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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Sortable Player Projections
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The Huddle
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
*updated Sat

Prediction: TEN 17, PIT 24

Update: Nate Washington is still questionable to play after being limited in practice because of his hamstring strain. He is considered a gametime decision but I leaving out of the projections. The matchup is tough enough completely healthy and Washington is not a good start this week.

The season opens with the Super bowl Champion Steelers hosting the AFC South champion Titans. This should be a great defensive showing more than any explosion in fantasy points but it will be a nice way to ease into the season. For those of you who actually have drafts on Friday or Saturday (many of the high dollar games do), expect the players to likely be undervalued since both teams will be facing very good defenses and won't be necessarily indicative of what the rest of the season will look like for certain players.

The Titans won 31-14 when they hosted the Steelers in week 16 last season.

Tennessee Titans (0-0)
Homefield: LP Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @PIT - - -
2 HOU - - -
3 @NYJ - - -
4 @JAC - - -
5 IND - - -
6 @NE - - -
7 BYE - - -
8 JAC - - -
9 @SF - - -
10 BUF - - -
11 @HOU - - -
12 ARI - - -
13 @IND - - -
14 STL - - -
15 MIA - - -
16 SD - - -
17 @SEA - - -
TEN @ PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Kerry Collins     180,1
RB Chris Johnson 60 20  
RB LenDale White 30,1    
TE Bo Scaife   30  
WR Justin Gage   60,1  
WR Kenny Britt   40  
PK Rob Bironas 1 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Titans ended last year with a 13-3 record which was tops in the NFL. Granted - they lost to the Ravens in the Divisional round but at least in fantasy terms all the same players and coaches return. The loss of Albert Haynesworth will affect the defense but the same cast of fantasy players remain on the offense joined by what should be an improved receiver crew.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins only passed for 12 touchdowns last year as one of the lowest in the NFL and even his 2676 passing yards were pretty anemic. It was a product of the historically talent starved wide receiver corps along with one of the best rushing games in the entire league. There are new receivers to work in and some optimism that the Titans at least get a small spike in passing production but this is and will remain a run-first team.

Collins passed for 215 yards and one score against the visiting Steelers last year. That should remain his upper limit facing what was the #1 defense against both quarterbacks and wide receivers last year. Plus Collins will be on the road this time and other than two games in Detroit and Jacksonville, he had no fantasy value away from Nashville. If Collins can pass for over 200 yards and one score in Pittsburgh, it would be a major coup. And unexpected.

Running Backs: Chris Johnson became the speedier part of a devastating rushing attack last year. As a rookie, he rushed for 1228 yards and nine scores with 43 catches for 260 yards and one more score. He only eclipsed 100 rushing yards in four games but between scoring and receptions rarely had a down game. LenDale White became the true thunder of this offense when he ran 200 times for 773 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Titans ranked second best in the NFL with 24 rushing scores.

Johnson gained 69 yards on 16 carries and scored once against the Steelers last season. White added 48 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown as well. Both performances were weak because the Steelers rushing defense ranked #2 and now the duo will be running in Pittsburgh where there were only two rushing scores allowed all season and no runner ever topped 100 rushing yards. Most had to settle for less than 50 yards. This week will hurt for Johnson and White owners but this is also as bad as it will be all season. If you draft on Friday or Saturday - look for better bargains on White and Johnson thanks to this game.

Wide Receivers: Justin Gage had fantasy value last year but mostly only because he was compared to the rest of the Titans wide receivers. Gage only caught 34 passes for 651 yards and six touchdowns or roughly half what a true fantasy stud would produce. He will be joined, eventually, by Nate Washington who signed a $27 million contract and gets a chance to face his old team this week. That probably won't happen since Washington has a hamstring strain and is expected to miss the game on Thursday. And besides, he is facing his old team who happens to be the #1 defense against wide receivers anyway.

Kenny Britt is the promising new rookie who has a chance to make some plays but he'll only be the #3 once Washington is healthy on a team that rarely throws to the #1 guy. This unit is looking up to be fair but it will never be a pass happy attack with the current coaching staff and players. There should be an improvement once this game is over but it's more a case where three mildly talented players merely drain production away from each other and there is not much to go around.

Gage had a nice game against the Steelers last year when he turned five catches into 104 yards and one score. This time in Pittsburgh, that would be a huge accomplishment. Gage and Britt will be the starters.

