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Old 12-04-2010, 08:27 AM   #1
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Default Peek at the Week: Heavyweights for a rivalry week


Peek at the Week: Heavyweights for a rivalry week

By Clark Judge
CBSSports.com Senior Writer
Dec. 3, 2010Tell Clark your opinion!

Game of the Week

Pittsburgh at Baltimore, 8:20 p.m. ET

The line: Ravens by 3

The story: This is football the way your father -- correction: your grandfather -- liked it, and this is football the way it was meant to be played in December, with lots of running, lots of hitting and not a lot of points. Consider yourself lucky you're not on the field.

These two met in early October, and the Ravens pulled out a minor miracle with a last-minute touchdown pass ... to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, no less. But there's something you should know about that game, and that is this: Ben Roethlisberger didn't play.

The Steelers are 5-2 since he returned, yet can't seem to find their mojo largely because of a raft of injuries that has crippled them. They struggled to beat Buffalo in a game they should have lost. They struggled to beat Miami. They struggled to hold off Cincinnati. They got waxed by New England. Only once under Big Ben did these guys look like themselves, and that was a 35-3 hammering they delivered to Oakland two weeks ago.

So they're out of sync. They're also handicapped because Roethlisberger has a sprained right foot, with the quarterback in a protective boot earlier this week. He's expected to play, but the question is: How well? "He might be limited somewhat," said coach Mike Tomlin. But he would be anyway because ... well, because this isn't Oakland we're talking about. The Ravens are one of the strongest and most complete teams out there.

They're also an opponent with one series sweep of Pittsburgh in the past 14 years and one that has injuries concerns, too. Included in there is left tackle Michael Oher, bothered by a sore knee, but he practiced this week and promises to play. Good thing. He's the last speed bump between James Harrison and the quarterback.

The quarterback, of course, is Joe Flacco, and the guy has been bulletproof at home. He hasn't lost there this season, with 10 touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 111.2. Of course, he hasn't faced a defense like this one there, either.

The Steelers rank first against the run, which means this game comes down to Flacco vs. the Steel Curtain. It also means Oher better hold up. The Ravens will try to run the ball, but they'll find it easier to throw on Pittsburgh -- provided Flacco has time. In six starts vs. the Steelers, including the playoffs, he has been sacked 20 times, though only once in Week 4 at Pittsburgh.

Make this one close and make Baltimore the favorite. The Ravens haven't lost at home in their past eight starts, have won 12 of their past 14 there and are 16-5 at home under John Harbaugh. They have also won their past nine at home when the temperature at kickoff was 40 degrees or colder -- which it should be Sunday evening.

Something to consider: In four of the past five games between these two the margin of victory has been three points -- including Baltimore's 17-14 victory earlier this season. The exception: A four-point spread in 2008.
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