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The first game will be on Saturday when the No. 5 Baltimore Ravens (12-4) will be traveling to Pittsburgh to take on the No. 2 Steelers (12-4). This game will feature big-time names such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu.
First off, note that both of these teams have a storied history with each other since they are AFC North rivals.
Earlier this season, they split both of their games each team winning on the road by 3 points.
When the Ravens won in Week 4, it was particularly because they had a strong aerial attack. But of course, it should be put into consideration that Charlie Batch was starting at quarterback since Been Roethlisberger was still serving his suspension.
When the Steelers won in Week 13, the time of possession was the difference as they controlled the clock for 34:08 - 25:52.
Other than that, both of these teams were evenly contested.
That is why I'm going to look back a bit to the 2009 NFL Playoffs and when these two teams faced off in the AFC Championship Game, where as we all know the Steelers went on to win 23-14. In that one, it was all about harassing rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. Not only did he only throw 141 yards but they also forced him into throwing three interceptions. In fact, his final ultimately sealed the deal for them.
So with that all said, I believe that the team who plays better in the passing game should have a distinct advantage here.
The Ravens currently have the edge, in my opinion, since they are coming off an impressive outing in which Flacco posted a 115.4 passer rating and they beat up Matt Cassel all day long as he finished with a 20.4 passer rating.
While the extra rest is helpful, having momentum heading into a playoff game is even more crucial and after a 30-7 dominating victory the Ravens seem poised to make a serious run here.
At the same time, the Steelers may have just the answer as they have a +18 advantage in the sack department. As I've said on numerous occasions before, generating an effective pass rush is an integral key to success.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are also +10 over the Ravens in regards to turnovers which as we observed in the AFC Championship Game can play a huge role in the ultimate outcome.
That said, the Steelers defense is one of the best in the league and they won't allow Flacco to have much success through the air nor will their top—ranked run defense allow Ray Rice & Co. to shred through for 142 yards like they did this past weekend.
On the flip side, even though the Ravens defense is rather stout as well I think the Steelers have just enough offensive firepower to move the chains and make some noise in this one.
In the end, I think the game will come down to the wire and the Steelers will stand victorious.
Final Score Steelers 20 - Ravens 17
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