Saturday, November 03, 2007

Ravens: What are the Chances...?

This week the oddsmakers have the Steelers as a nine- to ten-point favorite versus the Ravens. That sounds remarkably high, especially considering the results of last season's games (27-0 and 31-7). Sure, the Steelers have improved and the Ravens have slipped since then, but not by that much. And the truth is that the Ravens' defense still matches up better against the Steelers' offense than any other defense in the NFL.

While the Ravens have already suffered losses to three teams (Cin., Cle., Buff.) the Steelers have defeated in resounding fashion, Baltimore is coming off a bye and is much healthier than it has been in a while. The extended rest will allow QB Steve McNair to start the game, which is never good news for Pittsburgh. McNair is 11-4 v. the Steelers, including a 5-3 record and 102.8 passer rating in Pittsburgh. But the key to the game will be how well the Steelers' offense performs against the Ravens' defense, which plays an exceptionally physical style that the Steelers have struggled against in recent years. As a result, this figures to be a nerve-wracking game for Steelers' fans to watch: With Ben Roethlisberger's health paramount to the Steelers' long-term success, the O-line cannot allow the Ravens to get many hits on Big Ben.

The Steelers have lost three games in a row versus Baltimore and haven't beaten the Ravens by more than one point since 2004. If I were a betting man I'd take the Ravens plus the points, especially since Billick & Co. have had two weeks to prepare. But straight up it's another story: The Steelyard gives the Steelers a 60 percent chance of squeaking out a win.

"What are the Chances...?" is 6-1 this season and 19-4 all-time.

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