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Roethlisberger poised for another big game

By David Sandora
Friday, Dec. 25, 2009

Have you heard the one about the top-notch running back who played against the Baltimore Ravens and got stone-cold stopped in his tracks?

Of course you have -- it happens about 15 weeks a year, like clockwork. The Ravens, in fact, have only allowed five 100-yards-rushing games in the past four seasons. Three of those have come this season, with former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan gone to New York, but the fact remains that the Ravens are one of the best in the NFL against the run.

Which is great news for Ben Roethlisberger owners.

Usually, the week after a player has a huge performance is somewhat of a letdown, whether because of complacency, adjusted defensive game plans or the natural return to a normal level of play. For Roethlisberger, though, the odds are with him throwing often again this week.

Roethlisberger's 503-yard performance against the Green Bay Packers came with the Steelers desperate for a win. This week against the Ravens, the Steelers are desperate for a win and playing a team tied for fewest yards allowed per carry.

Tied with the Green Bay Packers.

The Ravens are great at making adjustments, but the Steelers are likely to try to win through the air against a secondary that could be without super safety Ed Reed.

And you know all about defenses playing without All-Pro safeties.

Start him

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers vs. Lions

The rookie has yet to have fewer than three catches in a game, making him one of the most consistent plays as a No. 2 or 3 receiver. However, he also has not had a game with more than 81 receiving yards. Expect that to change, as quarterback Alex Smith leans on him against the Lions.

Robert Meachem, WR, Saints vs. Bucs

Meachem has emerged as not only the Saints' best deep threat but also a reliable intermediate target who has 22 catches in his past four games. He only had two catches in the Saints' last meeting with Tampa Bay -- a 38-7 blowout that saw the Saints spend much of the second half running the ball -- but both were touchdown catches.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers vs. Titans

Jackson has yet to have three straight games with at least 100 yards receiving, but this might be the game to do it. With Tennessee likely to keep LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers' running game wrapped up, Jackson should be a frequent target of quarterback Philip Rivers, and he should catch his 10th touchdown pass of the season.

Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins vs. Texans

Forget the three interceptions last week. The Texans have progressively gotten worse against the pass this season, and Henne has more than 300 yards in two of his past three games as the Dolphins move away from the Wildcat offense. After spending some time sitting on the bench as Chad Pennington's backup, Henne should have learned how to bounce back and correct last week's turnover mistakes.

Sit him

Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles vs. Broncos

Even if he plays, Westbrook has a bad matchup against the Broncos and the Eagles are likely to ease him back into play as he works back to full speed. The chance of him taking a screen pass for a 74-yard touchdown is not worth the risk of a 10-yard performance.

Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns vs. Raiders

The Raiders are not as bad against the run as you might think. Yes, they have given up 100-yard games to seven different running backs, and four running backs have scored two rushing touchdowns against them. You might consider the presence of names such as Ahmad Bradshaw, Shonn Greene and Quinton Ganther as evidence supporting a Harrison start. But the law of averages says Harrison will drop off in a big way, and the Browns are not really as good as they played last week.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs vs. Bengals

The Bengals are better against the run than the pass, but they've allowed the third-fewest points in the league. That's reason enough to sit Bowe, whose timing was off against Cleveland in his first game back from a drug-related four-game suspension.

Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos vs. Eagles

The Eagles have been a devastating matchup for opposing quarterbacks at times this season, last week (against the 49ers and Alex Smith) being one of them. Orton has been good at avoiding interceptions this season, but the odds are with him throwing one or more this week.

Hot pickups

Name -- Pos. -- Team

Ahmad Bradshaw -- RB -- NYG

Maurice Morris -- RB -- Det

Chad Henne -- QB -- Mia

Freezing cold

Name -- Pos. -- Team

Tom Brady -- QB -- NE

Visanthe Shiancoe -- TE -- Min

Terrell Owens -- WR -- Buf

Wideouts to watch

Steve Breaston, Cardinals -- Against the Rams, the Cardinals should throw often and successfully, giving Breaston a chance for his first big game since Week 10.

Bryant Johnson, Lions -- Only if you are completely desperate. Johnson has been disappointing, but with the Lions relegated to backups at nearly every skill position, Johnson could see more looks.



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