Topic: Ravens @ Steelers Week 16 Pre-game Chatter

Steelers week v2.0.  The whole ball of wax hinges on this week. 

The Ravens pulled off a narrow win against the hapless Eagles last week and they now head into Heinz Field on Christmas Day.  If they win, they still may also need to beat the Bengals in week 17 finishing with the same record as the Steelers but sweeping the division with the head-to-head tiebreaker.  The Steelers only have to face the winless Browns in week 17 after the Ravens.  Pittsburgh narrowly defeated the rudderless Bengals last week.  Had Cincy held them off, the Ravens would have had a chance to clinch the AFC North crown with a win in Pittsburgh on Christmas day.  The opposite holds true for 9-5 Steelers who can clinch the AFC North if they bump off the Ravens.  It would push the 8-6 Ravens two games behind and likely out of playoff contention.

The once-struggling AFC North has seen the Ravens and Steelers emerge, as both teams have jockeyed for playoff position during strong November and Decembers. The Ravens have won five of their last seven games after a four-game losing skid. The Steelers have won five straight after dropping four in a row.  It would seem that the footballs best rivalry is back and this game is of division title magnitude.

When they last met on Nov 6, both teams were still struggling.  Pittsburgh was on the cusp of .500 while the Ravens were on a 4 game losing streak coming off the bye.  The Ravens would go on to handily going up 21-0 before allowing the Steelers to score two TDs in the garbage time.  Both teams were hampered by penalties. 

This time may be different.  Big Ben was still recovering from knee surgery and has been 5-1 since that game.  Their offense has been ridiculous putting up 275 yds/gm (7th overall) with 112 (12th) on the ground and 263 (5th) through the air.  The Ravens #1 D has tumbled a bit since their last meeting getting shredded by the Patriots.  Now ranked 5th overall and 2nd vs the run they may still contain LeVeon Bell as they’ve done every top running back this season, however, giving up 128yds and score on the ground to Ryan Mathews was their only hiccup this year.  It was their secondary (10th) that kept the Eagles in check even without Jimmy Smith.  Smith will likely be out this week with an ankle sprain.   
Baltimore just came off of its best rushing effort last week with 151 combined yards with big gains of 39 and 41 yards but averaging 90 yds/gm they’re still ranked near the bottom of the league (28th).  Last time they played the Steelers, it wasn’t much of a factor either as the Ravens struggled to get 50 yds on 29 carries.  The Steelers defense has tightened up their rush defense since then.  Ranked 5th they’re allowing just 89 yds/gm.  Their 14th ranked secondary, however, is allowing 245yds.  Joe is throwing an average of 245 yds/gm. 
It would be possible to see Flacco throw for about 250yds and the team rush for up to 100yds.  On the other side, Ben and Bell could be 260 and 90yds making their offenses about the same.  Penalties, S/T and play calling will all be the real deciding factors. 

Roethlisberger however is the real x-factor here especially with out Jimmy Smith.  If the Ravens front 7 can penetrate early and often, Ben may commit a few turnovers or get become preoccupied with a big hit to be 100% effective.  Otherwise, he and Brown could pick apart the secondary and make it a long day.

As usual, expect a good, tough game.  I expect the Ravens to fall just short – 27-24.  Hopefully there is a Christmas day miracle and it score is reversed.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the Divided States of America, and to the PACs, for which it stands, one nation, at odds, divisible, with Liberty and Justice for some." ~ Neil Degrasse Tyson