Cleat Geeks

Thursday Preview: Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Thursday Night Football for week four will be a rematch of the AFC Wildcard game, which Baltimore of course won. This will be the 43rd meeting between the AFC North rivals; the Steelers lead the series 24-18.Steelers_Ravens-575x329

The Steelers enter the game 2-1 with their only loss coming from the reigning Super Bowl champion Patriots. They squeaked out a victory against the Rams last week after they unfortunately l0st Ben Roethlisberger to injury. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Taking over at quarterback for them this week will be Michael Vick. In the preseason, Vick completed 7 of 10 passes for 130 yards. He hasn’t looked especially great so far, but luckily he has Antonio Brown as one of his targets. Brown will look to extend his streak of games with at least 5 catchesteelers-ravens-football-pernell-mcphee-antonio-brown_pg_600s and 50 yards to 37 in this game. Le’Veon Bell returned last week and gained 132 total yards and a touchdown. The Steelers will have to lean on him going forward as long as Roethlisberger is out. The defense has looked decent the last two weeks holding the 49ers and Rams to 18 and 6 points respectively. They will have a little tougher task ahead of them this week since they are playing a Ravens team that is more talented than their previous two opponents.

Baltimore enters this game winless and therefore, desperate for a win. Even though they have not won, they have lost the three games by a combined total of only 16 points, so they have not been blown out. Joe Flacco is at quarterback for the Ravens, and he posted his second 300-yard, two-touchdown game of the season last week. His favorite target this year has been the veteran, Steve Smith Sr, who has 349 yards and two touchdowns so far. He has been targeted 16 and 17 times the past two weeks, which is insane. Flacco’s second favorite so far has been tight end Crockett Gillmore, who will be out on Thursday with a calf injury. In his absence, the rookie out of Minnesota, Maxx Williams, will look to fill his role for the offense in the passing game. He will need to work on his run blocking if he wants to stay on the field for longer. Rookie wide-out Breshad Perriman will continue to be on the sideline, hoping to make his NFL debut in week 5. The Ravens have been passing the ball pretty well, but they have struggled in the running game. Justin Forsett will look to bounce back and in so doing, get the rushing attack going, but he didn’t have much success with that last year against the Steelers. He instead did most of his damage in the passing game. For the Ravens to have a chance against their rivals, they will need to get the running game going at least a little, and they will have to get pressure on Vick.

 

Fantasy:

I expect the Steelers to come out and lean on Bell. They will use him in the running game, but also with short check-downs in the passing game. I think Vick will actually be able to move the ball through the air on this Ravens defense. They are struggling right now. Although I don’t think Vick will be top-15, because he will turn the ball over, he could start for you as a desperate bye week replacement. He didn’t play much on Sunday, so he should be fairly fresh for what it’s worth. He will look to target Antonio Brown often, and I don’t think he has much trouble extending his amazing streak to 37 games. Even though the Ravens’ defense hasn’t been that great, they have been great against the tight end, so I think Heath Miller could struggle. Because of this, I actually think Wheaton and Heyward-Bey will catch 4-5 passes each. There isn’t much else on the Steelers I would look for. Their defense is not that good, and they don’t trust their kicker to even kick extra points the majority of the time. 7-steve-smith-wr-baltimore-ravens-21-6-percent-owned_pg_600

I think the Ravens’ offense will put up some nice stats in this game. They’re 0-3, hungry for a win, and against a defense who isn’t great. I also think that they will start transitioning into what Trestman likes to do more, and he is an offensive guru. I could see Flacco putting up close to 300 yards again. The Steelers have been bad against the slot wide receivers so far this season, and guess who lines up in the slot a lot… Steve Smith Sr. I’m a little worried because of his usage rate just a few days ago, but I’m sure he has another good game. Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken will also receive targets. I think Maxx Williams fills in for Gillmore nicely. He is known to be more of a receiving option, so if the Ravens are looking to pass, he will be on the field. Should I remind you about Gronk’s three touchdown performance against them week one? No, he is not Gronk, but they weren’t very good against Vernon Davis either. I think they will also run fairly effectively, so Forsett should be a good play. He will also get a number of catches out of the backfield. I have this gut-feeling that the Ravens drive down the field with Forsett, then Taliaferro vultures the touchdown. I have nothing to back this up since stuff like this is pretty unpredictable, so like I said, just a gut-feeling. I guess that will be my bold prediction of the week!

If you are curious about where exactly these guys rank for me, I will be posting my rankings up on Twitter @FantasyFlurry on Thursday afternoon!

 

Prediction:

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I think the Ravens’ defense shows up to work Thursday night. They know that if they get pressure on Vick, they will force him to make bad decisions with the ball. Offensively I think the Ravens will be just as good as they have been. Much like the Giants last week, I think the Ravens are more talented than their win-less record. Also much like the Giants, I think the Ravens get their first win of the season on Thursday night with a 24-19 victory over the Steelers.

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