Tag Archives: Baltimore Ravens

Pittsburgh Uses 4th Quarter Explosion to Steel AFC North Title

Le’Veon Bell rushed for 122 yards a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass to help beat the Ravens 31-27. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

In a week when Pittsburgh Steelers legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw criticized Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin’s coaching ability and philosophy, even going as far to say “He’s a great cheerleader guy…”, Tomlin’s team came out and backed up their #1 cheerleader by winning their 5th AFC North division title in his 10 seasons as a head coach. Especially, the Killer B’s of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

When it looked like Roethlisberger was going to throw away the division and possibly the playoffs with 2 second half interceptions that set the Baltimore Ravens up for 10 points, offensive coordinator Todd Haley turned to the guy I call “the most lethal offensive weapon in the NFL”, Le’Veon Bell.

The Steelers offense started the game ringing the Bell successfully. #26 converted 4 of the Steelers 6 first downs on their first drive of the game and rushed for 45 yards, which were more than the total he had the entire game against Baltimore in week 9 (32 yards). That 9 play, 87 yard drive ended with a 20-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger to Xavier Grimble to put the ‘Burgh up 7-0. We all know what happened from that moment through the beginning of the final 15 minutes. Pittsburgh was soundly out played and Bradshaw’s assessment of Tomlin looked pretty spot on.

But just like they’ve finished the second half of this season, they did so in this game. In the 4th quarter Pittsburgh scored 21 points on drives of 75, 90, and 75 yards. The longest was 2 minutes and 49 seconds. On the 90-yard touchdown drive to put them ahead 24-20, Brown and Bell gained EVERY yard. With the game on the line, #7 went to #84 with 9 seconds remaining and he fought his way into the end zone to bring the AFC North title home with the 31-27 win.

For the game, Le’Veon rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown, he also had 3 catches for 15 yards and a touchdown. Brown had 10 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, 9 in the second half. Roethlisberger finished with 3 touchdown passes on 24 of 33 and 279 yards to go along with those 2 interceptions.

Defensively it wasn’t pretty, but they got it done when it counted. The Ravens won the time of possession battle 34:37 to 25:23. They were 9 of 17 on 3rd down conversions. Joe Flacco passed for 262 yards on 30 of 44 passing, while the offensive line bullied the Steelers D down the field for 122 rushing yards. Baltimore was beating the Steelers every which way you’d want. But Keith Butler’s unit forced Baltimore to settle for 4 field goals in the red zone, and a botched snap on another field goal attempt basically sealed their playoff fate.

Ryan Shazier’s interception as time expired sealed the AFC North title for Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Flacco was sacked 2 times for -18 yards, and Ryan Shazier’s pick as time expired clinched the division. This is the first game in 2016 the Steelers have allowed 21+ points and won. All 5 losses this season came when the opponent score 21 or more points.

Who would’ve thought at week 10 when the Steelers were 4-5 and on a four game losing streak, they’d be 2016 AFC North Champions?  But here they are. With a 6-game win streak, surging into the playoffs as the 3-seed, instead of sneaking in like last season and looking like the team NOBODY wants to play in January.

Next up, the 1-14 Cleveland Browns in Heinz Field on New Year’s Day.


  • Roethlisberger’s 3 touchdown passes moved him to 301 and past John Elway, he’s idol growing up, for 9th on the NFL’s All-time pass touchdowns list.
  • Antonio Brown joined Marvin Harrison as the only players in NFL history to have 4 straight season of 100+ receptions, and his 1 TD reception was the 50th of his career.
  • With his 6th 100+ rushing yard game of the season, Le’Veon Bell passed Barry Foster, Dick Hoak, and Frank Pollard for 5th place on the Steelers all-time rushing list.
  • The Steelers are the only team in 2016 to not allow an opening drive touchdown to an opponent.

Steelers Less Than Charming in Baltimore 

Steelers-Ravens is always ugly, but this was a different type of ugly. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Pittsburgh versus Baltimore is supposed to be ugly, in a smash mouth, old school, grind it out, vicious hitting kind of way. Not ugly and unwatchable in a preseason-esque sort of way such as was this game. Even with the win, I’m sure it was even unbearable to watch for Ravens fans.

