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

Prediction: PIT 23, CIN 20

Saturday Update: Benson and Henry both had a full day on Friday and are not expected to be limited.

Friday Update: Cedric Benson missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday because of his ankle. Chris Henry followed the same pattern due to a quadriceps strain but both players already had the injuries before last week's games and are not expected to miss this week.

The Bengals pulled off the upset in Green Bay last week but if they really want to stamp this season as different, beating the Steelers here would be the way. The Steelers have not lost in Cincinnati since 2001, winning eight straight in the home stadium of their divisional rival. The Steelers come off a loss in Chicago and can ill-afford to start out 1-2 on the season. But the Bengals will not be making it easy for them. This is a coin flip game. The Bengals can win, but they cannot afford to turn the ball over as they have this year.

The Steelers swept the Bengals last year, winning 38-10 in Cincinnati and later 27-10 at home.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
Homefield: Heinz Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 TEN 13-10 -5 37
2 @CHI 14-17 -3 37.5
3 @CIN - -4.5 37
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 CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger 10   250,1
RB Willie Parker 50 10  
RB Rashard Mendenhall 40 10  
TE Heath Miller   30  
WR Hines Ward   60  
WR Santonio Holmes   90,1  
WR Mike Wallace   30  
PK Jeff Reed 3 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: So far the defense has been good but the offense has surprisingly had problems punching in scores. The loss of Troy Palomalu hasn't hurt too much but the lack of any credible rushing game has. The next five weeks provide a chance for the Steelers to get on track with only the Bengals and Lions for road games. So far Roethlisberger has the only rushing touchdown - that's just not right.

I like a defensive score in this game.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger is trying to compensate for a lack of rushing but so far only has one passing score per game. He did rush in one touchdown in Chicago but only passes for 221 yards. So far he has been sacked six times and now heads to Cincinnati where the Bengals already have nine sacks on the year. This could be yet another season where Roethlisberger leads the league in being sacks. Until any semblance of a rushing attack shows up, defenses are going to be teeing off on Big Ben.

Roethlisberger passed for 216 yards and two scores in Cincy last year. He later threw for 243 yards and one touchdown in the home meeting. That falls in line with the roughly 250 yards and one score per game that the Bengals have allowed thus far.

Running Backs: So far the runners have been anemic at best but that does also reflect facing the Titans and Bears. Unfortunately there has been almost no spark to give optimism for better future games though besides the one 39-yard run that Rashard Mendenhall had against the Bears (note - his other two carries went for 0 yards). Willie Parker has topped out at 47 yards on 14 carries so far and has a rushing average of 2.5 yards per run. The Steelers would love to give the primary duty to Mendenhall but he has to turn in more than just one decent run for the season.

Mewelde Moore rushed for 120 yards and two scores in Cincinnati last year while Parker was out injured. The two runners later combined for 93 rushing yards in the home matchup. Given the split now between literally three running backs, none of these backs are attractive starts this week and Parker rarely excels outside of Pittsburgh anyway.

Wide Receivers: Santonio Holmes has maintained a hot streak with 83 yards on five receptions last week to add to the 131 yards of week one. Hines Ward remains as the possession player without a score this year. No other wideouts have really mattered. Mike Wallace has filled the slot for the first two weeks while Limas Sweed nurses a foot injury but has only 45 yards over two weeks.

Holmes had five catches for 89 yards in Cincy last year and later five receptions for 84 yards at home. Ward caught four passes for 60 yards and a touchdown in the road game and later only one catch for 37 when the Bengals came to town in 2008. The Bengals defense has been quietly better this year and is one batted pass to Brandon Stokley from being 2-0. The pass rush upgrade also means receivers have less time to get open. Holmes has been effective against the Bengals in the past so look for a similar outcome this week.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller only had three catches for 27 yards in Chicago but coupled with the 64 yards in the season opener, he's seen a slightly heavier workload than usual. He remains outside of fantasy significance but if he continues to show moderate consistency he'll warrant being a bye week fill-in.

Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 8 30 6 16 28 28
Preventing Fantasy Points    CIN 19 4 24 20 11 29

Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Homefield: Paul Brown Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DEN 7-12 -5 42.5
2 @GB 31-24 +9 42
3 PIT - +4.5 37
4 @CLE - - -
5 @BAL - - -
6 HOU - - -
7 CHI - - -
8 BYE - - -
9 BAL - - -
10 @PIT - - -
11 @OAK - - -
12 CLE - - -
13 DET - - -
14 @MIN - - -
15 @SD - - -
16 KC - - -
17 @NYJ - - -
CIN vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer     250,2
RB Cedric Benson 60 20  
TE Daniel Coats   20  
WR Chad Ochocinco   90,1  
WR Laveranues Coles   40  
WR Chris Henry   50,1  
PK Shayne Graham 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: Seems hard to accept but the Bengals really are one incredibly luck batted ball away from being 2-0. The win in Green Bay exceeded all expectations but from a defensive perspective and the apparent reality that Cedric Benson is going to show up and play this year. With Pittsburgh and Baltimore dotting the schedule, the Bengals always have a tough season but this year is lighter than most. Win here and the league takes notice. Lose and we'll all figure on the same old Bengals.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer comes off a very nice game in Green Bay where the defense was thought to be far better than it played. He passed for 185 yards and three touchdowns along with one rushing score as well. But his problem - and it will come home to roost this week - is that he has two interceptions in each of the games so far. He gets sacked at least a couple of times as well. He catches a break with Palomalu out this week to be sure, but Palmer is playing well so far other than his few mistakes.

Palmer never played against the Steelers last season. Ryan Fitzpatrick took both starts and had around 165 yards and one score in each game.

Running Backs: Could it be that Cedric Benson is actually worthy of having been a high first round draft pick and that the Bears team, organization and fans never gave him the support and love he needed? Probably not yet. But no question that Benson has played well recently for the Bengals and comes off a 29 carry, 141 yard effort in Green Bay. He's not sharing the ball and he doubles as a receiver in games where the pass rush is an issue. Let Benson have even just a decent game against the Steelers and he'll already be looking like a steal from your draft.

Benson rushed for 52 yards on 14 carries against the visiting Steelers last year. He later only managed 35 yards on 16 runs in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers rushing defense has been outstanding so far and Benson would be truly a big success with more than around 60 rushing yards. His role as a receiver should make him a marginal start for fantasy running back.

Wide Receivers: Not much yardage last week but all three wide receivers caught a touchdown in Green Bay. Chad OchoCinco has been right around 90 yards in both games this year while Laveranues Coles continues to have a slow start as a Bengal. He only had the one touchdown catch for just nine yards on Sunday but did not have the problem with drops that plagued him in the season opener. Chris Henry also had a short touchdown on his only catch and the supposed weapon still only has one reception per week. The problem with Henry is that the Bengals want to use him on deep patterns but he's getting doubled whenever he goes downfield.

Ochocinco racked up eight catches for 52 yards and a score when the steelers visited last year.

The Steelers secondary hasn't been quite as formidable this season and the scores in this game should go to the wideouts. If Justin Gage and Kenny Britt can have nice games against them, OchoCinco and Henry should manage to get scores as well.

Tight Ends: No fantasy value

Gaining Fantasy Points CIN 14 18 5 30 30 14
Preventing Fantasy Points    PIT 16 3 23 24 6 27

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