The Baltimore Ravens enter week 12 at 5-5, essentially out of the division race and hoping and praying that a Wild Card spot falls onto their laps. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are the defending Super Bowl champions, are in a similar situation.
Both need this win desperately to salvage their respective seasons.
What does Baltimore need to do next Sunday night to avoid playing meaningless football the rest of the season?
1. Give us some Troy Smith.
Smith has been non-existent in the Ravens' game plans this year. After having some success with their own version of the Wildcat last season, Ravens fans have seen none of it in 2009. Since the loss to New England in Week 4, the Ravens offense has gone MIA. A Wildcat offense changes things up a little bit and can catch really good defenses at an opportune moment. Putting Troy Smith in may be the spark the Ravens need.
2. Throw the ball down the field on the Pittsburgh Secondary.
If nothing else, the absence of Troy Polamalu should give Cam Cameron a good reason to throw downfield early. Derrick Mason caught 9 passes for 142 yards against the Colts. The other Ravens receivers not named Ray Rice caught a total of 7. If this game turns into the Ray Rice and Derrick Mason show, Baltimore can watch their playoff chances ride off on the next MARC Train out of town.
3. Ray Lewis needs to play better.
I cannot believe that I just wrote that sentence. Lewis appeared to get injured late in the first half, and it showed. On one play where Peyton Manning was rolling to his right, Lewis seemed to half-heartedly chase Manning to the sideline and force him to throw the ball away. There was no "Ray Lewis Speed" on that play. Also, on Joseph Addai's 5 yard touchdown run, Lewis was faked out so bad, he completely missed what should have been an easy stop.
4. Score a Touchdown.
It sounds simple, but apparently for the Baltimore offense, it seemed as if they wanted to give Billy Cundiff an "In-game Tryout", if you will. The game against the Colts was the 6th game that the Ravens did not score an offensive touchdown in the first half. When you kick field goals rather than scoring touchdowns, you don't usually win the game.
5. Put pressure on Roethlisberger.
The Ravens defensive line needs to get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. Many fans have complained that the secondary is the weak spot on this defense. However, If the opposing quarterback has all sorts of time to run around and throw the ball, the Ravens' secondary will get torched. If Ngata, Gregg, Edwards and Co. can get after Roethlisberger and get a few sacks, the Ravens' secondary may be able to create a few turnovers like they did against the Colts.