The best rivalry in the NFL writes another chapter on Sunday, as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens.
Among the best rivalries in sports, the Ravens and Steelers always bring their A-games against one another, and there is always tension on the field.
This time the rivalry will be in prime time, being featured on Sunday Night Football. With millions of Americans watching, these two powerhouses will slug it out for bragging rights and much, much more.
Where: Heinz Field
When: Sunday, November 18 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL.com
Betting Line: Pittsburgh (-3.5), according to Sportsbook.com (Note: Line was established before Ben Roethlisberger's injury status was known)
Baltimore Injury Report (via Yahoo! as of Nov. 13, 2012)
|Terrell Suggs LB||Probable||Ankle|
|Ed Reed S||Probable||Shoulder, knee|
|Michael Oher T||Probable||Ankle|
|Marshal Yanda G||Questionable||Ankle|
|Bobbie Williams G||Questionable||Ankle|
|Haloti Ngata DT||Questionable||Shoulder|
|Pernell McPhee DE||Out||Thigh|
Pittsburgh Injury Report (via Yahoo! as of Nov. 13, 2012)
|Shaun Suisham K||Probable||Left ankle|
|Jonathan Dwyer RB||Probable||Quadriceps|
|Chris Carter LB||Questionable||Abdomen|
|Rashard Mendenhall RB||Doubtful||Achilles|
|Stevenson Sylvester LB||Out||Hamstring|
|Troy Polamalu S||Out||Calf|
|Marcus Gilbert T||Out||Ankle|
|Antonio Brown WR||Out||Ankle|
|Ben Roethlisberger QB||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder|
What's At Stake?
What isn't at stake in this game might be a better question. Playoff seeding, divisional control and bragging rights are all on the line on Sunday.
If the NFL season ended today the Ravens would have a first-round bye as the No. 2 team in the AFC (behind only the Houston Texans), and the Steelers would barely squeak into the playoffs as a wildcard team.
However, this game could change all of that.
Control of the AFC North hangs in the balance in this game, as the Steelers are currently one game behind the Ravens and neither team has lost a divisional matchup yet.
If the Ravens win they maintain their dominance in the AFC North and could challenge Houston for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, while also pushing the Steelers out of the current playoff picture.
If the Steelers win they would be in charge of the AFC North and would compete for a first-round bye, while the Ravens would be a wildcard team.
That's how important this game is.
Baltimore Defense and Special Teams
Pittsburgh is a very defensive team that can struggle on offense at times. With Big Ben less than 100 percent healthy, its No. 11 passing attack will struggle and the team will be forced to rely on a weakened rushing attack.
The Ravens defense may not be what it once was, and only ranks No. 12 in ESPN fantasy leagues. However, against a banged up offense this squad has the potential to put up double-digit points on Sunday.
Pittsburgh RB Jonathan Dwyer
It's tough to pick anyone on the Steelers that I would start this week, but if there's one guy who I'm taking it's Dwyer.
With Roethlisberger likely being limited (if he plays at all) the Steelers will rely on their rushing attack against Baltimore's 26th-ranked run defense. The backs should get a lot of work on Sunday, and Dwyer will get the bulk of the carries over Isaac Redman.
In Week 10 against the Kansas City Chiefs Dwyer had 19 carries compared to just eight by Redman. That tells me that Dwyer should get about 20 carries this week against a poor defense.
What They Are Saying
With Big Ben's injury against the Chiefs on Monday night, Twitter is absolutely blowing up. There are so many tweets worth showing, but these are the top ones that truly tell the story.
The Steelers originally thought that the injury was pretty serious, as reported Tuesday at noon.
What @edwerderespn has reported: a source tells ESPN the Steelers fear the QB has suffered a pretty significant injury to throwing shoulder.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 13, 2012
About an hour-and-a-half later we found out that the shoulder isn't separated, but it is still a severe sprain. Steelers fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Perhaps a little too soon, however, as it turns out that his rib is also a huge concern.
What's even more troubling is Trey Wingo's take, which essentially lets Steelers fans know that they really, really need their starting QB.
Since his rookie year in 2004. The Steelers are 86-37 when Ben Roethlisberger starts in the regular season..9-5 when he doesn't— trey wingo (@wingoz) November 13, 2012
And then Skip Bayless weighed in, letting the world know that he expects the Steelers to pull off not just one, but two upsets against the Ravens, even with Byron Leftwich this week.
I won't be surprised if Steelers beat Balt at home w/ Leftwich and win @balt 2 weeks later when Ben returns from shoulder sprain, rib.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) November 13, 2012
Oh Skip, at least try to be realistic.
Key Matchup: Joe Flacco vs. Pittsburgh Secondary
When you look at the Ravens' stats they don't exactly pop off the page. The team isn't flashy and doesn't even seem that good on paper...but they win.
The team's offense is actually be led by Flacco and the pass attack this season, but that could be a problem on Sunday.
The Steelers rank first in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, allowing just 171.1 yards per contest. Despite Troy Polamalu playing in just two games this season, the secondary has been on fire, and could decide the outcome of this game on Sunday.
It's tough to assess how this game will be played without knowing the status of Roethlisberger. However, for the purposes of this prediction I'm going to assume that he won't play.
The Steelers are the worse team without Big Ben by a long shot, but the team is still excellent at home, going 4-0 this season. Even without Big Ben the game will be very close, but in the end I think the Ravens will find a way to win it.
Ravens 17, Steelers 13