Fans throughout the Baltimore area have been eagerly anticipating this Sunday's Ravens-Steelers game for some time, but they're not the only ones. The players are getting hyped for the divisional battle as well.
"I'd be lying if I told you it was just another game," linebacker Terrell Suggs said this week. "This one has a little bit more importance than all the other division games."
Why does this one mean more, Terrell?
"Maybe because we don't like these guys," Suggs says. "We respect them, but we don't like them."
Well, there you go.
It's only Week 4, but a lot is on the line this weekend when one of the NFL's fiercest rivalries kicks off. With a win, the Steelers would hold a two-game edge over the Ravens in the division, and would remarkably go a perfect 4-0 without Ben Roethlisberger.
If the Ravens can pull off the victory, they'll be even with Pittsburgh in the standings, and will have a leg up on their rivals with a December matchup at M&T Bank Stadium still on the schedule.
Here's how the Ravens and Steelers match up statistically going into this week's contest:
Ravens: 302.0 (23rd)
Steelers: 289.3 (26th)
Ravens: 89.0 (23rd)
Steelers: 150.0 (3rd)
Ravens: 213.0 (17th)
Steelers: 139.3 (t-31st)
Ravens: 244.3 (1st)
Steelers: 278.7 (6th)
Ravens: 127.7 (23rd)
Steelers: 59.7 (3rd)
Ravens: 116.7 (1st)
Steelers: 219.0 (17th)
Ravens: -6 (t-31st)
Steelers: +6 (t-1st)
The Steelers will start Charlie Batch at quarterback in place of the suspended Roethlisberger, and while Batch tossed three touchdown passes last week against the Buccaneers in a Pittsburgh road win, that was the Buccaneers. He'll face a much different test this weekend against the NFL's No. 1 rated defense.
Interestingly enough, while the Ravens have allowed the fewest yards in the league this year (earning them that No. 1 ranking), the Steelers have given up the fewest points at just 11.0 per game. The offenses will have their work cut out for them this Sunday.
It's Friday morning, which means it's prediction time. As always, I'll start, and feel free to write in your forecast for Sunday's game as well. Closest to the actual final score gets...well, the satisfaction of being the closest to the final score.
I think the key in this game will be the Ravens' ability (or lack thereof) to force Batch into poor decisions. As you can see by the turnover differential, the Steelers have done a much better job of both taking care of the football and getting takeaways than the Ravens, but if the Baltimore defense can snag a few turnovers and set Joe Flacco up with solid field position, the Ravens will have an edge.
While the Ravens haven't played well at Heinz Field lately, I think this might be their chance to steal a game with Big Ben out. Put me down for a 13-12 Ravens win.
What about you; how you do see this one shaking out? Do the Ravens have enough to earn a big road win over their hated rivals, or do the Steelers grab another "W" without Roethlisberger and move two games up on the purple and black?
Who you got?