View Full Version : Ravens-Steelers AFC wild-card preview

01-01-2015, 12:09 PM
The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will meet for the third time this season, with the teams splitting the first two meetings.

The Ravens and Steelers have split 28 regular-season meetings since the 2001 season, with those games decided by a total of 21 points. They have combined for four of the last five AFC North titles. Each team won on their home field this season by the same 20-point margin.

If itís close late, both quarterbacks have shown the ability to thrive under the pressure of key moments this season. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco ranked second in the NFL in fourth-quarter Total QBR (86.2). Ben Roethlisberger ranked third (83.3).

The Steelers do have one historical advantage. They are 3-0 in the playoffs against the Ravens.

Keys for a Ravens win
On offense the Ravens will want to establish Justin Forsett, who led all running backs with an average of 5.4 yards per attempt this season. Heíll probably look to go between the tackles, where he averaged 5.2 yards per rush, second-best in the NFL. The Steelers defense is reasonably equipped to handle that. It allowed 4.0 yards per carry between the tackles, 10th-best in the NFL.

Flacco will look to frequently target the Smiths- Steve and Torrey. Flacco completed a career-best 61 percent of passes that targeted wide receivers this season.

Flacco excelled with the deep ball during the Super Bowl run two seasons ago, completing 48 percent of his passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield with four touchdown passes. But in the last two seasons, heís only completing 26 percent of such throws.

Perhaps this is a day in which he can recapture some of his past magic. The Steelers allowed opponents to complete 54 percent of passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield, the highest percentage by any team in the last five seasons.

But how far the Ravens go will likely be determined by their defense. The Ravens allowed 88.3 yards rushing per game this season (fourth-fewest in NFL) and havenít allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last 26 games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

The Ravens also had 49 sacks this season, tied for their second-most in franchise history.

Red-zone defense is typically Baltimoreís forte. The Ravens only allowed opponents to convert 43 percent of their red-zone drives this season, the second-best percentage in the NFL, but allowed the Steelers to score touchdowns on each of their three red-zone opportunities in the Week 9 loss.

One X-factor for Baltimore would be its punter Sam Koch, who could make a significant impact on Pittsburgh's scoring chances. Koch led the NFL in net yards above average (a stat that compares a punter's performance to the league average punt from each spot on the field). He ranked third in the NFL in yards and net yards per punt.

Keys for a Steelers win
The Steelers have their most potent offensive team. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the Steelers are the first team since the 1999 Colts (and only the second team since the 1970 Merger) to have the conference leader in passing yards (Roethlisberger), rush yards (LeíVeon Bell) and receiving yards (Antonio Brown).

Bellís health is a big question mark, due to a knee injury suffered in Week 17. He accounted for 78 percent of his teamís rushing yardage this season, the second-highest percentage in the NFL.

If Bell canít play, the Steelers will rely on the newly signed Ben Tate, as well as Dri Archer and Josh Harris to carry the ball. Archer and Harris have combined for 56 rush yards on 19 rushes this season, and Tate averaged a career-low 3.1 yards per rush.

Bellís absence would be important for another reason. His presence helps keeps the Steelers defense off the field. Pittsburghís 32:25 time of possession was highest in the NFL this season.

Brown had two nice games against the Ravens this season, netting 18 receptions on 28 targets for 234 yards. Roethlisberger will look for Brown on short and intermediate passes (Brown led the NFL in receptions on passes thrown less than 20 yards downfield) and will rely on him on third down (Brown caught an NFL-high 36 passes on 54 third-down targets) frequently.

Did You Know?
The Steelers are 33-21 in their postseason history, tied with the Cowboys for the most playoff wins all-time.


01-01-2015, 02:28 PM
Did You Know?
The Steelers are 33-21 in their postseason history, tied with the Cowboys for the most playoff wins all-time.

This changes this year.

01-01-2015, 06:41 PM
Dale Lolley @dlolleyor -

BTW, the #Steelers have faced a team for the third time nine times in the playoffs.

Their record in those games? 9-0