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Tale of the tape

Week 11: Baltimore Ravens At Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots (Photo Credit: Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Ravens

Steelers

Joe Flacco is one of the better quarterbacks in the league. After a couple of unimpressive games in a row, Flacco was back in form against the Raiders as Baltimore rolled to a 55-20 victory. Flacco has size, strength and the ability to throw an excellent deep ball. He has improved quite a bit at reading defenses and that makes him a much-improved quarterback. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury is a huge blow to the Steelers. He was forced out of the game when he landed on his throwing arm after taking a big hit in the Week 10 Monday night overtime win over the Chiefs and it’s unlikely that he will play. Backup Byron Leftwich is competent, but he lacks a quick release and his stiff-armed passes are easy to read for opposing defenses.
The Ravens were explosive in their win over the Raiders, but they know they will get challenged by the physical Steelers defense. As usual, they will hand the ball to Ray Rice, who may be the most versatile running back in the league because he’s such a good receiver. Torrey Smith has become one of the best deep threats in the league and has caught seven TD passes. Offense Mike Tomlin will try to gash the Baltimore defense with his running game. The Steelers have been successful with Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman running the ball. They could have Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) back for this game, and his return would give the Steelers a lift. Mike Wallace is a speedy receiver who has hurt the Ravens in the past.
The Ravens are not the defensive team they have been in the past. Losing middle linebacker Ray Lewis hurt them and they don’t seem to attack with as much fury as they did and they have tumbled to 27th in yards allowed. Strong safety Bernard Pollard is an underrated force. He leads the team with 69 tackles and has five passes defensed. Defense The Steelers will make the Ravens earn every yard they get. They have the top-rated defense in the league even though strong safety Troy Polamalu (calf) has not played since Week Five. Inside linebacker has 64 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries. Free safety Ryan Clark has 62 tackles and is a nasty hitter.
The Ravens get a big lift from their special teams. One of the key reasons for that is the speed of Jacoby Jones, who has already returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Placekicker Justin Tucker has been a huge upgrade from Billy Cundiff, who manned the position a year ago. Tucker has made 17-of-18 FG attempts. Special Teams The Steelers are also getting solid play from their special teams, even though they don’t have anyone with Jones’ spectacular return ability. Placekicker Shaun Suisham has made 20-of-21 FG attempts, while Drew Butler has placed 13 of his 33 punts inside the 20.

The winner is

AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots
Ravens
3 out of 4

The Steelers were starting to play much more consistent football, but the loss of Roethlisberger in the Week 10 Monday night game is disastrous. The Steelers had some have some depth and may be competitive in most weeks, but it will be tough to hang in against upper-echelon opponents.

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