Media roundup: Who's picking the Ravens?

January 14, 2011

Here's a selection of national media predictions for Saturday's Ravens-Steelers matchup:

• CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco picks the Ravens to edge the Steelers by a field goal.

This will be a survival test as much as a football game. The last time they played in the playoffs -- in the 2008 AFC Championship Game -- it was a brutally nasty game. This will be the same. The Steelers were first in the NFL in points allowed per game and the Ravens were third. That will put a premium on offensive possessions. These teams can't afford to just score field goals. The two offenses aren't as good as the defenses. The Steelers were 12th in scoring, while the Ravens were 16th. The key here will be the running games. If Baltimore can get Ray Rice going, that will help Joe Flacco. If the Steelers get Rashard Mendenhall going, it helps Ben Roethlisberger. If these teams can't run, it will put a lot of pressure on the passing games. That's not who these two are. Having said that, I do think it will come down to the quarterbacks. Flacco was very good last week at Kansas City. The Chiefs played a lot of man to take away his receivers, but the Steelers don't play as much. I think the Ravens will surprise some here and throw the ball on early downs. That will dictate tempo. I see an upset coming. It will be close and the first one to 17 might win it.

• From CBSSports.com, Judge and Will Brinson expect the Ravens to win, while the other three analysts like the Steelers.

• FanHouse.com's Dave Goldberg predicts an extremely close game between the two teams. He believes the Steelers will win by one point.

The Vegas folks didn't have to look far for this line considering that the last four games between these two were decided by three points. This one could be too, but we can't pick that way, can we?

This year's three-pointers were a split, with the visitor winning in each venue -- the Ravens' win came early with Charlie Batch at quarterback for the Steelers while Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for his offseason transgressions.

• Don Banks of SI.com provides a scouting report for the game and offers his choice for the winner.

Last week, before the playoffs began, I picked the Steelers to beat the Colts and the Patriots to beat the Ravens in the AFC's divisional round, so I didn't foresee this third Baltimore-Pittsburgh unfolding in the second weekend of the postseason. But now that it has, I'm going to put my money on Baltimore continuing its road playoff magic for one more week. My sense is the breaks are due to go the Ravens' way for a change in a big showdown with the Steelers, and rust could be a bit of a factor for Pittsburgh, which hasn't played in a true big-game atmosphere since losing at home to the Jets almost four weeks ago. Look for Baltimore to quiet the Heinz Field crazies with a fast start, and then hold off the inevitable Ben Roethlisberger-led fourth-quarter rally. Ravens 20, Steelers 17.

• SI.com's Peter King predicts a large margin of victory (well, for the Ravens-Steelers rivalry).

Seven-point game. A rout! These teams, playing for the eighth time in three seasons, play famously close games; the hero or goat in a stadium noted for being the Bermuda Triangle for field-goal kickers could well be one of those two men: Shaun Suisham (Pittsburgh) and Billy Cundiff (Baltimore). I'll delve into that in my Friday GamePlan column on SI.com.

Two bigger variables in this game, I believe, are the quarterbacks and the downfield passing game. I give Ben Roethlisberger, who has won his past six starts over the Ravens (most by a whisker of his increasingly mountain-man-like beard), an edge over Joe Flacco, because I think Roethlisberger has learned how to play behind his terminally shaky offensive line and get rid of the ball on time. But the downfield passing game could be an edge to the Ravens, particularly if they get Donte' Stallworth involved. He's the speed merchant in the Baltimore wideout corps, and I can't figure out why he's been stapled to the bench for almost all of the season other than the occasional reverse, which every defense knows is coming when he steps on the field. If the Ravens were smart, they'd send Stallworth deep five times Saturday, if only to stretch the Pittsburgh secondary and expose their corners. I say Roethlisberger, even pressured, makes three or four more plays than Flacco, and that's the difference here. Steelers 20, Ravens 13

• Only three out of eight ESPN "experts" choose the Ravens to advance to the AFC championship game.

• Mike Ditka is the lone ESPN Sunday Countdown analyst to pick the Ravens over the Steelers.

• Based on their formula, ESPN's Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg project the Ravens to lose to the Steelers.

• Jon Robinson of ESPN.com breaks down the Ravens-Steelers matchup using Madden 2011. Here are the results.

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