The teams combined for 23 penalties (the most in the history of this rivalry) for 193 yards. You expect a Steelers-Ravens game to be filled with penalties, but of the personal foul, unnecessary roughness and late hit variety. Sunday’s infractions were mental blunders; offsides, false starts, too many men on the field and illegal formations.

With both teams coming off of a bye week, you’d expect them to be refreshed, restored and in sync. Both were anything but following their weeks off. Each offense was sloppy, and had no rhythm. Aside from former Steeler wide receiver Mike Wallace’s now Ravens franchise record 95-yard touchdown catch and run, both offenses were ineffective and stagnant.

Ben Roethlisberger’s return from a torn left meniscus that kept him out of the matchup with the New England Patriots, brought the hopes of Steelers Nation of a revived energized offense. Not even having him in the lineup could solve the slow start problems that have plagued this offensive unit all season.

How bad was it? At the 6:27 mark in the 2nd quarter, Pittsburgh had more penalty yards (65) than total yards (51). For the half they had 84 penalty yards on 10 penalties to 67 total yards.

Through the first three quarters Roethlisberger was 8 of 18 for 54 yards and an interception. It took until the 3rd offensive possession for the Steelers to get their 1st, and only first down of the half. Punter Joe Berry was the busiest player on the field in a Steelers uniform, punting 8 times on the first 8 possessions. 9 times the offense went 3 and out.

Antonio Brown had no catches in the first quarter, and didn’t catch his first pass until 3:17 remaining in the first half. He finished the game with 7 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. Le’Veon Bell had 9 carries for 17 yards in the 1st half and finished with 14 carries for 32 yards in the game.

It took nearly three and a half quarters and a 21-point deficit for this “high-powered offense” to get into any rhythm. Their first play in Baltimore territory wasn’t until the 4th quarter, with the first score coming with at 8:38 remaining in the game. In the fourth quarter alone, Roethlisberger went 15 of 27 for 210 yards a 23 yard touchdown pass and a 3 yard touchdown scramble.

The Ravens defense deserves plenty of credit. They held the Steelers to 4 for 16 on 3rd down for the game. Which shouldn’t be surprising since they came into the game with the second best defensive 3rd down conversion rate in the NFL (33.7%). But Pittsburgh didn’t live up to their 7th overall ranking in offensive 3rd down conversions (43.3%). It was strength on strength and the Ravens won out.

Keith Butler’s defensive unit, which has been much maligned also season, actually played well enough to win the game, which is why they had a slim chance late. Baltimore was held to 4-17 on third down. They picked off Joe Flacco to end a potential scoring drive inside their own 25. Ryan Shazier and James Harrison each forced fumbles that led to huge losses, and Flacco was sacked 3 times for 26 yards. They held their opponent to 274 total yards, the fewest amount any opponent has gained all season, and 14 points. The other touchdown coming on a block punt that pretty much sealed the deal.

If you get that type of production weekly by the defense, you’d hope a victory would follow.

Hopefully the offense can get their act together and match the defensive performance on the same afternoon. Especially with the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys riding a 7-game win streak into next week. Kickoff with the Cowboys is at 4:25 pm next Sunday in Heinz Field.


  • With the loss, the Steelers are now in second place in the AFC North and on a three game losing streak.
  • Baltimore has won 8 of the last 10 meetings, including playoffs.
  • Roethlisberger is now 2-7 at Baltimore in his career, and 2-6 in the first game after returning from injury.
  • This was Pittsburgh’s first game of the season decided by fewer than 7 points.
  • Mike Wallace’s 95-yard touchdown catch is the longest touchdown allowed from scrimmage by the Steelers since 1966.

Rookie DB Artie Burns celebrates his 1st career interception. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

  • Rookie Artie Burns got the start at corner for William Gay and got his first career interception on the Ravens second drive at the 15-yard line. He also got beat by Wallace on the next Baltimore possession for the touchdown.


The Baltimore Ravens Mt. Rushmore

The Ravens 21 year history had been better than most teams that have been around three times as long.

The Baltimore Ravens are the second youngest franchise in the NFL. In 2016 they’ll play their 21st season. Barely old enough to gamble, and finally get rid of that vertical driver’s license.

