IT’S PREDICTION TIME: Ravens @ Steelers

110115nfl-semis_f_002

RAVENS @ STEELERS (-2 ½)
OVER/UNDER @ 40 ½
HEINZ FIELD

 

It was once viewed as the most vicious rivalry in all of sport but as of late the luster has dulled on the semi-seasonal showdowns between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Both teams are struggling with their offensive lines and that has placed pressure on the passing games of each team and on the respective defenses, which have been asked to pull up the slack for offensive inefficiencies.

On Sunday something has to give.

Since John Harbaugh became the Ravens head coach in 2008 the clubs have squared off 12 times with the Steelers winning 7 of those contests, 2 of which were in the postseason. Remove the Ravens 35-7 dominant performance over the Steelers to open the 2011 season and the remaining 11 games have been decided on average by four points.

Eight of those 11 games were decided by 3 points, including the last 3 contests. The Ravens do have a three game winning streak at Heinz Field.

Sunday’s game at Heinz promises to be another defensive struggle that will go down to the wire with the winner likely decided by which quarterback can deal best without the presence of a running game. The Ravens rushing attack is ranked 27th while the Steelers is 31st.

 

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL

Joe Flacco brings a career QB Rating against the Steelers of 74.2 to Heinz Field although he’s been better over the last 3 seasons with an 84.6 rating. If Flacco is to have success against the Steelers the Ravens will need to be somewhat effective running the ball against the league’s 22nd ranked rushing defense and to that end they may want to loosen the Steelers a bit with first down passes.

Despite the fact that the Steelers have only 7 sacks this season, four by LaMarr Woodley, Dick LeBeau is likely to put pressure on the A Gap with delayed blitzes from their linebackers, something that Ravens center Gino Gradkowski has struggled with. Consequently the Ravens will need to avoid 3rd and long situations, particularly as the visitor.

Flacco has enjoyed success as a first down passer with a 94.4 rating and when he’s had positive yards of 3 or more on second down he’s chucked it to the tune of a 111.0 QBR. But on third down Flacco has struggled, posting a 52.0 QBR. Against the 4th rated passing defense, it would be naïve to think that the Ravens will be any better passing on third down if they aren’t productive on first and second downs.

 

WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL

Roethlisberger faces the league’s 17th ranked pass defense, one that has given up a league high 10 plays of 40+ yards. His career rating against the Ravens during the Harbaugh era is 74.1.

On defense the Ravens need to eliminate the big play. They will likely see Roethlisberger getting the ball out quickly in order to neutralize Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil and test the perimeter with bubble screens and slants as part of an effort to get the Steelers speedy receivers an opportunity for YAC against a secondary that sometimes struggles to tackle.

What will happen today in Pittsburgh?
Ravens Win! (91%)
Steelers win but fail to cover 2 1/2 point spread (4%)
Steelers win and cover the 2 1/2 point spread (5%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.

 

PREDICTION

Turnovers often dictate the outcome of these physical battles. The Ravens come into the game with a (-3) differential while the Steelers are at (-9).

The Ravens will need to start fast and that means allowing Joe Flacco to do what he does best – run the sugar huddle offense. He’ll also need to have a big game from a receiver not named Torrey Smith who will likely be shadowed by the underrated Ike Taylor.

In the end, LeBeau will find a way to take advantage of the struggling Gradkowski and force a Flacco fumble that will prove costly – something we’ve seen all too often when these clubs go at it.

Meanwhile Roethlisberger will at some point break containment and connect downfield with the likes of Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown against a secondary that is too often generous.

The Ravens Heinz Field streak ends…

STEELERS 16, RAVENS 13

Last Week: 0-1 v. Winner, 1-0 v. Spread
Season Total: 2-4 v. Winner, 3-3 v. Spread

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured, Lombardi's Way by Tony Lombardi. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Lombardi

Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

One Rave about “IT’S PREDICTION TIME: Ravens @ Steelers

  1. joe d on said:

    Unfortunately I believe we are starting to see the decline of Ray Rice as a top back in this league. Granted his line has been horrible but it certainly isn’t unusual for a running back to start breaking down after 5 years and 1000 or more carries. Over the years the NFL is littered with backs who were productive for an extended period, got a nice contract and then proceeded to steadily decline until they were out of the league. Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Willie Parker, Clinton Portis and Shaun Alexander all had solid careers as a running back from 3-5 years and then had a rapid decline. Unfortunately the 900 carries in college and over 1000 more in the pros have taken their toll on RR.

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