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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 12
2012
HOU at DET (THU) *BAL at SD *MIN at CHI *SF at NO
NE at NYJ (THU) BUF at IND *OAK at CIN *STL at ARI
WAS at DAL (THU) DEN at KC PIT at CLE TEN at JAC
*UPDATED *ATL at TB GB at NYG SEA at MIA *CAR at PHI (MON)

Prediction: PIT 17, CLE 20 (Line: PK)

Players to Watch: Trent Richardson, Charlie Batch

The 6-4 Steelers won nine of the last ten meetings between these teams and on paper have a lot more going for them than the 2-8 Browns. But the Steelers are down to their third-string quarterback and the Browns are playing much better. These games almost always go off with very few points scored.

The Steelers swept the Browns last year, winning 14-3 in Pittsburgh and later 13-9 in Cleveland.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Homefield: Heinz Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @DEN 19-31 10 KC 16-13
2 NYJ 27-10 11 BAL 10-13
3 @OAK 31-34 12 @CLE -----
4 BYE ----- 13 @BAL -----
5 PHI 16-14 14 SD -----
6 @TEN 23-26 15 @DAL -----
7 @CIN 24-17 16 CIN -----
8 WAS 27-12 17 CLE -----
9 @NYG 24-20 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
vs Rush Catch Pass
RB Stevan Ridley 80,1
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey 4-70

Pregame Notes: The Steelers are within two games of the Ravens for the AFC North lead and have to travel to Baltimore next week - that'll make overlooking this game slightly easier though with a major problem at quarterback the team has enough issues to remain focused. The season rides on the next three road games - two divisional and then in Dallas. They'll have to realistically win out to take the division and likely lose no more than one or two more to even have any wildcard hopes.

Ben Roethlisberger is not expected back this week - that much has been conceded. Next week may be possible as he heals from a rib and shoulder injury but week 14 seems much more likely. Sadly that misses the two road games against divisional foes including the all-important Ravens match-up. Byron Leftwich did not make it a whole game before getting injured and is not expected to play with rib fractures. He's likely taken his last playing time with the Steelers at the least.

Charlie Batch will take the start this week and likely next. He's a career backup in Pittsburgh for the last 11 years and at 38-years old, what he'll be able to do against the Browns and Ravens secondaries is hard to predict. He's only started three games in the last four years and was considered worse than Leftwich.

Isaac Redman is out with a concussion but may be able to play this week assuming he clears all tests. He's expected back but would just be the #3 guy behind Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer. The Steelers are using equal measures of Mendenhall and Dwyer and there's no more room for another runner. As it is, the two "starters" water each other down to where either is just a marginal fantasy play.

The passing game becomes less attractive and harder to predict this week with Batch at the helm and on the road to Cleveland where CB Joe Haden is expected back this week. The Steelers also signed Plaxico Burress this week though he's not likely more much of a role this week. Antonio Brown is questionable this week and missed the last two games because of his ankle. If Brown cannot play, Emmanuel Sanders will start again and he was the lead receiver last week with 82 yards on three catches.

Playing the Browns is usually more fun than this is shaping up to be. All Steelers will carry far more risk this week in a road game with Batch at the helm.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PIT 16 18 15 9 10 32
Preventing Fantasy Points CLE 22 24 29 3 13 11

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT @HOU 0000031031 ***
No Antonio Brown limits things a little for Big Ben. The matchup is awfully promising, and he has talented playmakers in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant, in addition to the always dangerous Le'Veon Bell from the backfield. Houston has provided quarterbacks a touchdown every 12.3 completions (12th) and surrendered a big day to Blake Bortles a week ago.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT @HOU 6015500000 ***
Bell should see the rock aplenty with Antonio Brown out of action. The dual threat will face a Texans defense giving up big gains on the ground but modest numbers in the passing game to RBs. Since Week 10, this group has allowed 110.4 rushing yards, 34.4 receiving yards, and a rushing score every 17.7 carries (4th).
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT @HOU 0071202000 ***
The rookie gets to take off the training wheels, if that didn't already happen last year. The Texans have provided wideouts big performances while limiting overall team figures, mostly due to cake matchups. The likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Marquise Goodwin, Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens throttled this secondary in the past five weeks.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jesse James, PIT @HOU 003300000 ***
We won't even rehash the catch controversy from Week 15. James will see a few more looks with Antonio Brown out, but there shouldn't a great deal of confidence in starting him. Houston provides a wonderful matchup, so brave owners may be able to stomach the risk.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Chris Boswell, PIT @HOU 1144 ***
On a per-game rate, the Texans offer the top matchup for extra points and the No. 10 matchup for field goal tries. Together this forms fantasy's seventh-best matchup.

