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

Prediction: PIT 17, NE 20

Update: Willie Parker has gone through full practices for the last two days and appears likely to play despite being listed as questionable. This is a later afternoon game so you may limit yourself on options by waiting but he should have some playing time this week if only to lower what Mewelde Moore would have done.

The Steelers have won two straight games and at 8-3 have the second best record in the AFC with a one game lead over the Ravens. They are 4-1 on the road while the 7-4 Patriots are tied with the Jets for the AFC East lead and are 4-2 at home this year. This game is more important for the Patriots but after this week they get a far lighter schedule than the Steelers. Coin toss game but home field probably just enough to push the Pats over.

The Patriots won 34-13 when the Steeler came to Foxboro during week 14 last year.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3)
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 23-20 -6 34.5
5 @JAX 26-21 +4 36
6 BYE - - -
7 @CIN 38-10 -9.5 37
8 NYG 14-21 -2.5 42
9 @WAS 23-6 +1.5 37
10 IND 20-24 -3.5 38.5
11 SD 11-10 -4 43
12 CIN 27-10


13 @NE - +1 40
14 DAL - - -
15 @BAL - - -
16 @TEN - - -
17 CLE - - -
PIT @ NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     260,2
RB Mewelde Moore 30 30  
RB Willie Parker 50    
TE Heath Miler   40  
WR Hines Ward   70,1  
WR Santonio Holmes   50,1  
WR Nate Washington   40  
PK Jeff Reed 1 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Steelers rank #1 in the NFL with only 160 points allowed this year and their defense will need to continue to deliver them since the schedule for the next four weeks will be tough - @NE, DAL, @BAL and @TEN is about as rough as it gets. The Steelers have the second best record in the AFC but the easier part of the schedule is over and the Ravens are not allowing them any room to relax.

Quarterback: Last week ended a three game drought for passing scores when Ben Roethlisberger managed one against the visiting Bengals but his lack of scoring is troublesome. After tossing 32 touchdowns in 2007, Roethlisberger only has 11 on year and is on pace for ending with only half as many scores as last year. His yardage each week has been all over the map with as high as a couple of 300 yard games and as low as three games under 150 passing yards. He is production is very sensitive to the opposing defense and his scoring is lagging in all cases.

Roethlisberger passed for 187 yard and one touchdown in New England last season.

Running Backs: Willie Parker reinjured his MCL and may not be available to play the Patriots. HC Mike Tomlin said that he tweaked it but he never returned to the game last week and has been an injury concern in all but three games this year. Mewelde Moore has proven to be a perfectly suitable replacement and I will assume that Moore takes the start unless Parker is cleared and practices this week. I will update as needed.

The running back projections are a bit harder here now since the Steelers are opting to use Gary Russell as the goal line and short yardage guy and he scored once last week on only three carries. Russell will only further decrease the value of both Moore and Parker.

Parker gained 124 yards on 21 carries against the Pats last year. Najeh Davenport added a touchdown on a reception.

Wide Receivers: Santonio Holmes had a concussion last week but is expected to play on Sunday. He still only has two touchdowns on the season and what is even worse is that his best games have come against Cleveland and Cincinnati when they needed him least. His scores came against good secondaries of the Redskins and Ravens but had little yardage in those games.

Hines Ward has been the best wideout here but even he is not above having a bad game as he did last week with only one catch for 37 yards against the Bengals. His five touchdowns lead the team but he hasn't scored since back in week seven.

Ward led all Steelers receivers last year when he had five receptions for 39 yards against the Patriots.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller caught his second touchdown of the season against the Bengals last Sunday but that was his first game back since week eight and he's been light on the yardage in most games this year. He has been around 40 or 50 yards in what proved to be the tougher matchups for the Steelers which should play into this week.

Miller caught four passes for 28 yards in New England last year.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriots at home have been tough against the run and only allowed two runners to score a touchdown. With an unsettled situation for the Steelers anyway, expect just a moderate game this week with likely no score.