But, in that time span, they’ve done more than some franchise’s that have been playing since the early stages of pro football. Kind of like real life. The Ravens are sort of like Mark Zukerberg, or some other college dropout who created a website or smartphone app and became a millionaire, while your sixty-five year old uncle, who is the family clown, still can’t figure out how to adult while on marriage number three.

The Ravens have won two Super Bowls (XXXV, XLVII), 4 AFC North division titles, and made the playoffs 10 times. As you see, very well accomplished since they returned pro football back to “Charm City” after late team owner Art Modell moved them from Cleveland, Ohio. The Ravens have been known as a defensive first franchise their entire existence, and have had several all time greats to lead them. That’s why unlike most of the expansion franchise in my Mount Rushmore exercise, this one wasn’t as difficult to compile. So, here is my Mount Rushmore for the Baltimore Ravens. By the way, as a Steelers fan, it made me sick to do this because these guys have on more than one occasion made many a fall Sunday’s extremely frustrating.


  • No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon.
  • Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
  • Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.

Ray Lewis (1996-2012) is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer–he’ll be eligible in 2018–and is the Ravens all-time career leader in tackles (1,562), and was the driving force behind the franchise two Super Bowl tiles (XXXV, XLVII), winning MVP of Super Bowl XXXV. Lewis is also the Ravens career leader in fumble recoveries (20), 2nd in forced fumbles (19) and interceptions (31). #52 in black and purple holds the NFL record for most Pro Bowls for a Linebacker with 13, is tied with Lawrence Taylor for most All-Pro selections for a Linebacker with 10, and collected the most tackles in a single postseason with 51. He was twice named NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2003), a 13-time Pro Bowler, 7-time 1st-team All-Pro, 3-time 2nd-team All-Pro, 3-time AFC Defensive Player of the year (2000, 2001, 2003), 2-time NFL Alumni Linebacker of the Year (1999, 2003), and a member of the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade team. He was inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor in 2013.

Ed Reed (2002-2012), is the Ravens career leader in interceptions (61), defensive touchdowns (7), and holds the NFL records for most career interception return yards (1,590), longest interception return (108 yards) and tied for 1st with 9 career postseason interceptions. Reed is a 9-time Pro Bowl selection, 5-time 1st-team All-Pro, 3-time 2nd-team All-Pro, 2004 AP NFL & AFC Defensive Player of the Year, 2-time NFL Alumni Defensive Back of the Year, 3 times he led the NFL in interceptions and twice led in interception return yards. He’s a member of the NFL’s 2000 All-Decade team and was inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor in 2015.

Jonathan Ogden (1996-2007) was the first ever pick in the franchise history and a key member of the Super Bowl XXXV winning team protecting the blind side for mediocre QBs, while opening up holes for a record setting running back. He’s an 11-time Pro Bowler, 5-time 1st-team All-Pro, 4-time 2nd-team All-Pro, 2002 NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year, and a member of the 2000’s All-Decade team. Ogden was inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor in 2008, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

Jamaal Lewis (2000-2006) is Baltimore’s all-time leader in rushing yards (7,801), rushing attempts (1,822) and rushing touchdowns (45), and he did that with very inconsistent quarterback play. Jamaal Lewis was the tone setter on offense the way Ray Lewis was for the defensive unit. Jamaal was the only offensive threat on the Ravens Super Bowl XXXV winning team, and for his entire 6 seasons he played there. He made the Pro Bowl in 2003, the same season in which he won NFL MVP, NFL Offensive Player of the Year, NFL Alumni Running Back of the Year and AFC Player of the Year. He’s a member of the 2000’s All-Decade team, and a member of the 2,000 rushing yards (2,066) in a single season club (2003). He was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2012.

So there you have it Ravens fans. Let me know what you think. I want to hear your opinion.

Pittsburgh’s Playoff Hopes Slowly Dying 


If the Steelers miss the playoffs, the Ravens will get the credit . Photo Credit: Steelers.com

If the Pittsburgh Steelers miss out on the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens can take the credit. The Steelers are no longer in control of their destiny after losing 17-20 to their now 5 and 10 hated rivals for the second time this season. It’s Baltimore’s first sweep of the season series since 2011.

