Wide Receivers: The minimal passing numbers have had an obvious effect on the wideouts and in particular Santonio Holmes who has only ten catches for 145 yards on the season with no scores. Hines Ward has fared slightly better with all three passing touchdowns by the Steelers but neither player has topped 100 receiving yards yet. Nate Washington showed up with five catches for 51 yards last week but he had no catches in the first two games. The receiver talent is here but Roethlisberger hasn't been connecting as he did in 2007.

Holmes had four receptions for 110 yards and two scores against the visiting Ravens in 2007. Ward only had four catches for 28 yards but Washington had his best game of the year when he turned in three receptions for 51 yards and two scores. The tougher the game, the more likely Roethlisberger has been to use Washington.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller comes off a season high game with four catches for 63 yards against the Eagles and he has been a bigger factor in games against better defenses. Miller only had two catches for 17 yards against the Ravens last year but scored once.

Match Against the Defense: The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 games, the NFL's longest streak. In the two games played this year, the best any runner has done is 56 yards by Jamal Lewis. This is the Ravens' first road game but the Steelers will be using Mendenhall in his first start so lower expectations about the rookie going against one of the toughest rushing defenses in the league. No scores and even moderate yardage would be a success here.

Roethlisberger will play despite being banged up and he will have to make the difference for the Steelers. I like Roethlisberger to end with decent though not big numbers here since the rushing game will not carry the team. Holmes is due for a good week and has been deadly against the Ravens in the past. I also like Ward as the possession receiver to snare a score as well.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 22 22 17 21 21 7
Preventing Fantasy Points    BAL 2 3 1 4 4 20
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