Week 13 Game of the Week: Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo credit: Paula R. Lively via Flickr
The Ninety-Nine Yards team return to Belushi’s, talking through week 13 of the NFL with Adam Barton, a Baltimore Ravens fan since 2000.
Head to the Belushi’s NFL Hub to check out our NFL packages and book a table for the NFL in London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bath & Edinburgh.
It may not be the game of the year as it was for the first decade of the century - all of which seemed to end 13-10 one way or the other - but Ravens visiting Steelers remains a marquee matchup that has a big impact on the AFC playoff picture.
While the Baltimore and Pittsburgh teams have moved away from their defensive focus of the 2000s (more so in the case of the Ravens who have drafted Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman early in the first round in recent years), this game will be decided by who can make the stops at the key times.
Both teams have taken an optional approach to defence this season, with 145 missed tackles between them. However, it was the defence that won another division battle for Baltimore versus Cleveland last week. Meanwhile, the Steelers have allowed ninth-most yards/game (367.5) and 10th most points (24.3).
DEFINING THE AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
The Ravens nervy 16-10 win against the Browns gave them the top seed in the AFC, opening up against a one-game lead over the pack. It’s a lead that Baltimore needs, given their run-in. The Ravens play Pittsburgh twice, the playoff-chasing Browns and Bengals on the road and NFC powerhouses Packers and Rams, thankfully at home (– ok I’m a little biased).
Speaking of the pack, it is a crowded one. The Steelers are currently 12th in the AFC at 5-5-1 but they are only a game and a half behind the second seed Patriots at 8-4. Losing a single game will be crucial to teams making the playoffs, and a win over their bitter rivals in the North would make it all the sweeter.
CAN YOU TRUST BALTIMORE?
The Ravens are top in the AFC but something isn’t right. Teams have worked out that blitzing significantly limits Lamar Jackson on the ground and through the air if the back end can hold up one on one.
The defence is one of the weaker in franchise history but made key plays against Cleveland with two turnovers and holding the two-headed monster of Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb to the Browns’ lowest run total under Kevin Stefanski, thanks to the trio of Brandon Williams, Justin Madubuike and Calais Campbell.
The team can be frustrated but they just find a way to win. Will that remain the case against the league’s best?
ONES TO WATCH
Both quarterbacks enter this game with questions surrounding them. In this matchup against questionable defences, there'll be no excuses. It could lead to a rare shootout in Pittsburgh.
It looks like Ben Roethlisberger is on his last legs having decided to come back for one more year. The veteran is passing for 70 fewer yards a game than he was three years ago (252.2), has already been sacked 24 times and thrown for 14 touchdowns. Just 3.6% of his passes go for touchdowns, compared to 5.4% last year.
Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson started the season on MVP pace but since a remarkable comeback against the Colts, Jackson has seven passing TDs and nine interceptions in five games. Jackson hasn’t even averaged five yards a game over the last two weeks.
THE FINAL WORD
The Ravens have to be favourites going into this key matchup. Despite allowing 275.7 yards a game through the air, they are allowing the ninth fewest points each game. On the other side of the ball, Baltimore has fourth-most yards per game despite their running focus. However, they are middle of the pack in scoring as they are eighth-worst on third down.
The less said about Pittsburgh's performance last week in Cincinnati the better. But they will come out fighting with Chase Claypool and rookies Pat Freiermuth & Najee Harris leading the charge.
The defence has the ability to cause problems for Jackson and co. too with T.J. Watt (if available from the Covid list) and Minkah Fitzpatrick making a devilish partnership and big-play ability in the backfield.
More than anything, it’s a division game. We’ve seen the Texans beat the Titans this season, playing each other twice a year is a great leveller and this is anyone’s game.
Watch all the NFL action live at Belushi’s Bars across the UK and Europe on HD screens and giant projectors. Expect Happy Hours, live music, beer pong & more! Book your table now.
Don’t forget you can follow the @NinetyNineYards team on Twitter for the latest in NFL conversation, and of course, keep an eye out on the blog for fresh content from the team.