Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ravens-Steelers Preview, Part 4: The Rundown

Well, the pundits are all right about one of their cliché’s, this will be like a heavyweight boxing match. Unfortunately, the Ravens have already fought for 8 rounds against a powerful opponent when a fresh-faced Steelers team steps into the ring. They are both tough and both talented, but the Ravens are exhausted. With the way the offense dominated time of possession, last week was all but a bye week for the Steelers defense, while the Ravens clung on to victory by the skin of their teeth in game that in retrospect they won because they got the right bounces.

If Baltimore goes to the Super Bowl, it will be because of their ability to overcome a couple key elements. One, their injuries and fatigue will not have to be a factor. The replacements on defense will have to play as though they were starters, and Le’Ron McClain and others will have to play as though they were not hurt. The Ravens will have to be able to tackle underneath and keep up with the deceptively fast Steelers receiving corps (not to mention a rejuvenated Willie Parker), and run inside to wear down the Steelers defense. Secondly, Joe Flacco will have to go out and win this game. So far he has been able to get by “not losing” games; this one he will have to win. Whether it is driving the ball down the field through the air or delivering that perfect pass for a 54 yard strike, the Ravens rookie will have to overcome his inexperience and not only avoid mistakes, but make plays.

However, I don’t know if this will happen. The Ravens have gotten by with bounces going their way, with a fumbles falling into their laps, with little fortuitous events that has kept this Cinderella season alive. I can’t see that happening in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are the team that dashes hopes, that get you to the brink of victory before snatching it away. This year, the Steelers have gotten all the bounces- be it against the Ravens, San Diego, Dallas, or any other opponent. When you break down the numbers, the Steelers are the clear favorite. They will play the Ravens close for the first quarter and a half or so, and then bust it out with a few big plays as the Ravens D starts to get fatigued. The Ravens offense will be forced out of their comfort zone and “Joe Cool” will make that mistake. He has had too much hype about him not making mistakes for it not to happen.

I want to say that the Ravens have a psychological advantage, but that will be muted by the rabid crowd of fans in Heinz Field. I want to say that the Ravens have all the intangibles to win this game, but the Steelers have the personnel. I want to say the Ravens are going to win today, but I can’t.

The nod goes to the Steelers, 27-13

As for my compatriots:
Windsor gives it to the Ravens, 20-14
Falco gives it to the Steelers, 17-10

No comments: