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Monday Night Football Preview: The Steel Un-Certain

Just when you think you know the Pittsburgh Steelers, they prove you wrong. What should you expect this week?

The Pittsburgh Steelers may be the NFL's most frustrating team. They would rather throw to James Harrison than run with Le'Veon Bell inside the 10. They lost to the freaking Jets a week after popping the Ravens by 20 points. How does that happen?

Now, the Steelers get a match-up against a rookie quarterback in which they are favored by 5.5 points over the Tennessee Titans. Should be easy, right? Assumptions are dangerous with the Steelers, y'all.

Let's take a look at what the computers have to say about this one using numberFire's Game Projection, which is available to all premium users. It has projections for passing yards, turnovers, final scores, and Brett Kiesel beard shots. It's the greatest. Let's get going.

Will the Steelers' Offense Rebound?

Against the Jets, the Steelers averaged 2.1 yards per carry on their 17 rushing attempts. They turned the ball over four times. Forty percent of their drives lasted less than a minute, and only one of those was for good reasons. Sweet.

On a team that has players as good as Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger, that probs shouldn't happen. That also means the likelihood it happens again is fairly low. The projections would agree with this sentiment.

Because I'm in need of about 300 yards and 4 touchdowns from Bell tonight, we'll start with him. He was numberFire's No. 2 running back on the Week 11 Rankings. The numbers on him are 86.41 rushing yards to go with 4.87 receptions for 38.25 yards and 0.70 total touchdowns. Not quite 300 and four, but you know, whatever. I guess it still works.

As for Brown, he's going to live as well. He hasn't had fewer than 13.4 points in PPR leagues the entire season. He has been held below 15 points twice and 20 points just three times. His floor is greater than the median expectations for guys just beneath the top tier. That's so gross.

Like Bell, Brown was also the projected number-two player at his position. He is slated for 8.55 receptions for 111.55 yards and 0.60 touchdowns. That's the median projection, mind you. Median. Middle. Filth, homes.

With Roethlisberger, there are a few things to consider. First, his projection is favorable at 305.1 yards with 1.97 touchdowns and 0.89 interceptions. Second, he has eclipsed 340 yards in each of his last three games. Third, he has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 23 to 5 this year. Those all indicate another solid night.

On the other hand, Tennessee has been resistant to high-volume nights from opposing quarterbacks. They have allowed 300 yards only twice, and they have allowed multiple passing touchdowns only twice as well. The only two quarterbacks to post more than 20 standard fantasy points against them are Andrew Luck and (drumroll) Brian Hoyer.

In numberFire's Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play stat (which measures efficiency and takes strength of schedule into account), the Titans rank 18th. This certainly isn't bad, but it shows that the lack of volume stats is more due to minimized opportunities than a defensive superiority. The Steelers should have success when they do try to go to the air.

What Should We Expect from Tennessee's Offense?

We are now two starts into the Zach Mettenberger era. How has he touched your life?

Mettenberger's a guy that's not going to provide a ton of value in real or fake football, at least for now. Through his first 80 dropbacks, Mettenberger has a Passing NEP of -11.39. That means he has cost his team 11.39 points relative to an average quarterback.

On a per-drop back basis, only one quarterback with at least 80 drop backs through Week 10 had been worse than Mettenberger: Chad Henne. Sure, he needs time to improve, but that's not going to help you out Monday night.

Mettenberger's projections are for 221.85 yards, 1.04 touchdowns and 0.88 interceptions. To pull the upset, he'll need a big game. To show he's the guy for the Titans beyond 2014, he'll need even more.

Things haven't exactly gone swimmingly for Bishop Sankey, either. He hasn't averaged more than four yards per attempt since September, and that was in a game where he only had six carries. He has one carry for longer than 20 yards this year and none longer than 22. So hype.

There's just not a lot to be optimistic about with this Tennessee offense. They have only scored more than 20 points twice this year, averaging 16 overall. Pittsburgh's defense is far from suffocating (they rank 23rd in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play), but this week should give that number a little boost.

How Can the Titans Pull the Upset?

The odds are certainly not in the Titans' favor. But did that stop the Little Giants from facing the steroid-abusing teens on the Cowboys? Did that stop Sunshine and those other Titans when Gary Bertier went down? Nay. I'm sayin' there's a chance, baby.

On the Game Projections Page, you can see a list of similar contests from throughout the years.

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