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I did a guest spot on the Purple Reign Show Podcast this week
What To Watch For
1. Troy Polamalu
Every now and then an opportunity comes around to use my blog and Twitter-sphere to help with outreach and promotions. This year, I'm taking part in a promotional campaign to help Troy Polamalu get to the Pro Bowl. For the rest of the season, I'll be tweeting, posting links on Facebook and posting here different links/pictures/memes of Troy being awesome or reasons he should be voted to the Pro Bowl. As part of the campaign, the promoters (which I am one) get points based on how many people click the links, and how many people share the links/posts with their friends and followers. At the end of the season, the promoter with the most points wins a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. There are other weekly prizes that can be earned as well. So if you see me posting links/photos/anything related to promoting Troy for the Pro Bowl, please click the link and hit "share" (on Facebook) or retweet (on Twitter). Some of the prizes include NFL.com gift certificates, so maybe if I'm fortunate enough to win one I'll even give something away to the follower/friend that shared the most posts. Thanks in advance!
2. Offensive Line Play
The Steelers and the Ravens have both been atrocious in the trenches this year. Two weeks ago, the Ravens made a trade to acquire Jaguars tackle Eugene Monroe and the Steelers made a seemingly concurrent move to pick up Levi Brown from Arizona. Monroe started last week while Brown tore his triceps in pre-game warmups and had to be placed on the injured reserve list. Through Week 6, the Steelers line ranked 29th in run blocking while the Ravens ranked 31st according to Football Outsiders. Baltimore was slightly better at pass protection, ranking 18th while the Steelers ranked 28th. Neither offensive line is very good at this point, but the offensive line that is able to patchwork together a decent game will be the deciding factor in who comes out on top.
3. New Faces, Old Place
The Ravens have turned over almost their entire defensive unit in the last two years by transitioning out old players and players they could not afford to pay. Despite all the new faces, the Ravens are still one of the top defenses in the league and excel at rushing the passer. Terrell Suggs is probably sitting at home licking his chops thinking about taking on Kelvin Beachum. Suggs is currently 3rd in the league with 7 sacks through 6 games and the Ravens are 3rd in the league as a team with 22 sacks. The Ravens improved their pass rush with the addition of Elvis Dumervil this offseason who already has 5 sacks. The Steelers will need to give their tackles help to hold back Suggs and Dumervil if they are going to have any success passing the ball.
4. Joe Flacco
After winning the Super Bowl last year, everyone wants to enter into a debate about where Flacco belongs on the echelon of NFL quarterbacks. The fact of the matter is that he is a totally different quarterback at home and on the road. This season he is 2-1 at home with a 64% completion percentage, 3 TDs and 0 INTs. On the road, Flacco has a 54% completion percentage and has thrown 4 TDs and 8 interceptions. He has thrown at least one interception in each of his road games, which include a 5-pick performance against Buffalo. "Road Joe" is much, much worse than "Home Joe" and the Steelers need to take advantage of this. The secondary should have decent matchups as Torrey Smith is the Ravens only real receiving threat and Ray Rice has been generally ineffective in the running game. The defense will need to capitalize on the opportunities that Flacco gives them, because the chances will certainly be there.
5. Last Possession
The Steelers and Ravens have a long history of playing tight, hard-hitting games. This is the best rivalry in football and if it seems like it has lost some of its luster this year, that's only because the Steelers are currently 1-4 and the Ravens are 3-3. If the Steelers were 4-1 and clinging to a division lead this game would have an entirely different feel. Yet in games like this, the records truly go out the window. The Ravens are the defending Super Bowl Champions and they came into Heinz Field and won last year. Regardless of how this season turns out, the Steelers can not let their rivals come in and own their home turf. The game will be close - with these two teams it always is - and the team with the last possession will likely have an opportunity to win the game. We've seen the Steelers take advantage of this with last-minute scores to defeat the Ravens in 2008 (Santonio Holmes touchdown) and 2010 (Isaac Redman touchdown). The Ravens have had their last-minute wins, including a TJ Douchemandzadeh score and a Torrey Smith touchdown. Both Flacco and Ben are capable of leading game-winning drives, and the quarterback that gets the ball in his hands last will likely be the one walking off the victor.