Out of all the matches taking place
this weekend the two that jump out are Baltimore at Pittsburgh and Washington
at Philadelphia. A quartet of solid teams are in action and offer lots of
The first game is a classic tussle
between franchises that despise each other. Emotions could run wild at 12noon
Cayman time on CBS. Both sides have been quite similar historically brandishing
a smash-mouth style of football that offers physical defence and a belligerent
run game. This season has been slightly different, with Pittsburgh showcasing
the kind of passing game last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that is
similar to what exists in New Orleans and Green Bay.
Nevertheless Charlie Batch will
face a Ravens team that is more than capable of stifling an offence. Ray Lewis
may be considered old at 35 but he is very much a beast and inspires vicious
hits from his secondary. Hines Ward’s toughness will have to rub off on his
receiving core if they hope to gain yards.
Even though Joe Flacco has not
connected for big passes with the likes of Anquan Boldin, there is a chance it
could happen on Sunday. Ray Rice’s health is questionable and even though
Willis McGahee is in the backfield it seems logical that Flacco will pass more.
To do so he’ll have to work around a feisty secondary led by Troy Polamalu and
a pass rush steadied by James Harrison.
It’s a tough call but ultimately
the Ravens should shut down the Steelers offence. Picking a score for this
match is almost pointless and from here on I’m shifting away from giving
potential scores. Needless to say don’t expect fireworks offensively as Baltimore
squeaks out a physical win.
The second game takes place at
3.15pm Cayman time on FOX. The two figures that should stand out in this tussle
are quarterbacks Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb. Vick leads an Eagles team
that originally wanted Kevin Kolb to be the starter and have grudgingly
entrusted the former convict with the offence. McNabb steadies a Redskins team
that used to be his regular opponent during his Philly days and is taking on a
player in Vick who he urged Eagles brass to hire.
On the field the duo have been
better than expected. Vick, 30, has turned back the clock and looks 10 years
younger as he showcases the mobility and run speed that made him a star in
Atlanta. McNabb, 33, may have dealt with injury in training camp this summer
and in his tenure with Philly but has looked healthy thus far making good
Helping the duo have been rosters
that are quite similar. Vick has an athletic receiving core highlighted by
DeSean Jackson that can make big plays at a moment’s notice. McNabb has
relatively healthy wide-outs led by Santana Moss. Both run games may be
depleted but the defences are equally fierce.
Vick is a great comeback story for
the league but ultimately the Redskins are the bigger underdogs in Sunday’s
match. I’ll take my chances with the Washington defence, especially DeAngelo
Hall in the secondary, stifling Vick for the win.