By the Cold, Hard Football Facts staff
The Cold, Hard Football Facts are built upon beer and food and a celebration of American football culture. But mostly, they're built upon the bedrock of deadly accurate gridiron analysis.
A core part of that analysis is our proprietary Quality Stats. These are, as Cold, Hard Football Facts loyalists know, "Stats That Matter" – stats, in other words, that have a direct correlation to winning football games. Fantasy football is great, but we don't know who's going to win on the field on gameday. Nobody does more to address that topic than we do.
Throughout the season, we'll be compiling a gridiron grid with an easy-to-follow comparison of our Quality Stats for key matchups each weekend. Most of these will appear in our Friday Beer Run, a roundup of tasty data for the week's big games. We'll also be highlighting stand-alone games on Thursdays and Mondays, such as tonight's 2006 NFL kickoff game featuring Miami at Pittsburgh.
The compilations will include comparisons based upon our own Quality Stats, along with some relevant stats from our comprehensive new database provided by The Sports Network.
Here's our Gridiron Grid for tonight's Dolphins-Steelers game (with the exception of lines, all data is from 2005):
Overall Record
82.4 (22)
74.0 (8)
16.02 YPPA (13)
17.61 YPPA (5)
16.35 YPPS (22)
13.24 YPPS (4)
14.7 (14)
11.0 (9)   
6.22 (26)
8.19 (1)
The Steelers begin defense of their championship with the now-traditional Thursday night home opener. The Dolphins, a trendy pick to make the playoffs after going 9-7 in Nick Saban's first campaign, come to Heinz Field amid equally high expectations. Both teams beat four quality opponents during last year's regular season.
One of the players most responsible for Pittsburgh's remarkable run to the title won't be available, however. Ben Roethlisberger led the league in yards per attempt in 2005, but he must watch from the sidelines tonight, having recently had an appendectomy. With eight-year veteran Charlie Batch getting the start at quarterback, the betting public is showing little faith in the champs or its signal caller. Pittsburgh opened as 5-point favorites, but the Roethlisberger injury and Miami money have driven the line for this game to a pick.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts show that the Steelers were a better team across the board, as they ranked in the top 10 in every category that we deem most important to winning. They are not solely reliant on the performance of a great quarterback. Batch will make enough plays to help Pittsburgh pull out a hard-fought victory.
Prediction: Steelers 17, Dolphins 13