Let the Bodies Hit the Floor: AFC Championship Quarterback Breakdown
I've tried to find different ways to break this game down.
We could go with the defenses but it's impossible; they are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 across the board.
We could go with the offensive and defensive lines, but they're pretty much even as well.
This game is big. No, bigger than big.
Simply put, this will be an all-out war to decide who takes the Lamar Hunt Trophy to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLIII.
If the previous two meetings between these two are any indication, this could be one of the most physical, drama-filled AFC title games in recent memory.
Multiple ambulances should be on call as bodies will have to be scraped up off the grass when this one is over.
Both games, won by Pittsburgh, were decided on a game-winning drive and won by three.
It's hard enough to beat a division rival twice in the same season, but to do it three times is almost impossible.
This matchup comes down to the battle at the quarterback position.
Ravens QB, Joe Flacco
At age 23, Flacco will attempt to become the youngest quarterback to not only advance to the Super Bowl but also the first rookie quarterback to ever win three playoff games on the road.
Named as the default starter over injured quarterbacks Troy Smith and Kyle Boller in training camp, the 6'6" Flacco struggled to adjust to NFL speed and defensive coverages in the first few weeks of the season throwing just one touchdown pass against seven interceptions and the "bust" label was starting to be passed around.
Backed by a strong, merciless defense, Flacco went on a tear in the second half of the season throwing 13 touchdowns against only five interceptions. He led the Ravens to the playoffs on the final day of the regular season with a win over Jacksonville.
Flacco brings an excellent long-range passer to Baltimore with great confidence in his powerful arm to make all the throws.
He has a quick wrist flick and ease of movement going over the top to release the ball, showing good follow-through motion and has done a good job of improving his footwork.
From week to week, he showed great ability to get the ball into tight areas when he had time in the pocket to set his feet properly.
He is also a natural leader, showing poise and wisdom beyond his years.
Flacco and the Ravens will not be intimidated by the Terrible Towels and the Pittsburgh atmosphere, after winning in Dallas, Miami and top-seeded Tennessee. Even more impressive is that Flacco has a 91.7 road passer rating so he has shown the ability to handle himself.
With a win on Sunday, he will not only lead the Ravens to only their second Super Bowl in franchise history but will tie the NFL record for the youngest quarterback to start the big game.
Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger, the 11th overall pick of the 2004 draft, has won over the Steel City and has compiled the best win/loss record in franchise history at 57-22.
After going 15-1 in his rookie season (sparked by his NFL-record 13-0 start), Roethlisberger led the Steelers to an unlikely Super Bowl XL victory becoming the youngest quarterback to win a title.
Big Ben possesses a rare combination of sneaky athletic ability and a deadly accurate arm. Able to escape oncoming pass rushers with his 6'5", 246-pound frame, Roethlisberger consistently uses his feet to extend plays and has a unique ability to throw on the run out of the pocket with great accuracy (see Baltimore, Week 15).
You would think that with more throws, he wins more. Not necessarily; the Steelers are almost unbeatable when Roethlisberger throws under 25 passes in a game though he has been called upon to win games, earning 18 career fourth quarter/overtime comebacks.
A win Sunday in his third career conference title game will give him his second AFC crown in four years and a chance at the franchise's record sixth Lombardi Trophy.
Like I said in the opening, it's hard to pick a winner based on both teams top two defensive rankings and physical running games.
I put my trust in Big Ben because he's at home and he has been in this situation before and wants to complete the rare three-game of his division rival.
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