One of the most brutal rivalries in the NFL right now is between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Both teams play physical on either side of the ball and every encounter provides loads of bone-crunching tackles.
Sunday’s 8:20pm match-up on NBC is the latest chapter in their battle and offers a new twist: both are struggling to stay in the AFC playoff picture.
Pittsburgh comes in at 6-4 after a tough upset at the hands of Kansas City while 5-5 Baltimore is coming off a narrow defeat at Indianapolis.
Aside from the losses both teams also see two quarterbacks who are not firing on all cylinders. Ben Roethlisberger had a concussion last week and his health is a big question mark for Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile Joe Flacco’s 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions have not impressed for the Ravens.
Without a healthy Big Ben under centre there’s little chance the Steelers can build on their offensive numbers that see them in the top ten in total yards (379.7) and passing yards (268.1) per game.
Then again the receivers have to work extra hard to help out Big Ben or whoever ends up in the pocket. Leading the way on that regard should be Hines Ward, one of the league’s toughest pass catchers.
Remember both defenses are firmly among the NFL’s best. The secondary for both clubs is hard-hitting and the defensive line does a great job of getting into the backfield.
Yet for Baltimore a crucial part of the game should be special teams. More times than not, Baltimore will not get touchdowns and field-goal kicking will have to be the main way to get points on the board.
Ultimately this reporter expects another tight, low-scoring affair that favours the Ravens and their aggressive style 12-9.