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

Prediction: PIT 20, CHI 16

The Steelers come off their win in the NFL season opener last Thursday and head into Chicago where the Bears are fresh off their close loss in Green Bay. This should be a battle of big defenses but the Bears have waned a bit in recent years and just lost MLB Brian Urlacher for the season. The Steelers just lost Troy Polamalu for a few weeks. But the Steelers have also started the year with a big time passing attack so this one favors the Super Bowl Champ.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 TEN 13-10 -5 37
2 @CHI - -3 37.5
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 at CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     240,1
RB Willie Parker 50 10  
TE Heath Miller   30,1  
WR Hines Ward   80  
WR Santonio Holmes   70  
WR Mike Wallace   30  
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: A very close, tough win over the Titans last week but this week is as hard as it will get for a while for road games. The lack of rushing was problematic last week but may be improving but long as Big Ben continues to throw accurate strikes all over the field, these NFL Champions are going to be in the driver seat for a while longer.

Quarterback: Big Ben Roethlisberger took the Steelers to the win with his best game since 2006. He passed for 363 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions and, of course, four sacks. Going against the tough Titan secondary (at least we thought it was) not only a challenge that Roethlisberger passed, but he had both starting wideouts top 100 yards in the game. It was a solid effort to start the year but not unlike the 329 yard game he had in Tennessee last year. What was different was the compete lack of a ground game that the Steelers had. That will force Roethlisberger to the air more this year if it doesn't get on track soon.

The Bears were effective limiting Aaron Rodgers last week and will be in Chicago for this game. That casts some doubt on how well Big Ben will throw though the Titans always have a top secondary and he shredded them. Look for at least moderate yardage here in a game likely to remain low scoring.

I like the chance for a defensive score in this game.

Running Backs: Let's hope it was an aberration. And apparently the Titans loss of Albert Haynesworth has not affected their rushing defense since Willie Parker ran 13 times and only gained 19 yards. Rashard Mendenhall had four carries and only six yards. Toss in Mewelde Moore's stats and the power rushing game of the Steelers produced a total of 33 yards on 22 carries. Guess which NFL team is ranked #32 for running backs this week?

In fantasy terms, the even worse aspect is that Parker had a 3:1 ratio of carries over Mendenhall but only had one catch. When the Steelers went into pass formations, Mewelde Moore was the back and had four catches. So the production here becomes a three headed monster. The only real chance for fantasy value is if Parker goes against a soft defense and picks up decent rushing yardage.

Parker also is suspected of still nursing a sore hamstring along with him admitting that he was rusty to start with in the game from missing practice time. Parker has rarely been a factor away from Pittsburgh so with a potentially sore hamstring on the road he should be avoided this week. The loss of Brian Urlacher helps, but not enough.

Wide Receivers: Far exceeding all expectations, the wide receivers had a major impact on the win last week with Hines Ward (8-103) and Santonio Holmes (9-131, 1 TD) racking up major fantasy points. Mike Wallace (3-32) figured in but it was all about Ward and Holmes last week. The showing has to give pause to defensive coordinators used to stopping the run first and foremost.

This week in Chicago will be a challenge but so was facing the Titans. The Packers were mildly successful against them on Sunday and only one long catch by Greg Jennings saved their game. But the Steelers should have no problem in producing via the pass for at least moderate yardage. Look for HInes Ward as the possession receiver to get the most catches but Holmes is still a good fantasy start. The Steelers are not likely to run well. They will have to pass and that goes through Ward and Holmes first.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller has been a forgotten man in recent seasons but last week he had eight catches for 64 yards and once again became a valued component in the passing game. Considering the likely challenge rushing, Miller is not a bad play this week.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 6 31 3 17 16 22
Preventing Fantasy Points    CHI 8 12 20 4 20 27

Chicago Bears (0-1)
Homefield: Soldier Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @GB 15-21 +4 46
2 PIT - +3 37.5
3 @SEA - - -
4 DET - - -
5 BYE - - -
6 @ATL - - -
7 @CIN - - -
8 CLE - - -
9 ARI - - -
10 @SF - - -
11 PHI - - -
12 @MIN - - -
13 STL - - -
14 GB - - -
15 @BAL - - -
16 MIN - - -
17 @DET - - -
CHI vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler     220,1
RB Matt Forte 50 20  
TE Greg Olsen   20  
WR Devin Hester   70  
WR Earl Bennett   60,1  
WR Johnny Knox   50  
PK Robbie Gould 3 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: Tough break for the Bears to lose their game Green Bay right at the end and to have Brian Urlacher lost for the season as well. The offense struggled last week win a surprising difficulty rushing and Jay Cutler clearly not yet comfortable in the new offense there. He settled down later but in the end the defense just could not deny Aaron Rodgers from his comeback win. This will be a tough game but not the end of the world to lose by any means thanks to a decent schedule of games. But the offense has to get in synch quickly.

Quarterback: Jay Cutler's debut in Chicago could have gone better. He passed for 277 yards and a score but that included completing only 17 of 36 passes, being sacked twice and interception four times. He was clearly not on the same page with the receivers and some passes were hard to determine who the target was. He did get better later in the game and they almost won despite the four turnovers. But it was a very different night for Chicago in every way. Turnovers galore, constant strikes deep down field and no use of running backs and tight ends. It was reverso world from the Orton days.

This week is even worse since the Steelers have a very solid secondary that always ranks among the best. Cutler catches a break with Palomalu out but there's plenty of others will to carry the torch. Look for a rough day for Cutler who is not yet done making mistakes.

Running Backs: Here was one of the less admired changes in the fantasy world. It wasn't enough for Matt Forte to only gain 55 yards on 25 carries. He also added exactly zero receptions. None. Had one pass and missed it. The NFL leader for running back receptions last year (63) had none. That'll make a few regret taking him so high in reception point leagues if it lasts. While you should never base anything from a single game, it was disappointing and yet in line with exactly the way Jay Cutler runs an offense since he almost never checked down to a running back in Denver.

Forte did carry the full load with only minimal help from Garrett Wolfe. He is still a fulltime back destined to be overworked this year. But he only gained 2.2 yards per carry and had not catches. Playing the Steelers is unlikely to make that look much better.

Expect no more yardage than last week for Forte. The Steelers always have a top rushing defense. I will assume that he is not crossed off the receivers list quite yet but no catches in week two will become a trend his owners will not welcome.

Wide Receivers: As disappointed as Forte owners may be, you have to love what it looks like when Chicago actually can throw to the wide receivers. Devin Hester turned four receptions into 90 yards and a touchdown. Johnny Knox had 82 yards on two catches. When has Orton had wideouts with average catches of 23 and 41 yards each? Never is when. And Earl Bennett topped them all with 13 targets and seven receptions for 66 yards. The offense struggled a bit and moved in chunks. But it is headed in the right direction and these wide receivers are going to matter like never before.

The passing game will be hard pressed to have big numbers this week but at least what is there will belong to the wide receivers. Both Justin Gage (7-78, 1 TD) and Kenny Britt (4-85) had nice showings against the Steelers. Look for similar success from last week along with the requisite interceptions.

Tight Ends: The Packers deliberately schemed to cover Greg Olsen and they nearly removed him from the game when he had just one catch for eight yards on six passes. Look for the Steelers to go for a similar scheme to force Cutler downfield.

Gaining Fantasy Points CHI 9 29 4 25 13 20
Preventing Fantasy Points    PIT 13 8 25 12 7 28

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