Week 11 is a key week as we leave midseason behind and make the push for the playoffs. The top of the AFC North is separated by one game and those two teams, the Ravens and Steelers, go head to head Sunday for control of the division. I’ll break down the keys to victory for this game and the rest of the AFC North below.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens need to do something they haven’t done all year—stop the run. Their key to victory is shutting down the trio of Steeler running backs and making Byron Leftwich try to win the game. Leftwich hasn’t had significant playing time in 6 years and I just can’t see him driving Pittsburgh up and down the field. Stop the running game and you’ll stop the Steelers this week. However, the usually vaunted Ravens defense has been flat out bad at doing so this year. The Ravens rank 26th in the NFL in opponent rushing yards per game and the Steelers have shown they are more than capable of pounding the ball with their stable of running backs. Can the Ravens take advantage of Roethlisberger’s absence?
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers need to be safe. Their key to victory is going to be playing a “clean” game. No turnovers, no big plays allowed, no special teams blunders. It is going to be difficult to score on Baltimore with Big Ben out. However, the Steelers defense is hitting on all cylinders and will make the Ravens earn every point they get. It is likely that this game could turn out to be a very low scoring affair and if the Steelers want to take control of the division they must not have any big mistakes that cost them points. If the Ravens are going to score, make them call 10 plays and drive down the field for a 45 yard field goal. If the Steelers can do this, their running game is potent enough to score them enough points to come out with a win.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals need to stay the course. The key to victory for the Bengals is to limit the Kansas City running game and make Matt Cassel beat you. They did this last week and it helped them pull off a huge upset against the New York Giants. The Bengals can and should beat the Chiefs but the can’t let Jamal Charles and Peyton Hillis run up and down the field. That is what the Chiefs want, and have, to do. Limit those guys and you’ll win the game. Cassel will not beat you through the air.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns need to force turnovers. Cleveland heads to Dallas this week and their key to victory is turning over Tony Romo and the rest of the Dallas offense. The Cowboys are going to score on the Browns, let that be known. However, if Trent Richardson can run the ball fairly well, and I think he will, the Browns will score some points too. However that won’t be enough. If the Browns want to win the game they need to pick of Romo at least twice. Romo has been very interception happy this season so that isn’t exactly a pipe dream. It will be tough to go into Jerry World and come out with a win but if the Browns can force some key turnovers and set themselves up with short fields they have a decent shot at knocking of America’s Team.