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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
WEEK 5
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday Late
Bye Week
CHI
Monday
SD
GB
*updated
NO

Prediction: PIT 27, DET 10

Saturday Update: Stafford had limited practice on Friday and HC Jim Schwartz will not name the starter for Sunday. He will wait until Sunday as if it is a big competitive advantage. Bottom line - no matter who plays they are going to struggle and Stafford is not healthy and having a bad knee is no way to greet the Steelers. Culpepper is much more likely to play this week if for some bad injury or planning reason you have only this game to get your quarterback from.

Kevin Smith has practiced all week and will be playing. Calvin Johnson was limited again on Friday but is expected to play.

Willie Parker has been officially ruled out.

Friday Update: Willie Parker has not practiced yet this week and is likely to miss another game. I am changing the projections to reflect Rashard Mendenhall getting another chance to impress the coaches with a fulltime load. Troy Palomalu has been limited in practice but may make it back this week.

Matt Stafford has not practiced as expected and Daunte Culpepper will take the start this week. Kevin Smith is back to practice and will be playing without any limitations this week. Calvin Johnson was held out on Wednesday and then had limited practice on Thursday to rest his bruised thigh but he is expected to play this week.

The Steelers appear to be back on track with their win over the Chargers but so far they remain 0-2 on the road. The Lions should be just the thing to correct that.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 TEN 13-10 -5 37
2 @CHI 14-17 -3 37.5
3 @CIN 20-23 -4.5 37
4 SD 38-28 -6.5 43
5 @DET - -10.5 44
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 DET Rush Catch Pass
QB Ben Roethlisberger     260,2
RB Willie Parker 50
RB R. Mendenhall 90,1 20  
TE Heath Miller   30  
WR Hines Ward   80,1  
WR Santonio Holmes   50  
WR Mike Wallace   60,1  
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: There is a chance that Troy Polamalu could return this week and as anyone holding the Steelers defense on their fantasy roster can attest - Troy apparently took all the fantasy value with him when he was injured. Perhaps not needed this week but he does add a tremendous dimension to the defense. Rashard Mendenhall enjoyed a coming out party last week when he made Willie Parker very uncomfortable. These next two games should be easy wins and a nice tune-up for the more formidable part of the schedule.

Quarterback: This week should be interesting for Ben Roethlisberger who has two big game at home and then his two worst games on the road. He still scored at least once in each and he's always had 220 or more passing yards each week. Big Ben passed for 363 yards and one score against the Titans against what is the most similar defense to the Lions.

Each opponent has passed for at least two touchdowns against the Lions this year and there's already been two passers to exceed 340 yards against them. Unless the run is shut down, the Steelers won't need to resort to that much passing.

Running Backs: Willie Parker missed last week because of his turf toe but now says he's looking forward to playing this week. He probably is more worried if he still has a job since Rashard Mendenhall faced down the injury depleted defensive line of the Chargers and scorched them for 165 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns and two receptions for 26 more yards. That was a bit more than the seven carries for 45 yards he had over the first weeks of the season.

This week should see Mendenhall remain the primary back and Parker to mix in to some measure. Parker will not be 100% over his turf toe in the best case so I will project for a limited Parker.

The Lions rush defense is not that bad. They have allowed three runners to score on the ground and while two have topped 100 yards, they gain less in Detroit. Adrian Peterson only had 92 yards and a score in Detroit this year. Expect one score for Mendenhall but only moderate yardage that gets split up with Parker. Mendenhall had a fine game last week but recall that Parker ran for 93 yards on the road in Cincy the previous week.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward leads the Steelers with 355 yards and has two games over 100 yards but both came in Pittsburgh and on the road, Ward has only averaged around 70 yards per week. Santonio Holmes had gone quiet since opening the season with a bang and hasn't scored since. In fact, the only scores by a wideout came in week one. Mike Wallace had a quiet game last Sunday but he is the only wide receiver to have a big game (8-113) while on the road this year. He has replaced Limas Sweed who was inactive last week.

The Lions can certainly be beaten by wide receivers and have allowed five touchdowns to the position so far. Devery Henderson and Santana Moss both topped 100 yards but most receivers have moderate games because the rushing attack works well enough against them. I like both Ward and Wallace to snag a touchdown here though one could end up with Miller as well.

