Sunday – 11/18/12
The Baltimore Ravens return to prime-time on Sunday when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on their AFC North rival Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Both teams have been hobbled by injuries but are still continuing their winning ways. Baltimore leads the Steelers in the AFC North standings by just one game. Sunday night’s game, along with their meeting two weeks from now, could sure help in shaping how the AFC North standings finish this season.
Baltimore has struggled on the road so far this season, boasting just a 2-2 record when away from M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens received some more discouraging injury news this week when CB Jimmy Smith had to undergo groin surgery after last Sunday’s game. It’s still unclear if this will end his season or not. The Ravens will be getting back two thirds of their starting defensive line though as starting D-end Pernell McPhee will return after missing the last two games and DT Haloti Ngata will return after sitting out last week’s game.
Pittsburgh leads the all-time series versus the Ravens at 14-11, but Baltimore has won their last two meetings. Pittsburg will be without starting QB Ben Roethlisberger for this week’s match-up and will be starting back-up Byron Leftwich. The Steelers are 0-4 against the Ravens when Big Ben doesn’t play, but the Steelers are also 4-0 at home this year. One of Pittsburgh’s streaks will come to an end this Sunday.
What the Ravens need to do to win the game
Byron Leftwich will be starting for the Steelers and hasn’t won a game as a starter since 2006. Since ’06 he is 0-6 as a starter. I sure hope the Ravens are thinking what I’m thinking this week. They should be smelling blood and have an aggressive defensive scheme to really get after Byron on Sunday Night. If they can get after Leftwich and have him running scared, victory will come much easier.
Baltimore needs to really focus on the Steelers’ running game this week. RB Rashard Mendenhall makes his return to the field for the Steelers and reports say that he is starting the game. We all know that the Ravens run D has been a little porous this year to say they least, so they really need to work on keeping Mendenhall and the rest of the Steelers rushing attack in check.
The Steelers have been playing some great defense this year which is to no-one’s surprise, as they are ranked first in overall defense. The Ravens need to play some stout D themselves so they can control the field position battle throughout the game. If the Ravens can control the field position battle, it will set up some easier scoring opportunities to help extend their AFC North lead.
This week’s key match-up is going to be the Ravens rushing defense versus the rushing attack of the Steelers. Mendenhall is making his return to the field, but how many carries he will receive is unknown. Pittsburgh still has Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer who both have shown they are capable of running with purpose and racking up yards. As noted earlier, the Ravens need to win the battle of field position and the first key to that is stopping the run. If Baltimore can keep the Steelers rushing attack under 150 yards, they should be able to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, but if the Steelers start running wild, Leftwich could be getting his first win since 2006.
Fantasy Sleeper(s) of the Game
I’m going with Jacoby Jones for a second week in a row for our fantasy sleeper of the week. Last week he had 12 points, so if you need a receiver or someone for your slot position, Jones could be a good pick-up. He’s still only owned in 8% of Yahoo Fantasy Leagues so he should be available to you. As I stated last week, Harbaugh wants to use him more in the passing game so look for Jones to be targeted some more this week. Of course Jones is also a dangerous weapon in the return game as last week showed just that.
If Big Ben was playing I would say this is going to be a one score game. He’s out though, and the Ravens are facing a QB who hasn’t won a game since 2006. I see the Ravens playing some solid football in all facets of the game and leaving Pittsburgh with a 27-10 victory.