Steelers – Ravens was previously one of the NFL’s premiere matchups. Now? Ehh. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Steelers at Ravens
To add to the excitement of primetime games, a friend and I each draft five players from the teams involved. The player stats are totaled and the winner receives an undisclosed amount of money. When I emailed my friend to draft players for Thursday night’s contest between the Steelers and Ravens, he replied: “Tonight’s game stinks. Aside from Antonio Brown karate kicking a punter there is nothing to get excited about.”
I think that pretty much sums up the fall of these AFC North superpowers. While neither team is downright awful, you’d struggle to find anyone picking the Steelers or Ravens to have an overwhelmingly successful season.
The Steelers have been mired in mediocrity at 17-16 since Tim Tebow miraculously knocked them out of the 2011 postseason. The Ravens followed up a 2012 Super Bowl title with an ugly 8-8 season, capped off by dropping two straight games by a combined 51 points with their playoff lives on the line. Joe Flacco performed more like a backup than a $120 million franchise quarterback. He finished the 2013 season with more interceptions than touchdowns and ranked outside the top 30 in nearly every QB ranking system available. In other words; gone are the heydays of those thrilling defensive slugfests featuring Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu.
Regardless of what my friend thinks, the NFL season is too new not to be excited for football on a Thursday night. I’m definitely watching. Though, I’m at a loss for predicting tonight’s game.
Obviously, Baltimore needs a win badly. It’ll be tough to rally from starting 0-2 at home against division rivals. It’s also hard to imagine the Ray Rice mess not impacting the team in a negative way. Sure, teams often rally around distractions or a fallen player, but there’s no rallying cry for a man so publically tainted like Rice.
Unfortunately, I didn’t watch a minute of the Steelers win in Week 1, so I’m shooting blind here. I’m trusting John Harbaugh. That’s the only justification I have for my pick. Harbaugh is a good enough coach to get his players ready despite the distractions. Or so I hope. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -2.5