Divisional Round: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday January 15, 2011 4:00 PM
Line: Ravens +3 O/U 37
The Ravens rolled into Kansas City, and after a relatively slow start, stormed the Chiefs right off the field 30-7. From the first whistle of the second half, the Ravens played the type of dominate balanced football we had all expected to see this year. Kansas City looked tired, flat and confused. It brought back vivid reminders of last season’s wild car matchup in Foxboro, where the Patriots were so stunned they were unable to mount any sort of comeback.
This weekend however brings a horse of a different color. In the long storied history of Baltimore professional football, no team (Colts, Ravens or otherwise) has managed to beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs. This weekend’s battle will be bloody, it will be ferocious, and it will be everything that this great rivalry has brought to bear. It’s going to take every ounce of talent, endurance, and strength for the Ravens to win and move on to the AFC Championship. To the victory go the spoils. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s keys to the game.
RavensGab.com Keys to the Game
Play a Perfect Game
It sure was easy to write that wasn’t it? All it’s going to take for the Ravens to win is for them to play a perfect game. I know it’s never as easy as all that, but it truly is going to take a virtually flawless game for the Ravens to walk out of Heinz Field as winners. In each an every one of these games, it’s always one or two plays that decide the outcome, and usually that play is a turnover. The Ravens cannot afford to make mistakes in this game, because unlike the Chiefs, the Steelers will make them pay for it.
Limit the Turnovers
Which ever team limits their mistakes most effectively, will be the one moving forward. This means that Joe has to protect the ball, as do his receivers and his runners. The Ravens cannot afford to give a good team like the Steelers short field to work with. In the last meeting in Baltimore, Pittsburgh won the game when Troy Polamalu strip sacked Joe Flacco. That cannot happen this week.
Spread the Ball
Watch film of how the New England Patriots took down the Steelers in Foxboro and you’ll see that the key to victory comes in airing out the ball and spreading out the defense. The Steelers are going to blitz you heavily, it’s what they do, but if you can get the ball out quickly and spread them out, their attack becomes impotent. Hit the crossing patterns, hit the curl routes, keep the ball moving rapidly and the Ravens will win this game.
Bring Down Ben
Look we all know this is the key to beating the Steelers. You can hit Ben, you can hurry him, hell you can even get your arms around him. But unless you wrap him up high or bring his ass to the ground, he is still an effective and dangerous weapon. What makes the guy so damn valuable is that there’s hardly ever such a thing as a busted play when he has the ball. Sure he holds it to long, but his weakness can also become a strength in that he can move in the pocket and withstand pressure until something develops. The Ravens have got to get him down and on the ground.
Offensive Line Stands Tall
The Offensive Line has got to have their best came of the season if the Ravens are to win this game. I don’t know what it’s going to take for the unit to gel and finally click, but if they have a shaky day, there’s no way for Joe to get the ball down the field, or make any kind of play. Stop the pass rush, stop the blitz, and you stop the Steelers.
Once you get past the regular season, only one thing becomes important, and that’s winning. It doesn’t matter if your play calling sucks, it doesn’t matter if your team is underachieving. It only matters that you win and move forward. This isn’t a perfect squad, but then again neither was the 2000 unit. This is a team who is built to last, and ultimately is singularly focused on getting the W. That’s all that can be asked for. Win and move on.
Ravens Gab Predictions
Jonathon Scruggs (14-3)
As much as I’d like to believe, I just don’t think Baltimore is going to get it done this week. Short week. On the road. Pittsburgh being rested. It’s all just too much. I hate myself for saying it, but I think the Steelers get the win and advance. I hope I’m wrong.
Ravens 19 — Steelers 23
Matt Jergensen (13-4)
Over the past several years these matchups have been hard hitting and feature low scoring. While some of the national audience may cringe watching these games followers of both teams love it. My head tells me that the Steelers have just enough to get the win once again in a big game but I remember being showered with stats when the Ravens marched into the Patriots den last season too. These teams are pretty even down the line. It’s time for the Ravens to break out.
Ravens 13 – Steelers -10
Gene Winner (11-5)
The Ravens decisive win in the Wild Card round was exactly what the team needed in helping bring about momentum going into this great rivalry match-up.
Ravens 20 – Steelers 17