Posts Tagged 'AFC North'

Ravens-Steelers Week…Feeling Like ’08

Well we have quite a matchup to look forward to this Sunday night. And it only seems appropriate that the Steelers come into town with the same record as the Ravens: 8-3.

High Stakes? You bet. But really, would you want it any other way?

The lead-up to this game feels an awful lot like the lead-up to the one 2 years ago on Dec. 14, 2008, when 10-3 Pittsburgh arrived to face 9-4 Baltimore.

That game more than lived up to the hype. It was a defensive slugfest and the Steelers came away with a memorable victory that clinched the division crown. Ben Roethlisberger drove his team 91 yards down the field and capped off the drive with this unforgettable play (which I recorded btw, sorry it is so blurry!!):

You’re going to hear many quotes from players of both teams this week that sound a lot like what Terrell Suggs said in his post-game interview last Sunday in regards to the the opposition this week:

“Our teams are similar, and we just don’t like them, but we respect them. It’s going to be championship football.”

The words are a little stronger on the internet between the fan bases. Venture over to the Scout.com Ravens page or read the comments to The Baltimore Sun’s Ravens Insider posts. The fans of these  teams can really fire up a war of words. Its quite entertaining and it proves  just how much this game means to the two cities involved.

The last two ravens victories over Pittsburgh have been great. An overtime win last year at home and a come from behind win this year at Heinz Field. However the guys under center for those two games? Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch respectively. Not to knock either of those two…but as a Ravens fan, I want to play Roethlisberger, and I want to beat him. Overcoming Pittsburgh just isn’t as satisfying or fulfilling when he isn’t playing.

Because like it or not, the man is an incredible quarterback. He is hard to bring down and he can improvise like no other when he gets flushed from the pocket.

Want to know what else is a hard pill to swallow for Ravens fans? The boys in purple haven’t defeated Big Ben at M&T Bank Stadium since November 2006, when he took that infamous hit from Bart Scott. Hard to believe its been that long, huh?? Granted, he didn’t play in ’07 or ’09…but still, its been 4 years!! And they last time they beat him period was just a month later when they took down Pittsburgh on the road to complete their first and only season sweep of the Steelers to date.

The big story this week will be the status of left tackle Michael Oher’s knee sprain. If he cannot go on Sunday, Oniel Cousins will get the start and faces the daunting task of protecting Joe Flacco from James Harrison for four quarters. More on that as the week progresses.

Peace.

NFL Week 9 Game Preview: Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)

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Game Info:

Kickoff: 1 p.m. (EDT)

Site: Paul Brown Stadium (65,515) · Cincinnati, OH

TV: CBS

Announcers: Dick Enberg (play-by-play), Dan Fouts (color)

Previous Meeting:

In the teams’ last meeting on Oct. 11, the Bengals drove 80 yards and scored the game-winning TD with 22 seconds remaining, stunning the Ravens. It was the third straight win for the Bengals, and each of those victories came after trailing in the fourth quarter. Carson Palmer’s 20-yard pass to Andre Caldwell in the endzone sealed the victory for the Cincinnati. Cedric Benson rushed for 120 yards on 27 carries, becoming the first back in 40 games to gain 100 or more yards against the Ravens’ defense.

Keep Your Eye On:

CIN RB Cedric Benson. The fifth year back out of Texas has had resurgence in 2009, averaging 4.4 yards per carry (a career high) and scoring four TD’s (one shy of tying his career best of five). After 4 mediocre seasons in Chicago and another one last year in CIncy, Benson finally looks like the back everyone thought he would be when the Bears chose him with the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft. The Bengals are 3-0 this year when he gains 100 or more yards

BAL RB Ray Rice. This guy can do everything. He is explosive and remarkably powerful for his size. He is averaging 124.9 total yards from scrimmage per game this season, 2nd most in the NFL. In Rice’s last two games, he has averaged 11.2 yards per reception.

Carson Palmer vs. Ravens Defense: Back on Oct 11, Ed Reed intercepted Palmer in the first quarter and returned it for a TD. The rest of the game, Palmer was held in check. But on the Bengals final drive; he looked calm and collected while the Ravens’ defense looked slopy undisciplined. Chris Carr was called for an illegal contact penalty; Palmer completed four passes and ran six yards for a first down on 4th and 1. Linebacker Ray Lewis was called for a personal foul when he delivered a hard hit Chad Ochocinco coming across the middle. And the final blow came on the 20-yard TD pass to Andre Caldwell right over the middle of the field. Getting pressure on Palmer early

Prediction: The Ravens showed last week that they despite their three consecutive losses, they are still capable of beating some of the best teams in the league. When this team doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot, they are a tough bunch to beat. The Bengals, however, are having a great season. They knocked off the Super Bowl champs, and came into Baltimore with confidence and walked out with a win. When their offensive machine is rolling, it is very difficult to stop. The difference in this one will be that Baltimore is more hungry for a win here than Cincinnati. RAVENS 34-21.

