Rivalry Night In America

AFC Game Of The Week

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Ravens: I threw the towel in on them after that loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars early on in the season because they got off to such a strong start in their first two games and then struggled to make anything happen as an offense. As of late, they’ve been on a roll. The other day on Twitter, I had to politely tell someone why I feel this is a team that nobody come playoff time wants to see. First, they have a defense that can do it all and when you think of the Baltimore Ravens, defense definitely comes to mind and to this day, they are still one of the best units in the league as we speak. Terrell Suggs is now the leader of this defense after Ray retired and at the age of 35, he’s still a player that’s very effective and can get to the quarterback. The Ravens have a very active front four, a productive core of linebackers and what was once their biggest weakness has definitely improved and that’s their secondary but with Jimmy Smith out for the year, I’m not sure how they will fare at this point. Second, they are great on special teams with the best kicker in the league in Justin Tucker. You talk about ice in your veins, he definitely has that. Lastly, they have a quarterback that can get hot at the right time and stay in rhythm. I know he’s struggled at times this year, but you just never know with Joe Flacco. If they do get to the playoffs and they see the Patriots in the first round, they could give New England fits as their known too because they have the defensive gameplan to really mess with Brady and that’s pressuring him up the middle and hitting him. To stay in the playoff picture, they’ll travel to the ketchup bottle on Sunday night.

Steelers: I guess the saying really is true. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and let’s be honest here if the Bengals don’t commit as penalties as they do on Monday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers lose that game. This is the third time in the last four games that the Steelers have started off slowly but found a way to come back and win the game. I think the problem is how they take some of their opponents too lightly because they did that with the Colts all those weeks back, they let the Packers get off to a fast start and let’s not forget they didn’t have Aaron Rodgers and on Monday, they let the Bengals start quickly and they should’ve known that the Bengals were going to give them all they could handle because it’s a rivalry game and those two franchises don’t care for each other. Here they are though at 10-2 and atop the AFC with four games to play. This offense knows when to turn it up and Antonio Brown is a guy that just continues to elevate his play by the week and I just sit there and say wow, how did he do that? Ben and AB are the best quarterback/receiver tandem not named Brady and Gronkowski. A majority of the plays they connect on, I’m almost positive they can do those in their sleep. Every win for the Steelers is extremely important especially with the Patriots rolling the way that they are right now. They’ve won seven games in a row and to make it eight, they’ll host the Ravens.

Ravens Player To Watch: Mike Wallace– The former Steeler himself! When you watch the game tape of the Steelers last two games, both the Packers and Bengals attacked their secondary early with deep passes down the field. Mike is your best deep threat, get him the football and make the Steelers secondary work early on. Test them.

Steelers Player To Watch: Martavis Bryant– With Juju Smith-Schuster suspended, the Steelers will look to get Martavis involved more in their offense. He’s one of the very best when it comes to stretching the field. Get him the football on third down and in the red zone.

Final Analysis: I love these matchups and if you think about it now, these teams actually have respect for one another according to Ben Roethlisberger. When it’s a rivalry game, you put personal feelings aside and worry about how you can help your team win the game. These two are many different teams than they were in their first meeting. Can the Steelers defense play well for an entire game? Looking bad one half and then making adjustments in the second half won’t always work out. The Ravens need to get their running game going and keep Ben from extending plays.

Prediction: Steelers 26 Ravens 21