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Game 14: Steelers @ Ravens

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Wow, this is absolutely a statement game, and my predictions should bring the "Terrible Towel" wavers out of the woodwork. The Steelers are defending AFC North champs and deserve the props they earned on their way to that title last year. But even with as poor a season the Ravens endured in 2007, they still managed to split the season series last year w/ Pittsburgh. Granted, the Ravens victory might have been a gift from the Steelers due to their getting healthy and ready for the post season, but hey, a win is a win in the NFL and we'll take them any way we can get them, especially last year!

This year the Ravens should be much more competitive and coming into this game in the hunt for a playoff spot will make it a key game on both teams' schedules. The Ravens have already lost to the Steelers earlier this season on national television, so the revenge factor is high on the priority list for Baltimore. Pittsburgh should be in even better playoff position, but there's no way they'll mail this game in like they might have last year. While in the past the Steelers could blitz all day and harass an immobile Steve McNair or mistake-prone Kyle Boller, they now have to chase Troy Smith all over the field and worry about Willis McGahee all day long. This will be no cakewalk like the earlier game was, especially in hostile territory.

The Ravens will drown the Steelers with noise when they are on offense, and give them a taste of their own medicine with their blitz packages. When the Ravens offense takes the field, they will rely on a variety of hand offs, quick tosses to the outside and short passes to keep the Steelers blitzing linebackers on their heels.

I am expecting a hard hitting game and wouldn't be surprised if the NFL moves this game into a prime time national TV slot on Sunday night. Since this game is not on the road, I would also expect the Ravens to do themselves and the city proud, just like they did on Monday Night Football against the Patriots last season. The home crowd spurs the Ravens onto victory, although it might not be enough to catapult them into first place in the AFC North. However, as stated earlier, a win is a win, and the playoffs are looking more like a possible reality than what was a pre-season fantasy only a few short months ago.

Ravens: 20  Steelers: 13

Season Record:  9-5