Baltimore will face Pittsburgh for the second time in three weeks, but this time it’s in our house. At 9-2, the Ravens actually have a chance to seal the division next week. With a victory they would move to 10-2 and guaranteed at least a 10-6 season. Pittsburgh with a loss would fall to 6-6 and could finish with that 10-6 mark at best. With the season sweep, the Ravens would win the tie breaker against their biggest rival. They would also need some help from San Diego to defeat the Bengals. They would also fall to 6-6 at that point and would lose the division record tie breaker. Baltimore is currently 4-0 in the division while Cincy has just one win. Of course, winning the AFC North is merely a formality at this point, barring an epic collapse in the final 5 games of the season.
This game hinges heavily on if Roethlisberger is able to gut it out for this one. The latest reports have him at less than a 50% chance to play, but Big Ben has proved reports wrong time and time again. No matter what though, he won’t be 100% for this one. He is coming off displaced ribs as well as a serious ankle injury that will likely bother him all season. The gritty QB constantly plays through injuries, but often times it does affect his performance more than he lets on. Baltimore should feel good about this one regardless if the QB suits up. They haven’t lost at home since 2010 and they won’t look past Pittsburgh no matter who is on the field.
At this time though, the game plan has to be focused on preparing for Charlie Batch. The Ravens beat up on Byron Leftwich the last time the two played so much so that he is gone for the year. It is a little curious that he never once missed a snap in that game, but be sure that he won’t make an appearance in this one. Batch played poorly last week against Cleveland, throwing 3 interceptions. The running game did not help either as the team had an astounding 8 turnovers overall. That has forced starter Rashard Mendenhall to the third string on the depth chart in favor of Jonathan Dwyer and Issac Redman. I would imagine that is more symbolic than anything and Tomlin will play the hot hand in such a crucial game. Dwyer may be the best option regardless, however, as he showed some serious spurts in the last game against the Ravens. He is a bruising back that has enough elusiveness to make players miss with relative ease at times. He doesn’t have the experience of Mendenhall or Redman, but he worries me more than the veterans. Bottling him up will be the focal point in stopping the offense in my opinion.
The biggest thing I will be looking for is the pass rush. It has really improved since Suggs his come back into the equation, despite the fact that he has only totaled 2 sacks. Paul Kruger has been a monster rushing the edge, and the Ravens have gotten bigger contributions recently from some other names such as Art Jones. It will be interesting to see if Pernell McPhee can get back on the field and start contributing. The Chargers line can make anyone look good though so hopefully they can bring into this week as well. It may become more difficult if David Decastro is able to play, which seems likely. Then again, Kelvin Beachum will start at RT in place of injured Mike Adams. In other injury news, Antonio Brown will play, but will be limited by the QB play if Ben is out once again. Lamarr Woodley is doubtful which would really hurt their already injured riddled defense.
Pittsburgh is one of the most injured teams in the NFL which has been a major reason for their mediocre season at this point. This game means a lot more to them than the Ravens though, so don’t expect an easy game. Still, Baltimore should probably win this game with so many factors on their side.