Cleveland Browns
Homefield: Cleveland Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 PHI 16-17 10 BYE -----
2 @CIN 27-34 11 @DAL 20-23
3 BUF 14-24 12 PIT -----
4 @BAL 16-23 13 @OAK -----
5 @NYG 27-41 14 KC -----
6 CIN 34-24 15 WAS -----
7 @IND 13-17 16 @DEN -----
8 SD 7-6 17 @PIT -----
9 BAL 15-25 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
vs Rush Catch Pass
WR Josh Gordon 4-60,1

Pregame Notes: The Browns nearly beat the Cowboys in Dallas and are playing far better defense in recent weeks. The offense still has struggled to post more than 20 points in any week and at 2-8 the reality is that tryouts for next year have already started. In particular, Brandon Weeden will be under the microscope for the next six games to determine if he will lead the Browns in 2013 or they, yet again, go back to the well.

Weeden's only thrown for 11 touchdowns so far and compared to other NFL quarterbacks he's been only marginally successful. Compared to anything else that lined up behind center in Cleveland for the last many years - he's done quite well. He's topped 200 yards seven times and crested 300 yards twice. His passing stats declined in the last few weeks but only in proportion to the success of Trent Richardson.

The rookie rushed for at least 95 yards in each of the last three games and scored six times on the year. He's even adding more receptions to the package with six catches in both of the last couple of outings. Those came against the Ravens and Cowboys. Richardson lags Doug Martin in the war of rookie running backs but he's come on nicely in recent weeks and against very good defenses.

The passing scheme doesn't use any one or two wideouts extensively. Weeden is spreading the ball around well and so far no receiver has topped 100 yards though Josh Gordon came close a few times. Gordon has been quiet the last three weeks while the rushing effort improved. His three game scoring streak stands alone against all other receivers here since they've all combined for just six scores all year. Weeden is taking what is given and using the players he has at his disposal fairly well. Last week Benjamin Watson scored twice in Dallas with a season best 47 yards on four catches.

This week should be a lower outcome from the passing game going against the best secondary in the NFL. The rush defense is also tops but on the road with their own offense less likely to do well means better field position and a different game than most PIT-CLE matchups.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CLE 29 14 28 23 17 15
Preventing Fantasy Points PIT 1 3 1 7 10 14

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Drew Stanton, CLE @CHI 0000024020 ***
Blaine Gabbert heads back to the pine with Stanton healthy enough to reclaim the starting gig after the former struggled mightily in Week 15. The Giants have permitted 265.6 yards and a TD every 11.2 receptions -- both ranking eighth in their respective categories. Since Week 10, this is the fifth-best matchup if you remove three quarterback rushing TDs from the equation.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Tyrod Taylor, CLE @CHI 30100017001 ***
Taylor threw just 18 times in the meeting in Week 13 and completed 50 percent of them for a pathetic 65 yards. New England's defensive strength is on the back end, and he has no fantasy utility in conventional formats this week. The Pats rank sixth toughest against QBs in the past five weeks.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Carlos Hyde, CLE @CHI 5006400000 ***
One of the last 121 touches against Jacksonville by a running back has scored, and the matchup rates as the second-worst in both scoring formats. This is strongly in the negative camp for all metrics but receptions per game (15th).
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Duke Johnson Jr., CLE @CHI 1004300000 ***
Johnson (shoulder) has a fairly strong matchup through the air. Chicago has granted running backs five receptions (18th) for 33.4 yards (22nd) and a score every 25 snatches. Unless this one deviates from the norm, Johnson will be an underwhelming play.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jarvis Landry, CLE @CHI 006601000 ***
KC offers the sixth-hardest matchup in PPR and fourth-worst in standard scoring. The Chiefs have allowed only one of the last 59 receptions by the position to score, traversing five games of action.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Josh Gordon, CLE @CHI 005600000 ***
Receivers have managed 13 receptions (9th) and 168.4 yards (6th) a game vs. the Bears since Week 10, with one score per contest coming on those 13 balls (15th). Gordon lines up to be a moderate risk-reward option based on the quarterback play and opponent.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Corey Coleman, CLE @CHI 003500000 ***
Receivers have scored once per game since Week 10 against the Bears, and this defense is giving up the sixth-most yards on a weekly basis. However, the quarterback play has been so bad that gamers would be taking a huge risk to start him.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE David Njoku, CLE @CHI 002300000 ***
It looked like the rookie was getting on track for a two-game spell a few weeks back, but he then returned to being a non-factor in fantasy. Look elsewhere for a flier play.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Zane Gonzalez, CLE @CHI 2211 ***
Regardless of the matchup, no owner in a championship game should consider a Browns kicker, no matter his name.

WEEK 12
2012
HOU at DET (THU) *BAL at SD *MIN at CHI *SF at NO
NE at NYJ (THU) BUF at IND *OAK at CIN *STL at ARI
WAS at DAL (THU) DEN at KC PIT at CLE TEN at JAC
*UPDATED *ATL at TB GB at NYG SEA at MIA *CAR at PHI (MON)

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