Originally written on Ravens Football Machine  |  Last updated 11/15/14
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This is the watershed game of the AFC in 2011... the team who wins will control their own destiny in the AFC playoffs come January...

Shane Clemons of our very own Bloguin Network had avery nice take on this game:
 
"The Steelers are coming into their Sunday night match-up against the Baltimore Ravens with a 6-2 record and a 4 game winning streak. They lead the Ravens and the Bengals in the AFC North by a half game, but they don't hold any inter-division ties right now. That's the Ravens' advantage. The Ravens were able to man-handle the Steelers from start to finish in their opening week match-up, and a win by the Ravens would secure the tie-breaker in favor of the Ravens between the two teams."

"That's not all that's on the line Sunday night, however. This is possibly the most heated rivalry in football. These teams simply loathe each other. I'm sure if you asked Ray Lewis, he'd tell you that he hoped the Steelers lost every one of their remaining games by 50 points each, and I'm sure any Steelers players would say the same thing about the Ravens. This game is more than an NFC North slap-fest, it's an all out war."

While both teams are 4-1 in their last 5 games, the Ravens come in struggling to find their offensive identity. It took an almost super-human effort for them to overcome a 24-3 hole against Arizona. That game came on the heels of their 12-7 loss to the 2-6 Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that was able to beat the Ravens with 4 field goals. To say the least, the Ravens have been struggling of late.

That's not the case in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have been growing as a team offensively and defensively. While the Ravens were struggling to find a way to beat the Cardinals, the Steelers were having their way with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. The win was a statement by the Steelers that said, "We are back."

For all the hype that went into their week 1 match-up with the Ravens, it was a relatively disappointing game for Steelers fans to watch from start to finish. The Steelers couldn't avoid throwing interceptions, and when they weren't throwing picks, they were fumbling the ball away. Everyone knew after that game that the Steelers were a far better football team than they showed. I'm still not sure if they were sluggish due to the lockout, if they weren't in shape, other factors, or a combination of the three, but that's behind them now.

The Baltimore Ravens had three turnovers, 98 passing yards and no touchdowns in the first half of last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. Then they responded with 24 points, 238 passing yards and no turnovers in the second half of the 30-27 comeback victory.

So which Ravens’ offense will show up on Sunday?

“A good one,” quarterback Joe Flacco said earlier this week. “We are going to go in there with a game plan – one that we can be successful with – things that we do well, and we are going to go execute it to the best of our ability.”

Much of Flacco’s confidence stems from last week’s impressive second-half performance by the offense. Without that rebound, the Ravens offense might have a different attitude heading into Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which has the league’s second-best defense behind only the Ravens.

“If we don’t recover in the second half, then I might be worrying about some of the guys and our confidence as an offensive unit,” Flacco said. “But, the way we rallied and stuck behind each other, I think that will help us out big time this week.”

The offense has seen its share of ups and downs this season; but Flacco has not lost confidence that his team can be explosive. After the offense went through a stretch against Houston, Jacksonville and Arizona where it scored just two touchdowns over the course of 10 quarters, the offense rallied and played arguably its finest half of the season.

The slump, Flacco said, was the exception to the norm, and the team believes that it can play that way more consistently.

“We all have the confidence in ourselves,” he said.

One of the best performances the Ravens offense has displayed this season was the Week 1 victory over Pittsburgh. The Ravens beat the Steelers in all facets of the game, and Flacco played as well as he has all year. He completed 17-29 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns, and had a quarterback rating of 117.6.

Flacco is one of the few quarterbacks to have success against the Steelers this year, which ranks first in the NFL in pass defense, and he’s heading into Sunday’s game with the attitude that he can do it again.

“We always feel like we can play with these guys and go give them a good matchup and go beat them,” Flacco said. “It’s just going to be a matter of, like I said, going out there and doing it.”
  

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