At the start of the game it appeared the Steelers offense would have their way. Pittsburgh received the opening kickoff and appeared to be attempting to make a statement. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley called 5 consecutive run plays which resulted in 52 yards, followed by a short 3 yard pass on third down put them at the Baltimore 25. But, the promising drive yielded no points when Coach Mike Tomlin chose to go for it on 4th and 1, and the Ravens D held.

Quarterback Ryan Mallett, making his first start as a Raven after being signed on December 15th, proceeded to march the Baltimore offense 85 yards (38 by Rush, 47 passing) that ended with an 8 yard touchdown to Chris Matthews. The Steelers playoff hopes began its slow death from there.

The Pittsburgh D allowed Mallett to throw for a career high 274 yards. This is the same guy who got cut by the Houston Texans–who have gone through 4 QBs this season–for sleeping through his alarm. But, as has been the case throughout the season, the Steelers couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. Baltimore converted 9 of 18 3rd downs in the game, and at one point Mallett was 5 for 5 passing on the key down.

Pittsburgh has proven all season long they can’t be left on the field too long. It showed Sunday with Baltimore winning the time of possession battle 34:20 to 25:40. Baltimore gained 386 total yards, 121 via rushing and 265 through the air.

Even with the D playing down to the level of their competition, the high-powered offense had their chances. But they looked out of sync all afternoon. Not once did they resemble the unit that average 35 points a game over the last 6. In their 5 first half possessions they managed to score only 3 points, and had drives of 2 punts, an interception and a turnover on downs.

Roethlisberger came into the day leading the NFL in passing yards per game at 336.9. He only passed for 215 yards, 193 if you count the yardage loss by the 3 times he was sacked. The Ravens gave up an 8th worse 25.7 points per game coming in to Sunday. The Steelers only managed to get 17. The Ravens were also giving up an 8th worse 342.7 total yards per game. Pittsburgh only gained 303.

DeAngelo Williams was the lone bright spot as he rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries with 2 touchdowns, but 84 of those yards came in the first half. Antonio Brown was held relatively in check by the Baltimore secondary with only 7 catches for 61 yards and 0 touchdowns.

The Steelers only hope for the playoffs now is a victory over the Cleveland Browns next Sunday, and a win by the Buffalo Bills over the New York Jets. If both happen, the Steelers would get in as the 6th seed.


• Pittsburgh’s franchise record of 21 consecutive quarters scoring points coming into the game was snapped in the first quarter when they didn’t score on their two possessions.

• With his 4th catch of the day, Antonio Brown joined Minnesota Vikings great Cris Carter as the only players in NFL history with back-to-back 120 catch seasons. Carter did it in 1994 and 95.

• Steelers are 3-3 this season when trailing at halftime. They trailed the Ravens 13-3 on Sunday.

• Coach Tomlin is now 10-11 vs Ravens in his career. 9-10 against John Harbaugh. 

Steelers-Ravens Preview: Throw Out the Records 


The Steelers look to avenge their October loss to their hated rivals and avoid a series sweep .

The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost five games this season. Four of those to teams that are currently in the playoffs. The New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals and the Seattle Seahawks. The fifth, is basically playing out the string while looking ahead to next season: the Baltimore Ravens.

The 4 and 10 Ravens would love nothing more than to play spoiler to their bitter rival’s playoff hopes, and sweep the season series for the first time since 2011. This Sunday they have their chance to add a silver lining to their abysmal, injury plagued season when the two meet in the “Charm City.”

The first time these two met on October 1st in Pittsburgh, the Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger while he nursed a right MCL sprain and bone bruise. Mike Vick got the start, and they blew a late 4th quarter lead, thanks to a pair of missed field goals by Josh Scobee, which led to questionable 4th down calls by Coach Mike Tomlin, before losing in overtime 23-20.

This time #7 will be at the helm, and bring the hottest, most lethal offense in the NFL with their franchise record of 6 consecutive games scoring 30+ points to town. During the streak, Pittsburgh has scored 210 points (35 pg), 2,883 total yards (480.5 pg), 2,269 passing yards (378.2 pg), and most importantly a 5-1 win-loss record.

