First, a description. From time to time, we’ll make an outlandish prediction on this site. And since it is our duty, we will also make predictions on big games – outlandish predictions or not. All will fall under this tag.
Next, a history lesson: In the Bill Cowher era, the Steelers were 2-4 in AFC championship games. All but one of those games were at home (1-4 in those games). Pittsburgh is 0-1 in AFC title games at Heinz Field.
1 more history lesson: The Steelers swept the Ravens this season, winning 23-20 in OT in Pittsburgh (week 4) and 13-9 in Baltimore (week 15).
The Steelers are the most complete team left in the playoffs, especially with Willie Parker finally healthy. He’s a key in this game. Although Parker’s history against Baltimore is spotty, Fast Willie has enough speed to plague the Ravens if he can make it through the game. (Chris Johnson exposed this minor flaw in the Baltimore D last week.)
Baltimore has little explosiveness on offense, which isn’t new. But in the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000, they didn’t need a ton of explosiveness. The recipe, at least in the AFC playoffs, was great defense, effective running from Jamal Lewis, and 1 big passing play from Trent Dilfer. That’s the recipe Baltimore used last week. Rookie QB Joe Flacco made just one big play, but that 48-yard TD to Derrick Mason was all the offense needed to do. The defense did the rest, forcing three plus-territory turnovers to keep the Titans to just 10 points. In other words, the recipe for victory worked perfectly.
The questions are whether the Ravens can hold the Steelers down enough (13, 14, or 17 points). And if they can do that, can Flacco make the one big play for to get the Ravens close enough on the scoreboard for the running game and defense to get the win.
The outlandish prediction is part 1, yes. Parker gets one long run (30-plus yards) leading to a touchdown, and the Steelers end up with 17 points. But part 2, no. Flacco has at least 2 turnovers and no TDs.
That all adds up to this outlandish prediction: Pittsburgh 17, Baltimore 10.