Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Preview: Abnormally Old Rookie Brandon Weeden Takes On Abnormally Old Backup Charlie Batch
For the 6-4 Pittsburgh Steelers, the season is quickly unravelling. Injuries in an OT victory over the Kansas City Chiefs and a close loss to the Baltimore Ravens has forced them to turn to their third-string quarterback, the soon-to-be 38 year-old Charlie Batch.
Not only that, the loss to the Ravens has put Baltimore in pole position to win the division, leaving Pittsburgh to battle it out with the likes of the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals for one of the two wildcard spots. Fortunately for the Steelers, outside of those two teams, there does not appear to be too much competition for the two spots.
But that makes this week’s game against division rivals, the Cleveland Browns (2-8) an essential game, especially with a trip away to Baltimore looming next week. But taking care of business this week is likely to come down to two key factors: on offense, the play of Batch and on defence, the Steelers’ ability to stop Browns’ running back, Trent Richardson.
It is interesting to see how teams evolve in the NFL. A few years ago, the AFC North was a smash-mouth division, home to solid running games and fearsome defences. This year, however, it is the stomping ground of two of the league’s premier aerial attacks.
And when the Baltimore Ravens (7-2), head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers (6-3) these two attacks will meet. Of course, with the potentially life-threatening injury to Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, one of the aerial attacks has been almost extinguished. Backup, Byron Leftwich is a capable starter but is immobile and has a long release motion that makes him more vulnerable to the pass rush. Fortunately for him, the Baltimore defence has been running on reputation for a couple years now and it has started to show. Linebacker Ray Lewis past his prime quite a few seasons ago and was more a liability than an asset against the run and the pass. However, his analytical mind has clearly been missed by the Ravens since his season ending injury.
The big news this week is the injury to Ben Roethlisberger. It couldn't have come at a worse time as they are getting ready to host the Baltimore Ravens. Neither team have been outstanding this year, but with Big Ben out the power has certainly shifted to their division rivals. Let's go ahead and make the obvious pick here and ride the Ravens to victory.
The Baltimore Ravens were wiping themselves off the mat the last time we saw them in action. The Cleveland Browns are coming off their second consecutive home victory over the San Diego Chargers. Can the underdogs make it three in a row or are we primed for a smackdown from the divisional big brother? Let's take a closer look at why I like the Ravens to sweep the season series.
There isn't a whole lot of movement here (yet). The look-ahead line was Ravens -3 and it has re-opened at the same number this week. However, there are signs this line is moving as you have to lay a little bit of extra juice (odds from SBRforum). I won't be surprised if this comes off the three at some point.
Off a Bye Into a Bye
The Pittsburgh Steelers have blown two fourth quarter leads this season against lesser opponents. The Cincinnati Bengals are still searching for respect. Something has to give, but where does the value lie?
Public perception is hard to shake. Going back to the Summer, the Steelers have remained the favorite in this match-up. In the offseason they were listed as -1.5 point favorites, bumped up to -3 point favorites last week in the look-ahead line, and re-opened at -2.5 earlier this week. "Smart money" immediately identified value on the Bengals and the line has sat at -1 the last few days. My question is whether or not the right team favored here? I think this game should be a "pick em" at best.
By the Numbers: Defense
When we dig into the numbers, it's safe to say one could walk away from this analysis even more confused than before we started.