The keys to a Steeler victory are obvious. They average an NFL 2nd best 27 points a game on offense, while gaining 402.9. Baltimore’s D gives up 25.7 points a game, 8th worse in the NFL, and 342.7 yards a game. The blueprint for victory is there.

The one key issue with Pittsburgh is, they still turn the ball over at crucial moments, that’s the only thing that can keep a lowly Ravens team in the game. Baltimore has a league low 4 interceptions and 7 fumble recoveries thus far this season, and are 31st in turnover margin at -15.

On offense the Ravens are without quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Justin Forsett. That’s probably why they’re 28th in 3rd down conversions at 34%, 21st in points per game. But, they are 8th in passing yards at 266 per game. So the Steelers, young, vulnerable, 2nd worse ranked pass D will need to be on alert.

Regardless, this is Steelers versus Ravens, so you might as well throw the records and stats out the window. Baltimore is 8-5 against Pittsburgh since the start of the 2010 season.

On Monday, Vegas had Pittsburgh as 10.5 favorites, with the over-under at 47 points. I’m going with the under, while predicting the Steelers to win 30-10.

Steeler Nation should keep an eye on the (9-5) New York Jets versus the (12-2) New England Patriots and the (3-11) Cleveland Browns hosting the (9-5) Kansas City Chiefs. A Kansas City loss, with a Steeler win would move Pittsburgh to the 5th seed. While a Steeler loss and Jets victory would drop them out of the playoffs with one week to go. If all three win out, Pittsburgh will still get in as the 6th seed.

Steelers Snatch Defeat From the Jaws of Vick-tory

Bell’s 129 rushing yards weren’t enough to get the win. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers got one of the ugliest wins a team could have against the St. Louis Rams. Thursday night, they suffered one of the ugliest losses you’ll see.

There were already serious questions for the Steelers coming into their rivalry game against the Baltimore Ravens, on a short week, without their Pro-Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and a backup who was 4-12 in his last 16 starts. After a 20-23 loss, now there’s more questions than answers. Especially about special teams, and coaching decisions.

Tomlin made several questionable decisions. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

The Steelers had a 13 point lead in the second half and a couple of chances to finish off Baltimore, but kicker Josh Scobee missed two field goals (49, 41 yarders) that would’ve pushed their lead to 6, and forced the Ravens to have to score a touchdown at the end of regulation to win. Instead, it left the door wide open for Justin Tucker’s 50 yarder which sent the game into overtime. Scobee’s inability to make a field goal forced head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley into questionable 4th down attempts in overtime that gave the Ravens more chances to steal the win.

For what it’s worth, Mike Vick and the offense played decent in Big Ben’s absence. Vick was 19 of 26 for 124 yards a touchdown, and most importantly, no turnovers. Le’Veon Bell ran for 129 yards on 22 carries, ending the Ravens streak of 29 games without allowing a 100 yard rusher. He also grabbed 7 catches for 21 yards to aid the passing game. The down side was Antonio Brown only had 5 catches for 42 yards, ending his NFL record 35 game streak of having 5+ catches and 50+ yards.

Even without a stellar performance from their All-Pro wide receiver, the Steelers defense played well enough to win. Justin Forsett did rush for 150 yards, but they sacked Joe Flacco 5 times, 3 of them in the 1st half alone. He’d only been sacked twice in the Ravens first 3 games. They forced 2 turnovers, setting up the offense to score 14 points. The defense also held Baltimore to 6/17 on third down and 1/4 on fourth down.

As you can see, the Steelers had the recipe for victory, but miscues in the kicking game and terrible play calling is why they’re now 2-2 on the season, and 9-8 in games without Roethlisberger since his rookie season in 2004.  Coach Tomlin has 11 days to think about his game management decisions and where to find a possible replacement for a kicker who has already missed four field goals in 4 games.

Next up, at the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night October 12th. Plenty of time for offensive coordinator Todd Haley and Vick to open up the playbook.

One Spot, Four Teams. Steelers Have Great Shot


Everything is falling into place for the Steelers to clinch the final AFC playoff spot.

