Thu, Nov 28, 9:00pm by Daryl Curnow
When: 12:30pm, November 29
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
Record: Ravens 5-6 (4-1 Home) vs Steelers 5-6 (2-4 Away)
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THE fierce AFC North division rivalry continues as the defending NFL champions Baltimore Ravens take on the improving Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving Day. The importance of winning against each other couldn’t be more highlighted this season as both teams are desperate to extend their playoff chances. For Baltimore this game is vital as they dropped their previous game to the Steelers this season 19-16. In past seasons, the tie between these two teams has often decided who makes the playoffs, so for Baltimore this game will define their season.
Both teams boast the same 5-6 record but the Steelers come into this matchup on a three game winning streak after beating Buffalo, Detroit and most recently Cleveland. The staunch defense limited Buffalo to a measly 10 points and Cleveland to 11 points. They took advantage of some poor coaching decisions from Jim Swartz when they defeated Detroit 37-27 after trailing throughout the fourth quarter. The Steelers also scored wins against the aforementioned Ravens and also a 13 point win coming against the NY Jets in New Jersey. However, the year has been far from smooth sailing as they lost four straight games to open their season, including a 17 point drubbing at the hands of Chicago.
They picked up their feet winning two straight before losing poorly to Oakland by three points and then they gave up 55 points to the New England Patriots earlier this month. That was the end of their losing ways however as they have turned their season around by winning three straight. Their passing yards statistic reads well behind the strong arm of Ben Roethlisberger – ranking eighth with an average of 262.2 yards per game. It’s not a secret that the Steelers like to throw the ball seeing as they rank 30th in rushing yards with only 77.3 per game. To put that in perspective, running backs often run for more yards per game by themselves. They also give up 118.8 yards on the ground which is surprising considering they usually have a good run defense.
During their three-game streak Roethlisberger has thrown seven touchdowns and only one intercept, and he’s been sacked only once compared to 35 times in their previous nine games. Running back Antonio Brown hadn’t scored a touchdown prior to his last four games, but he now has four next to his name and the Steelers will need Brown to establish a running game in order to win this matchup.
The Baltimore Ravens haven’t had the ideal season to follow their Superbowl win but with the loss of influential captain Ray Lewis was a big setback. That being said, their record isn’t as bad as it seems. They’re only two wins behind division leaders Cincinnati, whom they beat 20-17 in overtime earlier this season. They followed that win on November 10 with an overtime loss to Chicago before easily taking care of the Jets last week. Baltimore opened their season with a big loss to the Denver Broncos, letting in 49 points in altitude. However, from that point on the Ravens biggest losing margin was six points against Cleveland; with their other four losses coming by three points or less. That’s an amazing statistic for Baltimore and it shows they’re rarely far off and that their record could well be 10-1 if they got the rub of the green.
Even though they are losing the close games, their individual statistics don’t read overly well. Joe Flacco became the highest paid athlete in the NFL this season but he’s thrown 14 interceptions already this season. The reason behind this is because he’s been given more freedom to make his own plays, whereas under their former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Flacco was stifled with short and ineffective passes. The freedom he now has allows him to play more relaxed but it also leads to interceptions and turnovers play a big part in any game.
Another problem for the Ravens is Ray Rice’s ineffectiveness with his running game. The pocket rocket is averaging a meek 2.9 yards per carry and he’s scored only four touchdowns. He’s much better than that and against a weak Steelers offense expect Rice to put in a break out performance here.
In the last 10 games between these two foes, they have split the win tally but eight of them have been decided by three points. That certainly rings true with Baltimore and they will be hoping to come out on the right side of the ledger. The Ravens have a good home field advantage having won four times in Baltimore this season for only one loss. Pittsburgh have won only two on the road but they’ll feel like Baltimore is their second home having played there so often. We feel as though Baltimore have been hard done by this season and it’s about time they got some recognition. They know how to keep a game close and with home field advantage and the highest paid player in the league, Baltimore should be and are favourites for this game. Ray Rice is due a big game and against the weaker than usual Steelers run defense, Rice will get his chance. The Ravens love to sack their opposing quarterback so the not so agile Ben Roethlisberger better watch out. We think Baltimore will win and extend their chances at making the playoffs.
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