Tight Ends: The tight ends have not changed with Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler returning but there's only marginal fantasy value with this unit largely because the rushing game takes up all the scores and most of the yardage needs. Scaife had 58 catches for 561 yards last year but only had two touchdowns. The Titans also used their 3.25 pick on Jared Cook and he could become a factor sooner than later. But in the best case, this offense is not likely to produce a top ten tight end and the addition of wideouts makes it even less likely.

Gaining Fantasy Points TEN 31 5 30 13 9 7
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 1 2 1 8 5 23

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 TEN - - -
2 @CHI - - -
3 @CIN - - -
4 SD - - -
5 @DET - - -
6 CLE - - -
7 MIN - - -
8 BYE - - -
9 @DEN - - -
10 CIN - - -
11 @KC - - -
12 @BAL - - -
13 OAK - - -
14 @CLE - - -
15 GB - - -
16 BAL - - -
17 @MIA - - -
PIT vs TEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     190,1
RB Willie Parker 80,1 10  
RB R.Mendenhall 50 10  
TE Heath Miller   40  
WR Hines Ward   60,1  
WR Santonio Holmes   50  
WR Limas Sweed   20  
PK Jeff Reed 3 XP 1 FG  

Pregame Notes: Can't complain about a season where the Steelers went 12-4 and then ran the table to win the Super Bowl over the Cardinals. It was all about defense since the offense was only average at best. The same cast returns for 2009 with an aim to defend the ring. While it's hard to fault the line of thinking that nothing is broke so do not fix it, that's not nearly as kind to fantasy fortunes as it could be. The Steelers passing game has finally settled into "it is what it is" while the rushing game could use some improvement. But with no new players, the equation likely remains the same.

I do like the chance that the Steelers get a defensive score in this season opener.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger returns to resume his quest to be the most sacked quarterback in the history of the NFL. He was sacked 54 more times last year and the fact he misses so few games is amazing. All those hits make him an injury risk but he's been a solid fantasy backup each year so far. In 2008 he passed for 3301 yards and 17 touchdowns which is pretty much the definition of average.

Roethlisberger passed for 329 yards and two scores in Tennessee last year. He also had four turnovers and was sacked five times in that game. That was also the highest production allowed by the Titans all season. The Titans on the road never allowed more than one passing touchdown and only once did an opponent have over 190 passing yards. Expect only an average game here at best.

Running Backs: The Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall last season but he suffered a broken shoulder gratis Ray Lewis and missed almost the entire season. Mendenhall is healthy again but so far he's just not been very sharp in the preseason and certainly has done nothing to dislodge Willie Parker as the primary runner. The Steelers have been cool on Parker for two years now and have not signed him to a new contract. But he remains the best running back on the roster.

Parker had a knee injury that kept him out of five games and limited him in others. He ended 2008 with just 791 rushing yards and five touchdowns for his worst season since 2004 when he was a rookie. Parker also has very little work as a receiver that further reduces his fantasy stock. Parker has been bothered by a hamstring strain in the preseason but is expected to play this week without limitation.

Parker only gained 31 yards on 19 carries against the Titans last year. But that was on the road and Parker is at home this time. Plus the Titans are without Albert Haynesworth. Parker has always been much more productive at home than on the road so look for a far better game than last year.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward enters his 12th season and comes off a rejuvenating year with 81 catches for 1043 yards and seven touchdowns. It was his best effort in the last four years and a signal that he's not ready to slow down quite yet. Santonio Holmes remains the split end but his promise has dulled with three straight seasons of around 50 catches for 850 yards and maybe five scores. He apparently hit his ceiling as a rookie and just clicks along at the same rate. Nate Washington is gone but in his place Limas Sweed and Mike Wallace have both stepped up and made the #3 role a timeshare for now. Of course when the offense peaks with just an average passing game it makes being the #3 outside of fantasy significance.

Ward led the wideouts with seven receptions for 109 yards and a score against the Titans last year while Holmes gained 93 yards on five catches with a touchdown as well. This week it is less likely that the Steelers need to throw as much with the venue in Pittsburgh and the Titans defense trying to compensate for letting Haynesworth go. Both Ward and Holmes scored nearly all their touchdowns in road games last year and that's because at home the Steelers can win without the pass. Expect one passing score here that favors Ward the most.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller has become the standard tight end with around 500 yards and a few scores each season. He remains just a fantasy backup but one that usually has 40 or so yards per game with the odd score. Miller had a season best eight catches for 69 yards in the last meeting with the Titans but there is no reason to expect a repeat here. The emergence of lanky Limas Sweed could also impact what Miller does.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 14 24 8 21 18 5
Preventing Fantasy Points TEN 5 11 3 20 1 1

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