The Baltimore Ravens have locked up the AFC’s top seed entering Week 17, as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers, still hoping for a playoff spot of their own. RSR staff predict what we’ll see here…
Back in 2003, the Ravens had little to play for when they hosted the Steelers during Week 17. The Steelers were out of contention and the Ravens’ seeding in the playoff tourney was set. They would host the Titans the following Saturday.
What was on the line was a rushing record – that of the single-season high set by Eric Dickerson in 1984. Then, the Hall of Famer rushed for 2,105 yards. Taking aim at the record was Jamal Lewis, who fell short with 2,066.
The meaningless battle was brutal and went into overtime. The rivalry meant something to both teams and despite the 13-10 win, the battered bodies cost the Ravens six days later when they looked like a physically drained team while losing to the Titans 20-17.
Sunday’s game at home against the Steelers is also a meaningless one for the hosts, but the visitors have something to play for – a postseason berth. They’ll need help from the Titans. Interesting how the three teams collide again, albeit under different circumstances.
Here’s what you can expect…
— The Steelers will look to run the ball in order to avoid too many third-and-long situations for their struggling quarterback Devlin Hodges. They will run it 40+ times and average under 4 yards per carry.
— Hodges will be forced to throw at times and under the influence of the Christmas Spirit, he’ll give balls to three different players wearing purple. It will be like a Christmas Carol but in this adaptation, the spirits will be named Smith, Clark and Humphrey.
— Like the 2003 contest, a rushing record is a stake. The Ravens need 93 yards to break the all-time NFL record. Gus Edwards alone will get that.
— RGIII will struggle and throw 2 picks in this defensive struggle – or let’s just call it an offensive disaster, outside of Edwards.
By the end of the game, there will be more card carrying members of the Terrible Taliban than Ravens fans. And unfortunately for them, their rain-soaked bodies will go home as losers.
Ravens 16 Steelers 9
— Neither offense will do much, but that’s a good thing for Baltimore, who should absolutely be looking to win this game.
— RGIII gets three quarters to show what he can do, but against a strong and hungry Pittsburgh D he only can muster 13 points.
— Duck Hodges struggles as well, though, tossing 2 interceptions (Carr and Board) en route to 6 points through three quarters.
— Trace McSorley gets the fourth and gives Baltimore hope for his future, providing 10 points to put the game away.
— A big game for the Gus Bus, going over 100 yards and scoring twice.
Ravens 23 Steelers 9
— Quarterback Lamar Jackson and right guard Marshal Yanda will be among the starters who will be held out of the game because Baltimore has already clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs. Running back Mark Ingram suffered a calf injury in the Ravens 31-15 victory over the Browns on Sunday and will not be ready to play. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman can still run the RPO scheme with Robert Griffin III starting at quarterback. RG3 wants to take advantage of this opportunity.
— The Ravens can also break the single-season rushing record with 93 yards. The Ravens managed 161 yards rushing in the first game against the Steelers, but have gotten much better since that game. Expect the record to fall in the first half.
–Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph is out with left shoulder injury. Devlin Hodges will likely get the start and Paxton Lynch will be the primary backup. Neither player strikes any fear into a Ravens defense that has been among the best in the league over the last two months. Pittsburgh starting running back James Conner is dealing with a quad injury and might be out. The Steelers will struggle to move the ball even without Ravens safety Earl Thomas and DT Brandon Williams out of the lineup.
— This short-handed Ravens team is still more talented than the injury-plagued Steelers. Baltimore will carry its season-long momentum into this final game and then the playoffs.
Ravens 17 Steelers 12
With RG3 taking on Duck Hodges, this game will resemble some of the Ravens-Steelers battles of yore. Justin Tucker feels like it’s old times as well, as he kicks five field goals in a rainy turnover-fest.
Ravens 15 Steelers 10
Drew Kordula (spread pick)
This game is why I tend to stay away from Week 17 altogether. The Ravens are resting their big guns, but they’ll still have plenty of firepower out there against a Steelers team running with a third-string quarterback. This will be a low-scoring game (as the over/under suggests) and the RGIII does enough to keep it close and may win this one outright.
Pittsburgh is 3-7 straight up in their last 10 road games. The Ravens are 8-1 ATS in their last nine games.
My Pick: Baltimore +2.5
I’m going to keep this one pretty short and sweet. The rave around Pittsburgh for a while was about Duck Hodges. He did just enough to help them win ball games. Well, the clock has struck midnight on Mr.duck and he’s turned back into a pumpkin.
The Steelers offense is abysmal. Even with Big Ben I’m not sure they’d be leaps and bounds better, although it would of course be better. This will be a game to 17. Whoever gets there first wins.
RG3 will be starting and i know many believe that McSorley will get some time but if this is a close game, I’ll bet RG3 stays in because Harbaugh would love to eliminate the Steelers with his backups.
— the Ravens defense forces three turnovers and Hodges takes after his nickname, throwing up a few ducks for interceptions.
— RG3 will toss a couple of scores but will also throw an interception. I’ll take a guess at it being to Fitzpatrick.
— the Steelers don’t score more than 13 points and their season is effectively over.
Ravens 20 Steelers 13