Stillers-Ravens to butt defensive heads
Pittsburgh looks for its fifth straight win Sunday. This game could be the deciding factor in the Stillers hunt for the playoffs this season. A win over the Ravens will give the team (and Stewart) another huge confidence boost. A win the following week over the Titans would put them in the hunt for a division title.
On the other side, Baltimore is trying to regain respect after its offense has fizzled into oblivion. They've been unable to score a TD in four games. As a result, Banks is out and Dilfer is in, and Baltimore is hoping to rally the troops at home and keep pace with Tennessee at the top of the AFC Central.
In looking at the upcoming game between the Ravens and Stillers, it's apparent that this will be a battle of the defenses. Let's review the matchups:
On offense, both teams look like clones. Both average slightly over 300 yards of offense per game. Pittsburgh averages 4.1 yards/carry while Baltimore averages 4.3 yards/carry. Pittsburgh's yards per play are slightly higher at 5.7 yards/attempt than Baltimore's 5.1 yards/attempt. All in all, both offenses look very similar coming in, in fact the Stillers and Ravens are ranked 19th and 20th in the league respectively.
The offensive matchups to watch:
- Dilfer versus the Stillers pass rush...Dilfer doesn't always make wise decisions and making one or more mistakes on Sunday could cost his team the game.
- The Stillers offensive line versus the Ravens front...if the offensive line can protect Stewart and provide him time to get the passing game going then the entire offense might rally together, otherwise, it could be a LOOONG day.
As is the case on offense, both teams are butted against each other in the league ranks with Baltimore ranked 2nd and Pittsburgh ranked 3rd. Both are strong against the rush and nearly as strong against pass. This leaves both defenses poised to shutdown the opposing offense's strength - running the ball. The team that is able to tackle consistently and eliminate big plays will likely end up the victor.
The defensive matchups to watch:
- D. Washington on Q. Ishmail...Ishmail has over 350 yards versus Pittsburgh in the last two meetings.
- Ravens' backers on Stewart...if Stewart can break free on scrambles and designed runs early, the Ravens defense might be forced to loosen up which will open lanes for the Bus.
Both teams have dangerous return men. Pittsburgh's Hank Poteat and Baltimore's Jermaine Lewis are always a threat on punts. Pittsburgh has spread around kick return duties with success and the Ravens have found a great deal of success in a single man, Corey Harris, who's carrying a massive 24.3 yards/return average. Since the Stillers have apparently learned to tackle, the specials teams are very evenly matched. If one team or the other finds a seam on a return, it could prove to be all that's needed to decide the outcome of what should be a defensive struggle.
The deciding factor in this game may well be the Ravens' home field advantage. While Pittsburgh owns a 5-2 advantage in the last 7 games, Baltimore is on a two game streak. Pittsburgh will find it hard to break this Baltimore team that is fighting for respect and playing on their turf. Baltimore 17-14.