I never thought I would have said that after the first four games when they went 0-4. Heck, I didn’t even think I’d be saying that after the loss to the Miami Dolphins 3 weeks ago. But of all the teams vying for that final spot, you would rather be Pittsburgh this weekend.

The Steelers have caught the breaks the last couple of weeks. They played the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers and play at home this Sunday against the lowly Cleveland Browns (4-11).

The three other teams in contention for the sixth seed have tougher roads. The San Diego Chargers (8-7) play against a Kansas City Chief (11-4) team locked into their position as the fifth seed, but wanting to go into the playoffs on a better note after losing 23-7 last Sunday to the Indianapolis Colts. The Dolphins (8-7) will play against a renewed and inspired New York Jet team fighting for their beloved coach’s job and the Baltimore Ravens (8-7) are reeling after an embarrassing 41-7 loss to the New England Patriots, and playing at a Cincinnati Bengal (11-4) team that is 7-0 on the season at Paul Brown Stadium and still playing for a first round bye.

So you see, there’s a strong possibility the Black and Gold will avoid missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year, and the third missed post season in the Mike Tomlin area.

Another caveat for the Steelers, they are 11-2 in week 17 games since 2000. Tied for the best record in the NFL in that time span with the Green Bay Packers. All that’s left now is to play the games and scoreboard watch. One the second season begins, throw the records out, anything can happen. Everyone is 0-0.

Another Steeler-Raven Classic


Photo Courtesy: Steelers.com

This thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the schedule makers at the NFL for getting this one right. Coming into the game, nine of the last eleven games in this rivalry have been decided by three points or less.

Whenever the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens play each other, the intensity and passion on each play, each hit, always feels like a winner take all duel to the death regardless of the win-loss records or the date on the calendar and thanksgiving night was no different. This was playoff football in November, because the loser very well could be on the outside looking in at the NFL Playoffs come January.

This game for all intensive purposes was the first possible playoff elimination game of the 2013 season. Both teams being 5-6 and with a small chance of catching the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC North title, needed to win to keep their Wild Card playoff chances alive.

I’ve been on the Steelers aging D all season for not holding up their end of the bargain, but I have to give credit where credit is due, if it weren’t for them the Black & Gold would’ve gotten routed because the offense struggled in the first half.

Aside from Baltimore’s first drive, where Joe Flacco picked on defensive backs William Gay and Ike Taylor, The D implied a bend but don’t break philosophy holding the Ravens to 5 field goals even while giving up 311 total yards. Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau’s D looked very reminiscent of years past holding Baltimore to 1 out of 4 in the red zone.

The offense took longer to get going, putting up zero points in the first half and countless three and outs. In past weeks Roethlisberger looked more and more like a two time winning Super Bowl Champion QB. His second half on Thursday night was no different as he went 28 of 44 passing for 257 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was money on the 13 play, 79 yard TD drive, then threw a great catchable pass to Emmanuel Sanders on the 2 point conversion to give Pittsburgh a shot to tie.

Lost in the drama of the game, Big Ben is now tied with Terry Bradshaw for most touchdown passes in Steelers history with 212. Roethlisberger also got plenty of help from Le’Veon Bell. Bell had 16 carries for 73 yards and a TD to go along with 7 catches for 63 yards.

Think about this. What if Bell’s touchdown where his helmet was knocked off had stood and the touchdown pass to Jericho Cotchery had been the tying two point conversion? I believe the Steelers would have escaped with their fourth win in a row because they had all the momentum to finish the Ravens off in overtime. But games aren’t won and loss on what ifs.

At 5-7, Pittsburgh’s playoff chances are still barely alive with a more favorable schedule than the Ravens. Baltimore’s last four opponents have a record of 24-19-1. Their two key games are against division leaders New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions. The Steelers final four opponents are a combined 21-23-1. Their only big game is at Green Bay, potentially without QB Aaron Rodgers. Pittsburgh would also have a tie breaker against Baltimore with a better record against common opponents, so anything’s possible.

2013 NFL Storylines to Watch

By weeks end, all 32 NFL teams will be back on the field in pursuit of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. With the anticipation mounting and the regular season still seven weeks away, here are the top storylines to ponder as you wait for kickoff.

