One of the best rivalries in professional football will be renewed for the second time in a matter of three weeks, as the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) travel to Baltimore to take on the 9-2 Ravens in an AFC North battle.
These teams met in Week 11 when an injured Ben Roethlisberger watched from the sideline. His Steelers fell 13-10 to the Ravens, with neither offense playing particularly well.
If you like defense, you're in for a good matchup on Sunday afternoon.
Here's your complete game guide:
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
When: Sunday, Dec. 2 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Betting Line: N/A Over/Under: N/A (Likely due to Pitt QB Ben Roethlisberger's questionable status)
What's At Stake?
The Ravens hold a nice three-game lead over the Steelers in the AFC North, but a Steelers win on Sunday afternoon would rile things up a bit in that division.
Steelers Injury Report
According to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, there's still a chance that Big Ben plays this weekend:
Dejan Kovacevic (@Dejan_Kovacevic) November 27, 2012
Also questionable for the Steelers are Antonio Brown (ankle), LaMarr Woodley (ankle), Mike Adams (ankle), Byron Leftwich (ribs), Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) and Troy Polamalu (calf), according to USA Today.
Ravens Injury Report
There are no significant injuries to report for the Ravens. For a complete list of injuries and inactives, visit USA Today.
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
Start 'Em: Ray Rice
“Check down, Hey Diddle Diddle, Ray Rice up the middle,” (h/t Washington Post).
You would be insane not to start one of the best backs in the league, even if he was held to only 40 rushing yards in Week 11 against the Steelers.
What Rice lacked in rushing yardage in Week 11, he made up for in the receiving game, with five receptions for 53 yards, turning out a respectable 9.3 fantasy points in ESPN standard leagues.
Following a solid week against the San Diego Chargers, I'm expecting a bounce-back week from Rice.
Sit 'Em: Plaxico Burress
Burress was signed last week by the Steelers to provide depth at the wideout position, with Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery battling injury, according to USA Today.
And how did that work out for ya, Pittsburgh?
It didn't. Burress didn't record a single catch, much to the disappointment of fantasy owners who scrambled to add him after word of the signing.
And it gets worse for Burress owners, who will see Brown return to the Steelers' lineup this weekend, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Steelers WR Antonio Brown will play Sunday.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 27, 2012
Sleeper: Dennis Pitta
Pitta has been somewhat of a productive TE this season—more productive than Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook, Brandon Pettigrew, Brent Celek and Jermichael Finley, to name a few.
Although he was held to just one reception for five yards against Pittsburgh in their previous matchup, over his past three games, Pitta has 12 receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns, making him a viable fantasy option in Week 13.
If you're looking for further encouragement, check out this piece by CBS Baltimore's Samuel Njoku on why Pitta has a bright future in Baltimore.
What They're Saying
Looking for a big win against rival Pittsburgh, the Ravens' official Twitter account tweets that the Ravens will sport a different jersey on Sunday.
Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 27, 2012
Steelers Player to Watch: Mike Wallace
Wallace was a complete non-factor against the Browns in Week 12, catching just one pass for nine yards on seven targets.
That marked the second consecutive week that Wallace was held to less than 25 receiving yards, as the Ravens held the star wideout to four receptions for 24 yards in Week 11.
No matter who's under center for Pittsburgh, Wallace needs to be at his best to stretch the defense and open up holes in the running game.
Wallace is seeking his first 100-yard receiving game since Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders.
Ravens Player to Watch: Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco isn't an elite quarterback, but the skill set is definitely there. A solid performance and win against his division foe in front of the home crowd on Sunday would definitely increase his chances of becoming an elite QB in the eyes of many NFL fans, which is why he's my Ravens player to watch.
He was mediocre at best against Pitt in Week 11, completing 20-of-32 passes for 164 yards. If Flacco is going to assert himself as one of the best QBs in the NFL, it's going to take a lot more than his previous numbers against the Steelers to do it.
Rice is clearly the focal point of this offense, as Flacco only has three multi-touchdown games this season and still has a lot of work to do before he can lead Baltimore to the promise land.
Key Matchup: Pittsburgh Run Game vs. Ravens Defense
I can't tell you with 100 percent certainty who will be in the backfield for the Steelers on Sunday, but I can tell you the ground game is the key to a win for Pittsburgh.
In order to open up play-action passes and holes in the secondary, the Steelers must run the ball effectively. Whether it's Dwyer, Rainey, Redman or Mendenhall, someone has to step up if Pittsburgh is going to hang on to that playoff spot.
The Steelers rank No. 22 in the NFL in rushing offense—averaging just over 100 YPG—and with Roethlisberger's status for Sunday still up in the air, it'll be up to the running backs to carry Pittsburgh down the field and to a win.
Prediction: Ravens 21, Steelers 13
With Roethlisberger's status still up in the air, I'm rolling with the Ravens on Sunday.
Even if Big Ben makes it onto the field, I like Baltimore's defense to get after the QB and score some points via Ray Rice on the ground.
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