I’ll be honest with you, my choice was to have the Colts beat the Jets and let the Ravens soften up the Patriots. That was my “perfect world” scenario for the AFC Wildcard round. After Saturday my revised idea was for the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the Ravens and rely on the Jets to soften up New England.
But here we are with a third Ravens game for the second time in three years. Last time the Steelers swept the season (23-20 (OT) and 13-9), won the playoff game (23-14) and then the Super Bowl. This time around each won on their foe’s turf (17-14 at Heinz and 13-10 in Baltimore) so Jan, 15 will be the rubber match.
Steelers/Ravens has typified the violence that Commissioner Goodell has sought to suppress in recent years, most demonstrably via the fines handed down this season. Even casual NFL fans know this is a throwback game that reminds one of the Steelers/Raiders games of the 70s.
Players get injured in this game and frankly, one must wonder what either unit will put on the field versus the Patriots the following week.
But at this point thoughts of the following week must be put aside. Consider only the matter-at-hand and how the Steelers will beat the Ravens. The Chiefs/Ravens game revealed that Joe Flacco still has some work to do as a QB. While he posted a 115 passer rating, he relied heavily on Todd Heap, an option the Steelers will take away on Saturday. Frankly, if the Chiefs offense hadn’t played so poorly (5 TOs), their defense may have looked better. It was a 10-7 game at halftime. At any rate, I don’t expect the Ravens to break 20 pts against the Steelers. Look for Roethlisberger to be more comfortable than Cassel, he’s been there and done that, many times. The Ravens are old hat for Big Ben. And what of the vaunted Baltimore run defense? Even without his long run of 41 yards, Jamaal Charles averaged over 5 ypc. Look for the ground game to be a major factor.
I’m counting on an atypical game between these two with a 27-13 Steelers victory that doesn’t seem as close as the final indicates. Look for Mendenhall to top 100 yards as the Steelers take the air out of the ball in the 4th quarter.