January 18, 2009

AFC Championship Preview Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC Championship Preview 
Baltimore Ravens (13-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4) 
Sunday, 6:30PM Eastern 
 
Bookmaker.com betting line – Pittsburgh -6, 33.5 O/U 
 
The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday in clash of titans type game to determine the AFC Championship. The game highlights an early season pair of re-matches that were very exciting football games. The first meeting was an overtime thriller that Pittsburgh edged out by a field goal in late September. In week 13, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger led a game winning scoring drive with 43 seconds on the clock to steal a victory away from the Ravens 13-9. However, Baltimore has yet to lose a game since that meeting winning 4 straight and they will look to get a little revenge this time around and earn the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. 
 
Baltimore has really improved in the late part of the season. The Ravens have won their last 7 of 8 games with their only defeat coming from the Steelers. The game appears to certainly be another defensive grudge match featuring the two best defensive units in the NFL. The Ravens have played exceptional on the defensive side of the ball holding teams to slightly over 10 points per game in their last 7 games. Baltimore has also been playing well on the offensive side of the ball. The Ravens offense has come on strong behind rookie QB Joe Flacco. Flacco threw a ton of interceptions through the first part of the year, but has not thrown a single pick in 5 games. Flacco is beginning to throw the ball with confidence and as result the Ravens offense is becoming more effective. The Ravens ground game has also been solid behind Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee. Both running backs will get a number of carries this Sunday and the team that established the ground game the best will likely win this game. 
 
Pittsburgh has the best defense in the NFL. The Steelers potent defense ranks 1st in 3 of 4 major defensive categories and 2nd in the other. Pittsburgh only allowed 202 total yards from Baltimore in their last meeting and they will try to do the same this Sunday. In the last meeting, WR Hines Ward had a big performance from the wide receiver position. Ward caught 107 reception yards in that game and has played very well in the final month of the season. If the Steelers get in a bind and are forced to throw the football, expect Ward to get some opportunities to make a big play. This game will likely be won in the trenches considering these defenses are extremely talented. Baltimore and Pittsburgh have without a doubt the best two defenses in the NFL and it will be interesting to see which offense can make some plays and get the job done. 
 
What to watch for… 
The ground game will likely tell the story in this battle. Do not expect there to be a large amount of passes as both teams will rely a good bit on their defense. The team that can move the ball on the ground and win the field position will likely win the game. Both offenses have shown effective running games at one point or another this season. Look for these dominant defenses to stand strong, but watch to see which team controls the ball through the running game. 
 
Pick – Ravens get the job done this time, the points are extra. Baltimore +6

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