Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: Three Bold Predictions
The Black and Blue division certainly seems to have a lot of bruises this year.
The Bengals are experiencing a sophomore slump and appear to be out of the division race, while the Browns have once again drafted a quarterback who isn't going to automatically make them contenders.
The two Super Bowl contenders in the division keep getting hurt, losing essential players while fighting for the division lead.
However, one of these teams isn't as banged up. The Steelers have lost Ben Roethlisberger, possibly through the next matchup between these teams. The Ravens don't have Ray Lewis, but Terrell Suggs is back, Haloti Ngata is playing, and Ed Reed still looks like Ed Reed, which can compensate for the missing cornerbacks.
Yes, the Ravens' defense hasn't been as stifling this year, but the Steelers don't have their field general, and the last couple of games suggest that the Ravens have fixed their weaknesses against the run. Even Rashard Mendenhall returning (again) won't be enough to change that. The Ravens will have a good defensive game, holding the Steelers under 350 yards.
The Steelers do appear to have a great defense this year, only allowing a league best 265.7 yards per game. However, the only real offense they have faced this year is the Broncos, and Peyton Manning averaged 9.7 yards per pass attempt. In fact, the only reason the Broncos were held under 350 yards of offense was because they couldn't get on the field.
The Steelers' defense will not be able to hold up against Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and Torrey Smith. Between age and injuries, they cannot keep up. The Ravens will have 450 yards of offense, exploiting the weakness exposed by the lowly Chiefs.
That weakness is especially important. The Chiefs were able to gain 142 rushing yards on 35 carries, not all of them from Jamaal Charles. Rice is a far better back than Charles, and the Ravens have a more balanced offense and a better offensive line. If Harbaugh is smart (and he certainly appears to be), Rice will get 35+ touches and 150+ yards while wearing down Pittsburgh's defense.
Heinz Field is a tough place to play, but this just isn't a good year for the Steelers. Too much run game against a suddenly reeling defense, and too little leadership, precision, and physicality on offense will cost Pittsburgh this week. The Ravens will pull out the tough road win, 24-14.
The author wants to mention Lardarius Webb, a Nicholls State alumni who is out for the season, because that's where his dad went to college. It's a tiny college, and not very well known, so any publicity is good publicity.
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