Thursday September 11th, 2014

Who has the edge in the matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers? Don Banks makes his pick below.

• Last week: 10-6; Season: 10-6 (.625).

• Best pick in Week 1: Jets 20, Raiders 10 (actual score Jets 19-14).

• Worst pick in Week 1: Patriots 28, Dolphins 23 (actual score: Dolphins 33-20).

After the tumultuous off-field events of this week, the Ravens have to be ready for some football. But will they be ready, given how all-consuming and inescapable the Ray Rice story has been the past three days? And this isn’t just the next game on the Ravens schedule, it’s Pittsburgh week, with the arch-rival Steelers visiting M&T Bank Stadium in what is inarguably the biggest game of the season each and every year in Baltimore.    

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Add into that the element of early desperation, which would be the mood if the Ravens sputter to an 0-2 start, with both losses coming at home, in the division, and against the two opponents who figure to most directly block Baltimore’s path to a playoff berth. The Steelers, on the other hand, can improve to 2-0 with a pair of AFC North wins in the span of five days, springboarding their hopes of returning to the postseason for the first time since 2011.   

Which Pittsburgh team will show Thursday night, the one that dominated Cleveland 27-3 in the first half Sunday at Heinz Field, or the one that went almost comatose in the second half, squeaking out a 30-27 last-second win over the Browns? The Ravens had a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde performance themselves, looking dreadful in the opening two quarters against Cincinnati, only to roar back and take a late lead that they quickly surrendered to the Bengals, falling 23-16.   

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These two mirror-image clubs almost always play games in which they are separated by a field goal or less, but you could foresee a relative blowout taking place under these unique circumstances. Either Baltimore simply has little left in the tank after a short and draining week, or the the Ravens are galvanized by the controversy that has engulfed the organization and wind up playing far better and with a sense of urgency that was lacking in Week 1. I’m leaning toward the latter scenario being the one that unfolds.

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