The League

Brandon Benson
Packers Blogger

Brandon Benson

Brandon Benson is the lead blogger at Acme Packing Company.

Defense reigns in Steel City

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As a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, it's impossible for me objectively discuss whether the Packers are playing in the most intriguing playoff matchup this week. So for the sake of this column, I'm ignoring their game. A matchup between the best team in the NFC (Falcons) and the team many experts picked to reach the Super Bowl (Packers) will certainly hold even a casual football fan's interest.

The fact that the Seahawks are in the playoffs, and have advanced in the playoffs, is like slowing down to look at a car accident. It makes you stare, but it's not exactly intriguing. The Jets at the Patriots has a lot of appeal, but the Patriots embarrassed the Jets back on Dec. 6 by a score of 45 to 3!

All this analysis might have left the final playoff game of the weekend as the most intriguing matchup by default. But I'm really saving the best for last. This one is the type of playoff game that makes TV announcers weak in the knees. The 12-4 Ravens at the 12-4 Steelers. Two defense-first teams that are going to be pounding away at each other, as the division rivals meet up for the third time this season.

They split the season series (each winning on the road by three points) and the Steelers won the division only because the Ravens were upset by the Bengals way back in week 2. That gave the Ravens two divisional losses to the Steelers' one, and that was the tiebreaker.
I'd like to give the Ravens an edge somewhere, but all the advantages belong to the Steelers. The Ravens had to travel to Kansas City last weekend while the Steelers got a first round bye and some much needed rest. The Steelers don't have much of an advantage at home this season (only a 5-3 record), but those three losses have come against some very good teams (the Patriots, Jets, and the Ravens).

The Steelers have outscored their opponents by 143 points this season (third best behind only the Packers and Patriots). Their offense has a better yards per carry average than the Ravens (4.1 to 3.8), and Ben Roethlisberger has a better quarterback rating than Joe Flacco (97 to 93.6). Their defense has allowed a league low 3.0 yards per carry while the Ravens defense has allowed 3.9, and their opponents' quarterbacks have been held to a mere 73.1 rating against while the Ravens have allowed 76.4. And the Steelers have a +17 turnover margin which is second best in the league.

Not to be outdone, the Ravens are one of the best teams in the league in many of those same categories. It's just that the Steelers are better in nearly every key statistical category. Fortunately for the Ravens, these games are not played on paper. I'm expecting a lot from these great division rivals that know each other so well, and this one is the most intriguing game of the week.

By Brandon Benson  |  January 12, 2011; 10:31 AM ET  | Category:  AFC , Baltimore Ravens , Green Bay Packers , Pittsburgh Steelers , Playoffs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Ravens-Steelers destined for drama | Next: Take your pick on a loaded weekend

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