Fantasy football has become a billion dollar industry with millions of leagues worldwide and daily fantasy games at the touch of your finger. Many have made nice careers out of attempting to predict the future by telling you what a player will do. They use statistics, trends, history and even intuition to come up with best guesses. Now it’s my turn. I’m going to take my 20+ years of fantasy football participation to give you my best guess each week for the Steelers.
Week 1 Opponent – New England Patriots
Location – Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
Record vs Opponent (Last 10 meetings) – 3-7 Overall, 1-4 at New England
This is an exciting way to start the season on the road, in hostile territory for players and fans. I was doused with beverages there during a Norm Johnson game winning field goal. The Steelers haven’t won in Foxboro since 2008.
There are new players coming to the rivalry and others who have left on both sides of the ball that are sure to have a say about the outcome. The team has a different vibe coming into this season and hopefully that is a good sign. The quest for their 7th Super Bowl championship for both teams start this Sunday.
New England is coming off their 6th Super Bowl victory a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Last season New England through the regular season gave up 325 points (20.3 per game). At home they gave up just 133 points (16.6) and that included 40 points to the Chiefs.
Defensively they allowed 246.4 yards per game passing, 220.8 at home. Against the run, they gave up 112.7 yards per game and 98.6 yards per game.
Ben Roethlisberger is coming off his most active season. He led the league in completions, attempts, yards, interceptions and yards per game. He bested his previous high in completions by 44, attempts by 67 and yards by 177 throwing for over 5,000 yards for the first time in his career.
Looking that the games in this decade Big Ben’s numbers are pretty good overall vs New England:
Here are some tidbits from those 7 games.
- He’s thrown for more than 2 TD’s once.
- He’s thrown for 350 yards or more 3 times.
- In the win last year he threw for only 235 yards.
- He’s thrown for at least one interception in each of those games
- The team has averaged 21.6 points per game vs NE in this decade, 23 ppg on the road.
Prediction – If all goes well they should be able to move the ball on the ground and I think that might bring down his numbers just a tad. We also need to see how his chemistry is with some of the newer receivers. Overall, though he should put up numbers comparable to his averages.
Roethlisberger – 29/40, 318 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
James Conner missed the game last season giving Jaylen Samuels a chance at the lead back role and you couldn’t have asked for a better game. He tallied 19 carries for 142 yards with 2 receptions for 30. In fact, overall the running backs have all had good games.
|Averages||Attempts||Rush Yards||Rush TD||Targets||Receptions||Rec Yards||Rec TD||Total Yards|
The backup running back hasn’t conversely haven’t really gotten much playing time overall. Le’Veon Bell rarely came out of the game during his time. Samuels should break that pattern. The Steelers like what he can do especially in the passing game so he should get some touches.
Prediction –Connor should be chomping at the bit for this game. He has one of the better offensive lines in the NFL and if they open holes even close to what they did last year against New England he will make his mark on this game. Samuels has the confidence coming off last season and these numbers may be a bit low so I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpassed them.
Connor – 18 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD, 2 receptions 15 yards.
Samuels – 3 carries, 12 yards, 3 receptions, 22 yards.
Antonio Brown is in Oakland now and his numbers overall will be hard to replace. There wasn’t one guy they could bring in that would take up all of Browns targets and production. The one veteran addition was Donte Moncrief and he’ll be part of that group. James Washington is in his second season and played extremely well in the preseason. Ryan Switzer is also back for his second year and will see targets from the slot and backfield. Rookie Diontae Johnson, an excellent route runner, was drafted to round out the five on the 53 man roster.
Bill Belichick’s defense was geared to stop Brown in previous season and did a good job at slowing him down. The numbers indicate this as well showing bigger numbers for the WR2.
The overall averages by receiver for this decade vs New England:
On the road
Predictions – JuJu Smith-Schuster should inherit most of the attention Brown used to receive and will likely stunt his numbers this week. He got a chance to be WR1 vs Cincinnati in the final game last year and put together a 5/37/1 line on 10 targets. Who will step up to the number two spot and be the recipient of all those targets? I think it will be Washington and he could have a big game. Moncrief missed some preseason and may still be working out the kinks. Switzer should be there for third down receptions and if Johnson gets a helmet I can see the getting him the ball on a screen and maybe a deep out route to get his feet wet.
Smith- Schuster – 5 receptions, 52 yards
Washington – 7 receptions, 108 yards, 1 TD
Moncrief – 3 receptions, 30 yards
Switzer – 2 receptions, 13 yards
Johnson – 2 receptions, 23 yards
We all love Vanimal, don’t we? Watching him run over would be tacklers. Love that stuff. What I think we would love even more is more production from Vance McDonald. Only twice last year did he catch 5 or more passes in a game. Only 3 times did he record more than 50 yards and not once after the sixth game. He’s got the ability; he just needs to show it more. In Heath Millers last three game vs NE he averaged 6.3 receptions, 70.7 yards. Last year McDonald had 2 receptions for 13 yards and a TD on 3 targets.
Tight end per game averages vs New England
Prediction – I’ve got a good feeling for McDonald this week. I think he can step it up a bit in production and find his way into the end zone.
McDonald – 5 receptions, 55 yards, 1 TD
Chris Boswell looks like he is back to 2017 form. He struggled mightily last year and needed to bounce back. He looked confident and strong in the preseason and should have a good year.
Boswell – 2/2 Field Goals, 3/3 Extra points
One game does not make a season but this could be important at the end of the season for playoff seeding purposes but let’s not jump too far ahead. New England is less than a touchdown favorite at home and history has shown the Steelers don’t play well there. Both teams have struggled in the early part of the season in recent memory but the preseason has me optimistic.
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 27, New England 20