The 10-6 Ravens travel to Pittsburgh Sunday night to take on the 11-5 Steelers in the first round of the AFC playoffs. This is a game between 2 evenly matched teams that have developed a serious rivalry over the last decade. In their last 14 matchups including playoffs these teams are both 7-7 including a split this year as each team won when playing at home. The Steelers are winners of their last 4 games, 3 of which came against playoff teams and enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the league. The Ravens are 3-1 in their last 4 games with all 3 wins coming against non-playoff teams.
The Steelers have won their last 4 games by a combined score of 116-60 and while their defense has played well, their offense has played even better. Ben Roethlisberger is having one of the best seasons of his career with the help of the outstanding play of both running back Le’veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown. They have combined to score a total of 9 touchdowns in the last 4 games. During this stretch, Bell is averaging 80 yards a game rushing with 5 touchdowns and 50 yards a game receiving with 1 touchdown. Brown is averaging 110 receiving yards and has caught 2 touchdowns in the last 4 games. He is also a threat on special teams as he showed last week when he returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown. Roethlisberger has done a great job of avoiding turnovers as he has thrown only 9 interceptions all season and only 1 in the last 4 games.
The Ravens have won 3 of their last 4 games by a combined score of 81-60 and benefitted from having a weak schedule down the stretch as those wins came against teams who finished the season with a combined record of 18-30. While the Steelers were 5-1 against playoff teams this season, the Ravens went 1-6 against playoff bound teams. On a positive note the Ravens were the only team in the NFL this season to not allow an opposing running back to rush for over 100 yards and quarterback Joe Flacco has more road playoff victories than any other quarterback in the history of the league. Since 2008 when he was a rookie, Flacco has 9 playoff wins, which is 4 more than any other quarterback. Also, running back Justin Forsett has been great all year rushing for over 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns including 117 yards last week in their win against the Browns.
Both teams have a very solid defense and a quarterback who has proven that they can lead their team to a Super Bowl. This game should be a back and forth battle between 2 teams that know each other extremely well. In the end, it will come down to home field advantage and the assortment of offensive firepower the Steelers possess that will have the Ravens offense struggling to keep up.
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