Is This The Beginning Of The Demise Of The New England Patriots?

Courtesy: NOLA.com

Tom Brady has lost two of his top three targets from last season. Aaron Hernandez is in jail awaiting trial after being indicted on murder charges, Wes Welker is now one of Brady’s rival’s (Peyton Manning) key threats with the Denver Broncos. Don’t forget his top target Rob Gronkowski is on the mend from a broken forearm that has been broken twice and back surgery. Lastly, the entire organization seems to be underfire again after Hernandez’s legal troubles, as well as cornerback Alfonzo Dennard’s DUI arrest.

So who are the Patriots? We will learn this season. This will likely be the most scrutinized and challenging season since Spygate and the 2008 season when Brady tore up his knee on the first play of the season. However, until another team defeats them for the AFC East title they’ll always be the favorite, but their reign may end soon with the moves the Miami Dolphins have made bringing in wideout Mike Wallace from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe from the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. Can the Pats use some Tebow magic? I can’t believe I just said that, I won’t go there.


Courtesy: ESPN.com

Sophomore slump isn’t even the biggest concern for last season’s Rookie of The Year. Coming off a gruesome knee injury in the NFC Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks, where both his ACL and LCL needed surgery in the offseason, many are wondering if Robert Griffin will make an Adrian Peterson comeback or be like other mere mortals who have taken close to a full year to return to form.

The NFC West, The NFC’s Best?

Courtesy: devianART.com

There was a time recently when this division was known by many as the NFC worst. The San Francisco 49ers will begin their season with Quarterback Colin Kaepernick having his first full training camp as the starter. The reigning NFC Champions are all in for not only a return to the Super Bowl, but winning it all. Shortly after losing to the Baltimore Ravens, they traded for wide receiver Anquan Boldin from the reigning Champs. At the time it was seen as just a shrewed move for insurance purposes, but after the leading receiver Michael Crabtree blew his ACL in the offseason, the Boldin move is now even more important. If they have any shot of getting to Super Bowl 48 in New York, Boldin will have to be Kaepernick’s go to guy like he was for Joe Flacco.

The Seattle Seahawks are much improved as well, adding triple threat wide receiver Percy Harvin to their arsenal after making a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Quarterback Russell Wilson will come into the season with a full training camp as the starter after battling and beating out Matt Flynn last season. Wilson is expected to be better and lead an offense that is more high powered than last season’s when they surprisingly made it to the Divisional Playoff round.

The St. Louis Rams went 4-1-1 in the division. This will be their second year under Head Coach Jeff Fisher and are expected to be improved on offense, especially with the addition of do it all weapon Tavon Austin. The Rams will need to find an answer at running back after losing Stephen Jackson to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Arizona Cardinals shouldn’t be totally inept at the Quarterback position after bringing in former Pro Bowler Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders. Palmer should be able to jump start an offense that let their defense down after getting off to a 4-0 start in 2012. If he can regain any of his old form he had with the Cincinnati Bengals, he should be able to help wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald revitalize the offense.

The winner of this division could very well be the NFC representative in Super Bowl 48.

What Defending Champions?

Courtesy: Sports Illustrated/CNN

The Baltimore Ravens lost 9 starters from their Super Bowl winning team including Iconic leaders Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, as well as Danell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger; that’s just on defense. As mentioned previously, they traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to their Super Bowl 47 opponent. Can we really call them the defending champions?! The AFC North which is widely regarded as the best division in the NFL looks to be headed for a down year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost key Receiver Mike Wallace to the Miami Dolphins, former Defensive Player of The Year James Harrison now plays for the Cincinnati Bengals, also the Steelers top ranked Defense from a year ago is another year older which has been the knock on them for the past three seasons. Don’t be surprised if this division will have a throwback to the late 1980s and come down to the battle of Ohio for the title.

Will Matt Ryan And The Dirty Birds Fly North For The Winter?

