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NFL Playoff Predictions: Ravens Vs. Steelers

As we prepare for Saturday’s matchup between AFC North archrivals, here’s a look at what everyone is predicting. Most writers appear to like the Steelers in this one, but a fair number have picked the Ravens. (And unsurprisingly, the one Pittsburgh writer we mention here picks the Steelers, while most of the Baltimore writers pick the Ravens.) One thing just about everyone agrees on, though, is that it will be close, like many Ravens/Steelers games of recent vintage.

Sports Illustrated: Steelers 20, Ravens 13.

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.

Baltimore Sun: Four writers pick the Ravens, while two pick the Steelers. All pick close games.

The Ravens revived their offense against the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Steelers are a much tougher opponent to crack. The bye week and home crowd are enough to propel the Steelers to a close victory.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Steelers 17, Ravens 13.

So many variables are at play. The game could boil down to a late kick on a cruddy field. It could turn on an anonymous player’s mistake, the way the ‘08 title game nearly did on Limas Sweed’s drop and ultimately did on an idiotic personal foul by Baltimore’s Daren Stone.

Most people expect it to look a lot like the biggest games the Steelers and Ravens have played. That’s the problem if you’re Baltimore.

SB Nation Denver: Steelers 24, Ravens 17.

Can Joe Flacco perform well enough to overcome Pittsburgh’s 12th-rated pass defense? SB Nation Pittsburgh has found that the Steelers’ defense has kept Flacco quiet for the most part since he entered the league. Both teams have solid running backs in Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall, but the Steelers have the No. 1 rush defense and the Ravens No. 5. This game will come down to which quarterback can come out on top. Ben Roethlisberger is my choice.

FanHouse: Ravens 23, Steelers 13.

The Steelers’ weakness is in the middle of their zones, a place teams don’t want to venture because Pittsburgh can cause some bodily harm. Ravens tight end Todd Heap injured his hamstring on the first play of the game in their second matchup, which hurt the Ravens’ plans after Heap was successful in the first meeting in the middle of the field. Fullback Le’Ron McClain missed the second game as well after suffering an ankle injury. McClain is back and he will be huge for pass protection, Heap will be helpful on mismatches over the middle and wide receiver Donte Stallworth may be the ultimate X factor if he is used to go deep, which will create opportunities for Flacco to deliver the ball.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.