Roethlisberger will have to come up big here to keep the Steelers in the game and the Pats at home have been far better against the pass than when they are out on the road. They have only allowed six passing scores over the six home games this season but I like the Steelers to pass for two scores as did the Jets in the previous home game. That should benefit the wideouts the most though the Patriots have given up four passing scores to running backs this year. Ward should get one of the scores but the other could go almost anywhere. I'll credit it to Holmes as a slight favorite but Washington or even Moore could catch it.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 17 22 11 22 21 14
Preventing Fantasy Points    NE 23 12 26 15 3 20

New England Patriots (7-4)
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 KC 17-10 -16.5 45
2 @NYJ 19-10 +1.5 39
3 MIA 13-38 -13 34.5
4 BYE - - -
5 @SF 30-21 -3 41.5
6 @SD 10-30 +6 44.5
7 DEN 41-7 -3 46.5
8 STL 23-16 -7 43.5
9 @IND 15-18 +5.5 45
10 BUF 20-10 -4 41
11 NYJ 31-34 -3.5 41.5
12 @MIA 48-28 +2 42
13 PIT - -1 40
14 @SEA - - -
15 @OAK - - -
16 ARZ - - -
17 @BUF - - -
NE vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Cassell     230,1
RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis 20    
RB Sammy Morris 30 10  
TE Ben Watson   20  
WR Randy Moss   60,1  
WR Jabar Gaffney   50  
WR Wes Welker   80  
PK Stephen Gostkowski 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Patriots dismantled the Fins last week but lost to the visiting Jets and cannot afford to fall behind. But fortunately this week is the toughest remaining game before @SEA, @OAK, ARI and @BUF end the year that could be a four game sweep. That means a win here against the Steelers will keep the Patriots in the thick of the division race. But it all depends on this week to get a jump on those easier games. The offense has come to life in the last two games but the defense lagged badly after holding the previous four opponents all to less than 20 points. The defense must return and being at home this week will help.

Quarterback: Tom Brady passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns against the Steelers last year. That was also the best yardage game of his career which is notable since Matt Cassel has not only passed for 400 yards unlike Brady, he has done it in each of the last two games. With three touchdowns in each. Cassel only had seven touchdowns in nine games before racking up six scores in the last two games. The one troublesome caveat here is that both games happened against well known divisional rivals. Cassel has really never played any defense as good as the Steelers. Not even close.

Running Backs: The pendulum swung back at BenJarvus Green-Ellis last week when he scored a touchdown for the fifth time in six games but only gained 20 yards on seven carries. Kevin Faulk also scored in Miami and had eight runs for 53 yards while Sammy Morris ran eight times for 35 yards. This is a committee backfield from hell in fantasy terms and nothing to consider in a week they face one of the top rushing defenses in the league.

Laurence Maroney had every Patriots carry against the Steelers last year and still only gained 18 yards on eight carries.

Wide Receivers: Randy Moss only had four catches for 25 yards and no scores when he faced the Dolphins in week three but nine games later he torched them for 125 yards and three scores on Sunday. Moss still lags his play from 2007 but at least for one game it was vintage Moss. It was his first 100 yard game in four weeks but at least is getting more relied on by Cassel who is gaining the confidence to throw it to the heavily covered Moss.

Wes Welker has only one score on the year but he has topped 100 yards in each of his last three games and currently ranks #2 in the NFL with 80 catches and has a pace for 116 receptions this year.

Moss collected seven passes for 135 yards and two scores against the Steelers last season while Welker had 78 yards on nine receptions and scored once.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson has a season best eight catches for 88 yards and one score against the Jets but then sandwiched that showing between games with a single catch and less than 17 passing yards. He can score but he is untouchable in fantasy terms.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers defense has been outstanding in almost every category and the rushing game for the Pats is split into three anyway so do not expect a decent showing by any Patriots runner in this game or a rushing score.

Cassel faces a secondary that has allowed more than one passing score only once this year (Peyton Manning) and no team has thrown for more than 240 yards against them (again, Manning). Look for one passing score and moderate yardage at best. Moss remains the best bet for a score but it would most likely be a short one that used his height to make the difference. I like the chance for a defensive score in this game.

Gaining Fantasy Points NE 9 10 5 28 2 30
Preventing Fantasy Points    PIT 2 2 3 11 6 22

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