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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket

Prediction: SD 13, PIT 23

Update: This will be the coldest game of the weekend with expected temperatures of around 24 degrees but no concerns about snow or wind.

LaDainian Tomlinson is listed as doubtful and never practiced this week the same as Antonio Gates who is considered questionable. Gates will not be 100% this week (nor any time this season apparently) but is still expected to play. Tomlinson may not even suit up.

Ben Roethlisberger was listed as possible from his concussion two weeks ago but he had full practices every day this week and should not be limited in any way.

The Chargers come off a surprise win over the Colts that did not feature LaDainian Tomlinson but instead carried the day with Darren Sproles and a punter who perhaps raised the bar for all punters wanting to impact a game. The Chargers won their sixth home game last week but are only 3-5 on the road this season and two of those were against OAK and KC. The Steelers come off their bye week as the #1 seed and will look to boost their 6-2 record at home. This game definitely favors the Steelers but the Chargers have already surprised.

The Steelers won 11-10 when they hosted the Chargers in week 11. That game was during a snow shower in 35 degree weather that had a wind chill of 26 degrees. This week will have a chance of snow and 23 degrees but no wind expected. Steeler kind of football. Not so much San Diego kind of weather. Then again, the Steelers lost 29-31 in the wildcard round last year when the Jaguars visited.

San Diego Chargers (8-8)
Homefield: Qualcomm Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 CAR 24-26 -9 42
2 @DEN 38-39 -1.5 45.5
3 NYJ 48-29 -9 44
4 @OAK 28-18 -7 46
5 @MIA 10-17 -6.5 45.5
6 NE 30-10 -6 44.5
7 @BUF 14-23 -1 46.5
8 @NO 32-37 -3.5 47
9 BYE - - -
10 KC 20-19 -15 48
11 @PIT 10-11 +4 43
12 IND 20-23 -3 49.5
13 ATL 16-22 -5 49
14 OAK 34-7 -10 43
15 @KC 22-21 -5 46.5
16 @TB 41-24 +3.5 42.5
17 DEN 52-21 -7 50
18 IND 23-17 +1.5 49
19 @PIT   +6 38
SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers     210,1
RB Darren Sproles 60 30  
TE Antonio Gates   40  
WR Vincent Jackson   60,1  
WR Malcolm Floyd   30  
WR Chris Chambers   50  
PK Nate Kaeding 2 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Chargers are on the road this week and that has been a major problem for them this year at least until they finally beat the Buccaneers in week 16. The week 11 game in Pittsburgh had the Chargers only losing by one point and leading in much of the low-scoring game. That game ended with a Jeff Reed field goal with only 15 seconds left to play.

Philip Rivers only passed for 164 yards and two interceptions in that game and even last week against the Colts only had 217 yards and one interception. That first meeting with the Steelers saw LaDainian Tomlinson rush for 57 yards on 18 carries and score one touchdown while adding 45 yards on three receptions. Darren Sproles had almost no role in that game with only two touches.

Antonio Gates was held to just 10 yards on two catches and Vincent Jackson only managed 25 yards on two catches. The best receiver that the Chargers had that week was Malcolm Floyd with only 29 yards on two receptions.

Going into this week, Tomlinson's groin will severely limit him at the least and could prevent him from playing. He has already termed it as the worst injury of his career and he only lasted for five carries against the Colts before bowing out of the game. I am not going to project for him this week though he may play at least a cameo role. He's going against a terrific defense with the worst injury of his career on the road. Nothing there says Tomlinson will be a factor this week.

That means that speedy Sproles should see the start and he has been deadly effective these last two weeks rushing for 115 yards against the Broncos and then 105 against the Colts with a total of four scores over those two games. But Sproles has never been a factor in a road game this year let alone as a starting tailback., His season high was just seven carries in Denver and his last five road trips only totaled six carries for 19 yards. He certainly will not be surprising anyone this week. The Steelers have the #2 defense against running backs and have allowed only two rushing touchdowns to visitors in Pittsburgh. No runner there has exceeded 100 yards as well.

