fantasy football     JOIN THE HUDDLE    


Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
September 6, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
BAL at TB NO at CLE     SD at OAK

Prediction: MIA 17, PIT 20

This is shaping up to be a rather interesting Thursday night game. The Dolphins (9-7) ended 2005 with a six game winning streak and have added Daunte Culpepper. The Steelers (11-5) come off a Super Bowl win and will be without Ben Roethlisberger who apparently failed to make the final payment fo the gods of fate for their work last January.

Miami Dolphins (0-0)
1 --- @PIT 10 --- KC
2 --- BUF 11 --- MIN
3 --- TEN 12 --- @DET
4 --- @HOU 13 --- JAX
5 --- @NE 14 --- NE
6 --- @NYJ 15 --- @BUF
7 --- GB 16 --- NYJ
8 Open Bye 17 --- @IND
9 --- @CHI - MON THU
MIA vs PIT Rush Catch Pass
QB Daunte Culpepper 10 0 210,1
RB Ronnie Brown 80,1 30 0
TE Randy McMichael 0 30 0
WR Chris Chambers 0 70 0
WR Marty Booker 0 50,1 0
WR Wes Welker 0 20 0
PK Olindo Mare 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Dolphins lost Ricky Williams, again, but this time around they have Ronnie Brown who has a year under his belt and is primed for a big year. They also added Daunte Culpepper who comes in as a rather major upgrade over Gus Frerotte. What they don't have is offensive Scott Linehan who left to head the Rams and now Mike Mularkey will be running the offense much like we saw in Pittsburgh. The offense will lose some of those longer pass plays but should incorporate some interesting gimmick plays from the bag of tricks of Mularkey.

Quarterback: Daunte Culpepper tore three ligaments last year - his ACL, PCL and MCL. Don't worry, there was still one left to hold the knee together. Culpepper's rehab and return has been impressive and he looked very much back to form in his limited play during the preseason. The question now is which Culpepper the Dolphins just bought? The one that was the #1 fantasy star for three straight years or the one that struggled mightily without Randy Moss and OC Scott Linehan? The answer starts this week but it will reasonably take Culpepper more time to become completely healthy and comfortable in the new offense.

Running Backs: Ronnie Brown ended his rookie year with 207 carries for 907 yards and five touchdowns that included 32 catches for 232 yards. But he shared with Ricky Williams who is now gone. That means if Brown was able to maintain the same production that the duo produced last year, he would be looking at 375 carries for 1650 rushing yards - that would be more carries than any other back last year and 4th best in the league in yards. There was a concern too that Brown was wearing down a bit towards the end of the year but that is not unusual for a rookie used to 12 game seasons.

Brown is in a great offense to do special things this year and was considered the most talented back coming out of the 2005 draft. This is the year to prove it.

Wide Receivers: Chris Chambers thoroughly enjoyed the new offense of Linehan last year and responded with 11 touchdowns and 1118 yards on the season. The reality there was that it was roughly an average season for him but had a 15 catch, 238 yard game in week 13 against the Bills that finally pushed him over the 1000 mark for the first time. But Chambers has never played with a quarterback the caliber of Culpepper so the optimism has not waned at all.

Marty Booker returns as the split end but he was only good for 686 yards and three scores last year and Wes Welker tossed in 434 yards from the slot. Other than Chambers, the player to watch here will be the rookie Derek Hagan who could develop into a nice complement for Chambers.

Tight Ends: Randy McMichael started last season with four straight games with a touchdown but only managed one more in the final 12 weeks. His role is less certain this year with Mularkey there as he has rarely used tight ends in the passing game as much and the need to block for Brown will supercede any other role.

Match Against the Defense: The Steelers featured a top 5 defense against almost all fantasy positions last year and were ranked fourth in points allowed. The defense will give a major challenge to Ronnie Brown who gets an unexpected benefit in Roethlisberger missing this week and making the match-up start to slant towards the Fins. Expect a good game from Brown with a chance for one score but anything more than that will mean Charlie Batch made a lot of mistakes - probably unlikely.

Culpepper is good enough to play but it's doubtful he will be tacking on much rushing yardage this early in the year. This should prove to be a defensive battle and job #1 will be to not make mistakes. In this first game out against an opponent that is missing their quarterback, expect just moderate numbers from the passing game here with no more than one passing score.

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)
1 --- MIA 10 --- NO
2 --- @JAX 11 --- @CLE
3 --- CIN 12 --- @BAL
4 Open Bye 13 --- TB
5 --- @SD 14 --- CLE
6 --- KC 15 --- @CAR
7 --- @ATL 16 --- BAL
8 --- @OAK 17 --- @CIN
9 --- DEN - MON THU
PIT vs MIA Rush Catch Pass
QB Charlie Batch 20 0 180,1
RB Willie Parker 90,1 10 0
TE Heath Miller 0 40 0
WR Hines Ward 0 50,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 40 0
WR Santonio Holmes 0 20 0
PK Jeff Reed 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: Now the Steelers embark on what they hope will be a return trip while the rest of the league hopes they follow so many other teams and struggle to repeat. The Steelers schedule is far more daunting this year and now Big Ben is already missing a game and Hines Ward just now returns from a hamstring injury. Jerome Bettis is retired. But the defense alone will keep them in almost every game and Willie Parker has been given the nod to expand his role.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger will miss this first game due to appendix surgery but as of now he is hoped to return in week two. The ironic fact here is that while Ben missed time because of his windshield face plant, Charlie Batch was getting what is now rather valuable time with the first team offense and has been deemed the starter this week. He won't be as good as Ben, but he could be good enough.

Running Backs: Jerome Bettis is gone and Willie Parker is expected to play a bigger role this year. Parker ended 2005 with 1202 yards on 255 carries but only scored four times thanks to Bettis. Vernon Haynes and even Duce Staley remain on the roster but early word is that Parker won't be yielding as much time to other backs this year. Parker is a speedster to be sure but at 209 pounds it remains to be seen how much inside work can be too much.

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward missed most of training camp due to a lingering hamstring injury but has proclaimed himself ready to play this week. Ward had 11 scores last year as Roethlisberger's preferred redzone target but he actually only had 975 yards on 69 catches. Cedrick Wilson continues to man the flanker spot but had only 26 catches for 451 yards last year and never scored.

The rookie Santonio Holmes bears watching. Taken with the 1.25 pick by Pittsburgh, he could develop into a nice complement to Ward though this year remains a learning season with Wilson as the starter.

Tight Ends: One of the delightful surprises last year was the emergence of rookie Heath Miller who had six touchdowns over the first eight games but then did not score again until the playoffs against the Colts. The Steelers had never used tight ends for many years but Miller has changed all of that. This should be another step up for Miller who was considered the most talented tight end coming out last year.

Match Against the Defense: Parker faces a Miami defense that really only ranked about average against running backs last year and since he is healthy and needed to come up big in the opener, look for a nice game here that should see him score once and end with respectable yardage.

Batch unknowingly practiced for this game when Roethlisberger was hurt in June and he knows the offense very well. Expect one passing score here that should end up with a wide receiver and that, as always, favors Hines Ward though his hamstring could limit him in this game. The sudden loss of Roethlisberger should make this game more about rushing and defense than passing.