Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ravens: What are the Chances…?

With QB Ben Roethlisberger sidelined by a concussion, second-year QB Dennis Dixon will make his first NFL start. This late development leaves Pittsburgh at a major disadvantage at the quarterback position, especially when one considers that Dixon didn’t get much practice time with the first team offense this week.

Meanwhile, it’s scary to think that Big Ben is still feeling the after-effects of his latest concussion. It’s even scarier to contemplate the possibility that his career might end prematurely due to concussions. But at least the Steelers seem to be erring on the side of caution this time around, as opposed to 2006, when he was permitted to play in a game at Oakland just a week after absorbing a crushing hit in a game at Atlanta. Roethlisberger didn’t even look back-to-normal during that game against the Raiders, and it remains the worst game he’s ever played in the NFL.

However, there may be a silver lining to having Big Ben out of the lineup, as the Steelers will be forced to go back-to-basics on offense. And if the team experiences some success with a more conservative game plan--a big if, I know--perhaps Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians will stick with a more conservative approach even after Roethlisberger returns to the lineup.

Still, it won’t be easy to beat the Ravens with Dixon at QB and Troy Polamalu still out with a knee injury. But most Steelers-Ravens games are close contests no matter the circumstances, and I doubt the 5-5 Ravens will be able to pull away with an easy victory. It’s even possible that the Steelers will play better as a team, knowing that Big Ben won’t be there to bail them out with his passing heroics. And there isn’t a “book” yet on how to defend Dixon, seeing as he’s never started a game. That’s why I’m predicting a loss, but still giving the Steelers a 35 percent chance of winning.

What are the Chances…? is 6-4 in 2009 and 45-17 all-time.



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