It All Comes Down To This: Ravens, Steelers, Christmas
The Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers both want the same Christmas present and neither foe will be in a giving mood. Who will unwrap a division title on Christmas Day?
First of all forgive me for all the cheesy Christmas references; I figured we should get them all out of the way at once. Secondly, it’s hard to imagine a bigger and more important game than this. The Ravens are a game behind the Steelers. They survived a tight game against the Philadelphia Eagles to preserve the importance of this merry battle (okay now I’m done).
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The chances of Baltimore winning a wild card spot are slim. At the moment the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins are the front runners for the AFC wild card spots. That leaves the Broncos, Ravens and the AFC South runner up in the hunt. It’s possible but surely not a given. That means this game will probably be the deciding factor in how the Ravens season ends. Chances are that it will be a home playoff game in the wild card round, or a wasted season.
The last time the Ravens played the Steelers they won 21-14. Baltimore built a 21 point lead before a laughable, Chris Boswell, onside kick ended the Steelers comeback. The Ravens have won four straight games against their arch enemy and nine of the last 12. If John Harbaugh wants to see his team keep the streak going they will have to play a sharper game than they played against the other team from Pennsylvania.
The Eagles almost won this game with a last second two point conversion. If they two point try was successful, this game would be less meaningful. The Ravens have to win out to get to the playoffs, and they know that. While the Ravens gave Carson Wentz a hard time, Ryan Matthews had over 130 yards on the ground. Le’Veon Bell is much better than Matthews, and Ben Roethlisberger is on an entirely different plane than Wentz.
The Ravens have won their last two games in Pittsburgh. They beat the Steelers in the 2014 wild card playoff game 30-17. A Justin Tucker field goal was the difference in the week 4 battle last year. However, the Steelers are a much different team at Heinz Field. The only visitors that have won in Pittsburgh this season are the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots.
The Ravens have been a different team at home this season than they have been on the road. Baltimore is 6-2 at home this season and 2-4 on the road. The only team that the Ravens lost to in M&T Bank Stadium was the now 10-3 Oakland Raiders. That game went down to the wire. Home field advantage is a huge factor in this game for the Steelers.
If Jimmy Smith is out for this one, which is not unlikely, Antonio Brown will be a huge concern. Brown is perhaps the best receiver in the NFL. In the first meeting Brown made some plays but he was slowed down. Roethlisberger will be looking to have a big day if Smith doesn’t play.
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The purple and black can certainly win this game. The last time these teams played the Ravens shut the Steelers offense down for three quarters. Dean Pees is surely capable of coming up with a non Big Ben friendly game plan. Ever since he marched down 92 yards in Heinz field, Joe Flacco has had some of his biggest moments against the Steelers. This is a toss up game that could go either way. One way or another, it all comes down to this.