Week 5 Game Preview: Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

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Game Info:

Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. (EDT)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium (71.008) · Baltimore, MD

TV: CBS

Announcers: Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Steve Tasker (color)

Fast Facts:

-33.3 percent (14/42) of Baltimore’s offensive drives have ended in touchdowns this season — the highest percentage of any team in the league.

-Cincinnati and Baltimore are tied with three other teams for the league lead in red zone TD percentage at 66.7%. The Ravens have 12 TD’s in 18 red zone trips, while the Bengals have scored 8 TD’s in 12 red zone visits.

-Since 2003, when Marvin Lewis took over as Bengals head coach, the Ravens and Bengals defenses rank 1-2 in the NFL in takeaways. The Ravens lead with 205, and the Bengals are second at 198.

-Cincinnati has allowed a running back to gain at least 93 yards in back to back games.

-The Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 39 consecutive regular season games.

Ravens Offense vs. Bengals Defense: After suffering a neck injury last week against the Patriots, it is unlikely that left tackle Jared Gaither will play this Sunday. If that is the case, Michael Oher will switch over from the right side over to the left as he did last week. He will have his hands full though, going up against defensive end Antwan Odom. Odom is tied for first in the league with eight sacks this season. Of Baltimore’s 66 offensive plays last week, only 17 of them were running plays. They will need more balance if they want to keep the Bengals D in check. Joe Flacco and his receivers can only do so much when the opposing defense knows what you are going to do. Le’Ron McClain had zero carries in Week 4. Look for him to get a little more involved this week. Willis McGahee has been a touchdown machine. He scored in his sixth straight game last Sunday and now has nine TDs (7 rush, 2 rec) since Week 16 of 2008, the most of any NFL player during that span.

Bengals Offense vs. Ravens Defense: Quarterback Carson Palmer is off to a mediocre start, with a 75.2 QB rating, which ranks 24th in the league. He has six TD passes but has also thrown five interceptions. Running Back Cedric Benson ranks third in the AFC and is tied for fourth in the league with 367 rushing yards. He is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has two touchdowns. Chad Ochocinco is the team’s leading receiver with 17 catches, a 15.2-yard average and three touchdowns. The story with Baltimore’s defense this year has been their vulnerability through the air. The run defense is as good as it’s ever been, holding opponents to an average of 59.5 yards a game, tops in the NFL.

Prediction: The Bengals are a good football team. If it weren’t for a miracle ending to their week 1 game against Denver, they would be 4-0. They squeaked out an overtime win over the lowly Browns last week, but have also come back after trailing double digits to the world champion Steelers. I wouldn’t be shocked if this turns out to be a close game late. But I just don’t see them finishing the job. The Ravens are a great football team at home. I don’t see them losing, especially with first place in the division on the line. RAVENS 30 – BENGALS 21.

Week 15: Steelers-Ravens Preview

Dec. 13, 2008, 5:28 PM

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Game Info:

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m. (ET)
Site: M&T Bank Stadium (71,008) • Baltimore, Md.
TV: CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play) Phil Simms (color )

Matchups:

Ravens Offense vs. Steelers Defense: The Steelers have the NFL’s top ranked defense mainly because of the way they disguise their blitzes. Dick Lebeau’s 3-4 defensive scheme works very well with the types of linebackers Pittsburgh has. Outside linebacker James Harrison has an amazing combination of speed and strength for his size. He has used that combination to rack up 15 sacks this season, which ranks 3rd in the NFL.  LaMarr Woodley has also had a very productive season so far, totaling 11.5 sacks. All-Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu patrols the secondary and can change games very quickly with his big hits and timely interceptions. The Ravens will try to pound it right at the Steelers with Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee (Ray Rice is going to be a game-time decision with a left shin contusion), which has worked for the majority of the season. It will be up to Joe Flacco to make smart decisions when he feels the pressure. It’s not a question of if Flacco gets hit, it’s a question of when and how hard.

Steelers Offense vs. Ravens Defense: The Ravens defense is filled with talented athletes who can make plays on any down. Quarterback Ben Roethisberger is going to have to deal with the same types of zone blitzes Joe Flacco will see. Tight end Heath Miller could see quite a few balls thrown his way because of the limited time Roethisberger will have to throw. One matchup I am looking forward to watching is Pittsburgh wide-out Santonio Holmes against Ravens corner Fabian Washington. Holmes is a big play receiver with tremendous speed. When the Ravens play at home, statistically, they are the NFL’s best defense. Look for that trend to continue on Sunday.

The Prediction: Never before have the Ravens faced Pittsburgh this late in the year with so much on the line. It will be a real test for them against a hard-hitting, intelligent Steelers squad. My gut says go with the Ravens because they are at home. But the Steelers have won some big road games this year, and Big Ben has the edge on Joe Flacco in terms of experience. I think Flacco makes one too many turnovers…even if it is just one  STEELERS: 23-14


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