Daniel Cox has written an interesting article, Did Matt Ryan Hit the Rookie Wall? The same question could be applied to Joe Flacco and the rookie’s historic appearance in this Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the Ravens and Steelers.
While Ryan had approximately four weeks between his last regular season game and bowl game with the Boston College Eagles, Flacco’s Delaware Blue Hens played deeper in December in their division’s playoffs (ultimately losing in the title game to Appalachian State).
Basically, it’s an adjustment for NFL starting rookies to go from a 13 or 14 game college season to the 20 games of an NFL preseason and regular season; plus the post season in Flacco’s case. The longer season takes both a physical and mental toll because it takes a season of experience for players to adjust and learn to pace themselves.
While Flacco has not been most impressive in the playoffs, he has made enough plays to help the Ravens win. Does this “rookie wall” effect apply to Flacco and this weekend’s game at Pittsburgh?
The Ravens had an early bye week in September, which means they have played about 18 straight weeks. Baltimore has played two playoff games. The team has some injuries and are somewhat beat up.
In contrast, Pittsburgh enjoyed a playoff bye week in addition to their regular season bye week. The Steelers are more rested and healthier than the Ravens.
Can the Ravens overcome fatigue and win this one?
The Steelers are playing at home. Although by slim margins, Pittsburgh beat Baltimore twice this season.
Is it tough for a team to beat the same team three times in a season? Or because they swept the Ravens, do the Steelers have the psychological edge?
This is a very tough game for me to pick a winner because both defenses are so dominating and in contrast, neither offense is impressive. This game will be a slugfest. It’s conceivable that the Ravens could win, but the Steelers seem to have most of advantages set in place.
The Ravens were lucky to escape Tennessee with the victory. Perhaps they will get lucky again. The Ravens want this game just as much as the Steelers do.
The AFC Championship game features two very similar styles of play. Both teams feature average offenses and the best defenses in the league.
The Ravens offense is going to struggle moving the ball. Joe Flacco’s numbers have been below average but he does not turn the ball over which allows his defense to win the game.
Pittsburgh’s offense has been inconsistent all season. In several games they have struggled to move the ball and then all of a sudden they are effective when they use their two minute offense.
The Steelers have not been able to run the ball on Baltimore this season, so the game is going to come down to Ben Roethlisberger.
If Big Ben makes plays and does not turn the ball over, then the Steelers will win. On the other hand, if Roethlisberger doesn’t play well and turns the ball over, then the Ravens have an excellent chance to win.
The Silver Fox Forecast: Steelers 16, Ravens 13