Free NFL Pick: Pittsburgh at Baltimore 12-05-2010

December 5, 2010

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

Sunday December 5th, 2010 8:20 PM EST

Line: Baltimore -3

Overview:

Should we ever expect the spread of this game to be more than three? Fittingly, the teams share an 8-3 record and are playing for control over the AFC North. The Ravens Vs. Steelers is my favorite game of the year to watch. The game is physical, well played, hard fought, and there are hall of famers on both sides of the ball. Both teams resemble each other so closely that it is always a good show when the two cross paths.

Keys to the Game:

  • Joe Flacco is not a game manager, but he will need to revert to that status in this game. When playing the Steelers, the game is more about long term goals. A quarterback should aspire to play safe and cut his losses. Opportunities to excel are few and far between, but they do present themselves. Flacco can’t force the ball, just because he feels the heat. He limited his turnovers to one the last time he faced the Steelers. Doing so again will probably render the same result.
  • Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play the last time these teams faced off. In games that Big Ben has played against the Ravens, the Steelers have won five in a row. Roethlisberger is a pivotal part of the Steelers offense and it is hard to believe he could not have been the difference in their last outing. As well as Roethlisberger will need to play, the Steelers can’t get away from the running game that has made them so successful.
  • Ray Lewis should key on Rashard Mendenhall all game long. Last week, Mendenhall carried the ball 36 times. The Steelers are likely to feed the ball to Mendenhall as long as the offensive line is able to get any sort of push. Yardage will not be easy to come by, especially if Ray Lewis is coming free because of solid production on the defensive front.
  • Just as Big Ben did not play in their last outing against the Ravens, Ed Reed was sidelined in the Ravens last game against the Steelers. Reed is one of the greatest safeties of all time. Although he seems to be breaking down physically, he is still making game changing plays. Reed has played in only five games this season and he already has four interceptions. The Ravens are scary without Reed. With him, they might be unstoppable.
  • The Steelers defense is not going to be forgiving against the run. Some teams go with a bend don’t break mentality, while the Steelers exercise the ‘don’t bend don’t break’ option. The defense features a daunting linebacker corp with James Harrison, Lawrence Tillman, and James Farrior, along with a premiere nose tackle in Casey Hampton, and the most versatile safety in the NFL in Troy Polamalu. Ray Rice had only 20 yards in the Ravens victory over the Steelers. He could be in for another long day.

Key Matchup:

The Trenches

  • Maurkice Pouncey, Jonathan Scott and Flozell Adams will have their hands full with Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. Ngata could easily be the most underrated players in the league. While he is widely regarded the best defensive tackle in the league, his contributions to the Ravens are immeasurable.
  • The Ravens will look to neutralize Brett Keisel, James Harrison, and Casey Hampton with Michael Oher, Robert Gaither, and Matt Birk. With solid names on both sides of the line, the battle up front will likely dictate how the flow of the game goes. There is not a clear cut advantage either way, which makes this matchup as exciting as it is relevant.

Wrap Up:

I think one of these teams will eventually find themselves in the Super Bowl this year. The Ravens were my preseason pick for the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, but they won’t be able to sweep the Steelers this season without leaving battered and broken. This is a tough, physical matchup and these teams are very evenly matched. With Ben Roethlisberger being less than 100 percent, is unclear how he will be able to react to pressure with limited mobility. The Ravens haven’t lost at home yet, so I’m going to take the Ravens.

Free NFL Pick: Baltimore -3


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