Week 13 Ravens vs. Steelers Preview (Thanksgiving Edition)
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It looks as if the Ravens finally found their identity as a team last week at home against the Jets. Despite a shaky offensive effort the Ravens defense was virtually dominant. The team only allowed three points last week in their 19-3 win over New York, and kept the Jets 1-12 on third down conversions. The Ravens red zone defense is probably the best in the league right now, and for the first time a clear identity has emerged for the Ravens as a defensive minded team.
Many of the defensive veterans spoke after the game and even said they felt the responsibility was on the defense to win last Sunday’s game single handedly. On a day where Ray Rice had 16 carries for 30 yards the Ravens needed their defense to step up. Corey Graham walked away with two interceptions on Geno Smith, both of which were in Baltimore territory.
The win was ugly as the offense seemed to sputter up and down the field for yet another week. The only offensive bright spot seemed to be the fact that Baltimore was able to create big plays. Flacco completed two passes of 40 yards or more and one was to Jacoby Jones for the touchdown that busted the game open for Baltimore.
Jones beat Ed Reed to the end zone after getting behind the entire secondary; the score was the final nail in the coffin for the 5-6 Jets. Other than that the inclusion of Tyrod Taylor and the option opened up the playbook a little bit and kept the Jets defense on their toes.
Once again the Ravens walked away with a game they had to win, and the mentality won’t change when the Steelers come to M&T for the primetime slate on Thanksgiving. This Thursday, the entire country will see an ugly gritty defensive battle in the freezing cold—and that’s just the way Baltimore likes it.
The last time these two teams met the Steelers were struggling to get their season back on track after a 1-4 start. A lot has changed since October, and the Ravens and Steelers are now in a six-way tie for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Pittsburgh is playing the best football they’ve played all year right now and are riding a three-game win streak in which they’ve beaten the Bills, Lions, and Browns. Each win was by double-digits.
Both teams are very good defensively and will most likely rely on their defenses to come up with big stops. Expect another gritty game this weekend. Last week, Baltimore’s pass defense held Geno Smith to a 40.9% completion percentage and is only giving up an average of 10.8 points per game at home.
The Ravens are 4-1 at home this season, and have only allowed 31.03% of opponents to score touchdowns once in the red zone. When the field is short, the Ravens seem to have a way to lock things down.
Don’t expect the Ravens to have much success on offense this week as Pittsburgh is only giving up an average of 4.97 yards per play. The Ravens offense is currently ranked 30th in the league and the unit has become frustrating to watch. It should be an ugly close game that will be decided by defense yet again.
Whatever the outcome, there’s no doubt that this week’s matchup will be a thriller in the 4th quarter. History shows us that records don’t matter when these rivals meet. The Steelers have won three of their last five games in M&T Bank stadium; eight of the teams last nine games have been decided by exactly three points.
There really couldn’t be a better matchup for the primetime Thanksgiving game, with both teams fighting it out for the final wild card spot. Both teams are 5-6 and in very similar situations.
The six keys to the game are:
1) Ladarius Webb on Antonio Brown might be the matchup of the game.
2) Contain Big Ben (he’s more dangerous running than standing)
3) BIG PLAYS (Ravens offense can’t drive consistently, and as a result depend on the big play to move the ball)
4) Shake the offense up (maybe not the read-option, but the Ravens could still try different looks spontaneously to mix things up a bit)
5) Keep an eye on “Polamalu, the game wrecker” at all times
6) Flacco needs to show up (his play has been shaky lately—sorry Joe—time to put the team on your back this weekend)