Tight Ends: Heath Miller has turned in two good efforts this year with the 70 yards and two scores versus the Chargers on Sunday night as the high point. But worth noting here is that his two good games both came at home. His two road efforts never posted more than 27 yards in either. The Lions are softer against tight ends and have allowed five scores to that position. So far Miller has been more of a home phenomena which is not unusual so I am not projecting a score for him but he still has upside.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 5 9 11 9 23 31
Preventing Fantasy Points    DET 31 26 26 27 27 24


Detroit Lions (1-3)
Homefield: Ford Field
FieldTurf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @NO 24-45 +13.5 49
2 MIN 13-27 +10 47
3 WAS 19-14 +6.5 38
4 @CHI 24-48 +10.5 38.5
5 PIT - +10.5 44
6 @GB - - -
7 BYE - - -
8 STL - - -
9 @SEA - - -
10 @MIN - - -
11 CLE - - -
12 GB - - -
13 @CIN - - -
14 @BAL - - -
15 ARI - - -
16 @SF - - -
17 CHI - - -
DET at PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Daunte Culpepper     190,1
RB Kevin Smith 50 20  
TE Brandon Pettigrew   30,1  
WR Calvin Johnson   60  
WR Bryant Johnson   40  
WR Dennis Northcutt   20  
PK Jason Hanson 1 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Lions finally got their win this year against the team that was least favored to win but with Matt Stafford suffering a knee condition, the outlook for win #2 has to be considered almost non-existent. The Steelers cannot afford to fall behind the Ravens and these easy games cannot be overlooked. The Lions play much better at home where teams on average score about two touchdowns less than when the Lions leave Detroit but not well enough against the reigning NFL Champion.

Quarterback: Matt Stafford has been on a nice progression with more yardage each of the last three weeks leading to the 296 yards he threw for in Chicago last Sunday. He only had one interception over the last two games and has been slowly but surely getting better despite the ten sacks he has absorbed. Stafford suffered a right knee dislocation and is considered day-to-day but barring his practicing I will assume that Daunte Culpepper takes the start this week.

So far each opposing quarterback has thrown for at least one touchdown and when the Steelers are on the road so far they have given up around 250 passing yards in those games. But Stafford would be a step down from Cutler and Palmer anyway and now Culpepper presents even less problems for the Steelers defense. Consider Culpepper a bad start this week - Stafford too should he return.

Running Backs: Kevin Smith was able to play last week and while he had his worst game yet of 30 yards on 19 carries, he did score twice to salvage his fantasy value and he's still getting three or four receptions in games as well. Smith is only averaging 2.3 yards per carry this year but has also faced some of the better defenses as well.

That's not going to change this week with the Steelers coming to town. While playing in Pittsburgh, the Steelers have been tremendous at shutting down the opponents rushing attack but on the road they have less success. Figure on Smith only turning in moderate yardage at best with a score unlikely this week. There is a good chance that Culpepper will rely on him as a receiver and that could really help his fantasy value this week.

Wide Receivers: Calvin Johnson suffered a quad injury last week but said he was fine and would play this week. Johnson comes off his best game of the year with 133 yards on eight catches in Chicago but Daunte Culpepper likely takes over this week. That still should not be a drop since they played in five common games in 2008 and Johnson had three scores and never less than 65 yards in those matchups. Bryant Johnson disappeared again last week and apparently is dedicated to never having two decent games in a row. This show is all about Calvin Johnson and Bryant has been inconsistent as his complement.

Hard to imagine anyone outside of Calvin Johnson scoring but the Steelers have probably figured that out and will ensure that Johnson does not have a good game. He should manage moderate yardage if only from the bulk of passes thrown to him but no other wideouts have any fantasy value this week.

Tight Ends: The Lions are relying on the tight ends more lately and Will Heller had the touchdown last week with his three catches for 53 yards. That was more than the previous three games combined though and the rookie Brandon Pettigrew is starting to be noticed with four catches for 64 yards last week. The Steelers have a weakness against tight ends and have allowed four touchdown passes to the position this year. While very risky, I like this week to be the first score by the rookie.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DET 20 15 21 19 11 17
Preventing Fantasy Points    PIT 16 1 22 29 2 29

The Huddle
WEEK 5
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday Late
Bye Week
CHI
Monday
SD
GB
NO
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