Courtesy: Atlanta Journal Constitution.com

Matty Ice and the Atlanta Falcons were 30 minutes away from representing the NFC in Super Bowl 47 before they collapsed to the 49ers. The Falcons have talked Tony Gonzales into postponing his time on the Hall of Fame clock for enshrinement, to return for a 17th season and another shot at an elusive Super Bowl. Running back Stephen Jackson brings his 10,135 rushing yards from St. Louis to the ATL to help balance out one of the best aerial attacks in the NFL. After winning his first playoff game in 4 season, it all falls on Matt Ryan. Can he be like Joe Flacco and EARN his place on the list of NFL elite QBs?

Rookie Quarterbacks

There is no Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson in this class. There was only one QB taken in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL draft. After last season’s class rivaled the one of 2004 with Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, not many are expecting much from this group of signal callers. However, there will be plenty of intrigue from the group. Will Geno Smith end the Mark Sanchez era with the New York Jets? Will Buffalo’s EJ Mannuel justify being selected 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills? Most had him pegged as a third rounder, second rounder at best. If the Philadelphia Eagles struggle early in Head Coach Chip Kelly’s first season, will he pull Michael Vick and look to the future in Matt Barkley out of USC? Barkley was said to be headed towards being a #1 pick whenever he decided to leave So Cal before an injury and unexpected down senior season.

Dallas Cowboys

When is America’s team not a storyline? Tony Romo got paid this offseason to the tune of 6 years $108 million, $55 million guaranteed. The expectation is now he’ll have more of role in the offensive game plan. Jerry Jones raised eyebrows when he said Romo will have “Peyton Manning like” responsibilities. Can Romo in his 10th season, finally get over the hump and restore glory to one of the most glamorous positions in all of sports?

Records Are Made To Be Broken

Courtesy: NY Daily News

Last season Minnesota Vikings Running back Adrian Peterson did the unthinkable for everyone but him and returned from a gruesome knee injury at the end of the 2011 season to fall 9 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record in 2012. AP is on record as saying he wants to rush for 2,500 yards this season, which will shatter Dickerson’s record of 2,106.

Courtesy: ESPN.com

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson overcame the EA Sports Madden cover jinx to break Jerry Rice’s single season receiving yards record that stood since 1988. Megatron is already predicting he’ll be the first to receive over 2,000 yards in a single season.

Good luck to both of them. Every Defensive coordinator will have 8 in the box against the Vikings and triple coverage against the Lions planned all season. Either way, i’ll be watching to see if they can come through on their predictions.

Ice Bowl, I Mean Super Bowl 48.

Courtesy: Football.ballparks.com

Most people are looking forward to the Super Bowl not because of who will be playing in it, but because of the elements the game could be played under. The big game will be played outside in a cold weather city for the first time when the AFC and NFC champions take the field in MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014. In 2013, the temperature in the New York, New Jersey area on was 19 degrees on the same day. Will 2014 bring the same? Will a successful game in Super Bowl 48 open doors for other cold weather cities with outdoor stadiums like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago or Philadelphia to get a Super Bowl in the future?

My Predictions

I reserve the right to change this after the preseason before the opening game of week one. I’m confident in these picks barring MAJOR injuries.

Regular Season Awards:

Most Valuable Player: Quarterback, Matt Ryan (ATL)

Rookie of The Year: Running back, Monte Ball (DEN)

Defensive Rookie of The Year: Linebacker, Jarvis Jones (PIT)

Defensive Player of The Year: Linebacker, DeMarcus Ware (DAL)

Coach of The Year: Pete Carroll (SEA)

Division Winners:

AFC East: Miami Dolphins

AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals

AFC South: Houston Texans

AFC West: Denver Broncos

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

NFC North: Green Bay Packers

NFC South: Atlanta Falcons

NFC West: Seattle Seahawks

Conference Championship Games:

NFC: Atlanta Falcons Vs. Seattle Seahawks. Winner: Atlanta Falcons

AFC: Houston Texans Vs. Denver Broncos. Winner: Houston Texans

Super Bowl 48: Atlanta Falcons vs. Houston Texans; Champion: Atlanta Falcons

Getting Tony Gonzales to return and signing Stephen Jackson will keep the continuity of the most high powered offense in the NFL. This is what Matt Ryan needs in addition to getting the playoff monkey off his back to lead this team to its first Super Bowl title. 15 years after their first and only Super Bowl appearance, the Dirty Bird returns to dance at the 50 yard line in the New Meadowlands.