Sproles will get some help from Michael Bennett but it will likely be minimal since the Steelers are so good against the run that the Chargers will stick with Sproles as the more effective.

The Steelers are ranked #1 against both quarterbacks and wide receivers and already stuffed Rivers earlier this year. They have allowed eight passing scores in Pittsburgh and Peyton Manning was tops with 240 passing yards there. Other than Peyton, no other quarterback has scored more than once in Pittsburgh. Vincent Jackson was blanked last week and was picked up for a DUI this week which may have some impact on his focus on Sunday.

The only good news here is that Malcolm Floyd may be back finally since suffering a collapsed lung in week 15. But Antonio Gates will still be hampered by his high ankle sprain. He's gutting it out and comes off a season high eight catches for 66 yards and a score last week but he's not tacking much on after the catch and the Steelers were able to stuff him completely in week 11.

Have to like Jackson the most for a score this week since the only wideouts to score in Pittsburgh were all the #1 for their team - Wayne, Andre Johnson, Mason and Owens.

Gaining Fantasy Points SD 5 7 16 6 8 16
Preventing Fantasy Points    PIT 1 2 1 8 5 23

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
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 33-10 +1 40
14 DAL 20-13 -3 41.5
15 @BAL 13-9 +2 34
16 @TEN 14-31 -2 34.5
17 CLE 31-0 -11 33.5
19 SD   -6 38
PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     280,1
RB Willie Parker 100,1 10  
TE Heath Miler   60,1  
WR Hines Ward   100  
WR Santonio Holmes   60  
WR Nate Washington   30  
PK Jeff Reed 3 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The bye week allows the Steelers to enter this game much healthier than the Chargers and they already beat them once this year - though only in the final seconds and by just one point. And the Chargers just beat the Colts who won in Pittsburgh back in week 10. The Steelers are coming into this game in a better situation than past seasons. The rushing game is back - recall last year had Parker breaking his leg and the Steelers had no fall back in the playoffs. And the defense is playing as well as it perhaps ever has. They have held six of their last seven opponents to 14 points or less.

Despite the snow and cold in week 11, Ben Roethlisberger still threw for 308 yards against the Chargers and completed 31 of 41 passes. Willie Parker was the star of that game with 115 yards on 25 carries and Hines Ward had a career day when he caught 11 passes for 124 yards and Santonio Holmes delivered 63 yards on five catches.

Roethlisberger left the week 17 game with a concussion but has been cleared to play.

This week will be a cold game again - even colder than week ten - but without any wind and likely no precipitation. Parker was successful rushing against them last time and the Chargers have allowed six rushing scores in road games this season and Parker already had the second best game allowed by San Diego.

Mewelde Moore still figures in for half a dozen touches a game but as long as Parker is healthy and productive, Moore doesn't horn in too much. Gary Russell too a touchdown run against the Browns but that was a blowout anyway and Russell came in later to run four times and score. Expect Parker to provide most of the rushing action this week against a defense that is much weaker against the run away from home.

Roethlisberger already had a big yardage game against them with no scores. In fact, he was the only quarterback who faced the visiting Chargers and did not score at least once. The Chargers secondary is their biggest weakness and five teams have already exceeded 300 passing yards against them. The Chargers rank 30th against quarterbacks so look for the no wind game to allow at least decent yardage and one score for Roethlisberger.

The Chargers are very weak against tight ends but Heath Miller has been a non-factor in almost every game this year and was out injured in week 11 when the Chargers came to town. Matt Spaeth had a season high 55 yards on six catches in that game so Miller could surprise this week. The Chargers have allowed 11 passing scores to tight ends and over 70 yards to the position per week on average. This would be a good week to give Miller a shot in playoff contests.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 14 24 8 21 18 5
Preventing Fantasy Points    SD 30 8 18 32 10 8

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