AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Sunday January 18, 2009
Heinz Field - 6:30 PM EST
Who would have thought the AFC Championship game would come down to division rivals, the number one and number two ranked overall defenses in the league. The Ravens are traveling to Pittsburgh for their third meeting this year, although this game isn't a rubber match! This game is for the Ravens to regain some of their dignity and avoid a 3-0 sweep to the hands of the Steelers. For the Steelers, this is for all the marbles and to add more 'hardware' to the trophy case.
This is one of those games where something is going to have to give because there are so many different story lines regarding "first times", "only happened once", and "it can't be done". A rookie QB has never lead his team to the Super Bowl, only one time has a #6 seed knocked off the 1,2,3 seeds, it's extremely difficult to beat a team 3 times in one season. Take your pick, I guess it comes down to the loser being who has more going against them than the other! When it comes down to it though, all these statements don't mean a thing because the Ravens Steelers are probably one of the top three rivals in the NFL. It's going to be a hard hitting low scoring affair to be decided on probably in the closing minutes of the game.
The current Ravens team is very reminiscent of the 2000 Super Bowl team that had a stingy defense with a mediocre offense that didn't make many mistakes. There aren't many players left from that Super Bowl team so you have to question their playoff experience at this point in the season. The AFCCG is really uncharted territory for the Ravens and considering they haven't had a week off since back in September fatigue has to be settling in on the players. The Ravens had an unfortunate event early in the season when a hurricane went through Texas and forced their game against the Texans to be postponed to November during the teams scheduled bye weeks. Offensively, the Ravens lack a passing attack and rely on the running game. With Flacco being a rookie he is asked to manage the game and not turn the ball over. Defensively, they line up nose-to-nose and dare you to try and move the ball on them.
Steeler fans have all seen and know what the Steelers offense is capable of. Just over a year ago they watched Ben on Monday night light up the Ravens for 5 TD passes... in the first half! They've watched Willie Parker rack up several 200+ yard rushing games in the past. They know this offense can be potent but have yet to see it this year. There have been glimpses of it the past couple of games and back in late November against the Patriots, but the fans just haven't seen the offense they know can light up a scoreboard. The Steelers offense is long over due! There are no worries about the defense, they were the top defense all year and shutdown practically everyone they played, so there are no questions concerning the defense. The big "X" factor this Sunday is the offense, can they move the ball against the Ravens, can the O-line play as well as they did against the Chargers, can the running game get going and pick apart the Ravens defense as the Titans were able to do.
This is it... this is for a trip to Tampa and Super Bowl XLIII! The keys for the Steelers to earn the right to go to Tampa are quite simple:
- No Turnovers
- Protect Ben
- Pressure Flacco
Join us this Sunday evening in the gameday thread as we talk about the game and cheer the Steelers onto the Super Bowl!!!!