MNF 10 - 5

MNF 10 - 5

Game Preview for Ravens vs Steelers

(Sports Network) - The changing of the AFC North guard can become formalized on Monday night, when the first-place Pittsburgh Steelers host the reigning division champion Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.

The Steelers, who last won the division in 2004, have already humbled 2005 champ Cincinnati (24-13) and upstart North foe Cleveland (34-7), both on the road, and can move to 3-0 in the division with a win over frequent antagonist Baltimore.

A victory for Mike Tomlin's team would give Pittsburgh a full two-game edge over the Ravens at the season's midway point, and would push the Steelers to a statement-making 3-0 in the division. After losing to both Cincinnati and Cleveland earlier this year, Baltimore would drop to 0-3 in the division as it prepares to make the turn.

The Ravens, who bolted to a 13-3 mark last season, have struggled on the road this season and have yet to record any win of particular significance. Baltimore fell to 1-3 away from Mamp;T Bank Stadium with a 19-14 loss at Buffalo in Week 7, a game that preceded the team's Week 8 bye.

Brian Billick's club has yet to defeat a team with a winning record, and its four triumphs have come against opponents that sported a combined mark of 6-24 as Week 9 began.

The schedule will get much tougher for the Ravens, however, beginning with Monday's game. Awaiting Baltimore in the second half are difficult contests against San Diego (11/25), New England (12/3), Indianapolis (12/9), at Seattle (12/23), and the return matchup against Pittsburgh (12/30) in Charm City.

On Monday, the Ravens figure to have their hands full against a Steeler outfit that is 3-0 at home under Tomlin and has outscored its 2007 visitors by a composite score of 84-19 this season.

Baltimore will also be up against the Black and Gold's recent dominance on the second night of the week. The Steelers are 11-0 at home on Monday Night Football since last losing such a game back in 1991. Pittsburgh is 33-22 (.600) all-time on Monday night.

SERIES HISTORY

The Steelers hold a 13-9 edge in the all-time regular season series with the Ravens, but were drilled in two meetings against their AFC North rival last season. Baltimore was a 27-0 home winner when the teams met in Week 12, and traveled to Pittsburgh to deal the Steelers a 31-7 setback in Week 16. The teams had split home-and-homes in the previous three seasons, with the home team winning all six contests.

Pittsburgh won the only postseason meeting between the teams, a 27-10 triumph in a 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff at home.

Billick is 8-9 overall against Pittsburgh, while the Steelers' Tomlin will be meeting both Billick and Baltimore for the first time as a head coach.

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL

The Ravens are averaging just 17.7 points per game, the 25th-best total in the NFL, but have rarely been close to 100 percent in regard to health on the offensive side of the football this season. Baltimore is expected to get injured players like quarterback Steve McNair (groin), tight end Todd Heap (hamstring), and opening day starting tackles Jonathan Ogden (turf toe) and Adam Terry (ankle) back in the full-time lineup for Sunday. McNair (922 passing yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) has missed three starts this season, placing more pressure on a running game led by Willis McGahee (639 rushing yards, 24 receptions, 3 TD). Last time out, against his former team the Bills, McGahee carried 19 times for 114 yards including a dazzling 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but he also missed a large stretch of the fourth quarter after needing an IV of fluids due to fatigue. Derrick Mason (56 receptions, 2 TD) has been Baltimore's most reliable wide receiver this season, and the presence of Heap (19 receptions, 1 TD) should also assist the passing game.

The Steelers entered Week 9 ranked atop the NFL in total defense (256.9 yards per game), scoring defense (13 points per game), and rushing touchdowns allowed (1), though the unit was more bend-but-don't-break than suffocating against the Bengals last week. The group allowed just two field goals and a touchdown all day, also sealing the game with a James Harrison (42 tackles, 3 sacks) forced fumble off of Bengals rusher Kenny Watson in the late going. Pittsburgh is dealing with some injuries heading into Monday night, as both defensive end Aaron Smith (knee) and safety Ryan Clark (spleen) could be inactive. Dick LeBeau's zone-blitz scheme has yielded 19 sacks through seven games, 14.5 of which have come from the team's linebackers. James Farrior (33 tackles, 4 sacks) and Clark Haggans (22 tackle, 3.5 sacks) lead the team in that category, while rookie LaMarr Woodley (8 tackles, 3 sacks) has made an impact as well. Other Pittsburgh playmakers include nose tackle Casey Hampton (10 tackles) in the trenches and cornerback Ike Taylor (35 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack) and strong safety Troy Polamalu (25 tackles) in the secondary.

WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL

Pittsburgh came out of last week leading the NFL in both rushing offense (159.1 yards per game) and runs of 20 yards or longer (12), though it was the passing attack that made more noise in the Cincinnati win. Ben Roethlisberger (1533 passing yards, 15 TD, 6 INT) completed 19-of-26 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in the win, with both TDs going to trusty veteran Hines Ward (24 receptions, 3 TD). Ward, who is now just two back of John Stallworth on the club's all-time touchdown reception list, hauled in eight passes for 88 yards. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, posted his fifth passer rating of 100 or better in seven outings this season. On the ground, Willie Parker (726 rushing yards, 2 TD) busted out for 126 yards on just 22 carries versus Cincinnati, his fifth 100-yard game of the season. Parker struggled in two meetings against Baltimore last season, totaling 51 yards on 23 carries (2.2 yards per rush) in a pair of losses.

The Ravens' defense has not been as consistently dominating in 2007 as it was in years past, though the fact that Baltimore is surrendering a league-low 2.9 yards per rush speaks well of their chances against run-first Pittsburgh. Also helping matters is the probable return of defensive end Trevor Pryce (6 tackles, 1 sack), who has missed more than a month with a broken wrist. Without Pryce in the lineup for much of the year, pass rushers such as Terrell Suggs (28 tackles, 2 sacks) have not been as effective. No Baltimore player has more than two sacks in 2007, after four different Ravens had 9.5 or more last year. Pressure on Roethlisberger will be important on Monday, since the team is likely to be without cornerback Chris McAlister (knee) for a second straight game. Corey Ivy (23 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) is slated to take McAlister's place in the lineup, and Samari Rolle (13 tackles, 1 INT) will probably find himself matched with Ward. Safety Ed Reed (18 tackles, 4 INT) continues to be Baltimore's best playmaker in the secondary. In the front seven, linebackers Ray Lewis (58 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and Bart Scott (41 tackles, 1 sack) have made frequent plays behind underrated nose tackle Kelly Gregg (31 tackles, 2 sacks).

FANTASY FOCUS

The most consistent offensive players on both of these teams are the running backs, though both McGahee and Parker can be expected to have sub-standard days while going up against two very good run-stopping defenses. Roethlisberger and McNair should gain more mileage, but don't be surprised if one or both cough up a turnover or two. Mason is a valuable commodity in a league that rewards receptions, and Ward and fellow wideout Santonio Holmes are also capable of big games. Tight ends Todd Heap and Heath Miller are both worth starting, as are both defenses. You can't go wrong starting either of the kickers, especially Baltimore's Matt Stover, who is averaging more than two field goals made per contest.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It should be clear through eight weeks of play which of these teams is stronger, as Pittsburgh has looked like a complete outfit while Baltimore has had to claw its way to four wins against poor opponents. In addition, the Steelers always put their best foot forward at home on primetime, another disadvantage for the rusty Ravens. That said, Baltimore has to know that a loss on Monday puts them on the brink of elimination in both the playoff and division races, given how difficult the schedule will be in the second half. With that in mind, look for Billick's team to pull out all the stops and offer a rare glimpse of their "A" game, though in the end, it won't be enough.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Steelers 23, Ravens 17

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Re: MNF 10 - 5

What bettors need to know: Ravens at Steelers
Covers.com

Defensive battle


Traditionally, both the Steelers and Ravens are franchises built on strong defense. That’s no different this season, a fact that should be on display in Monday’s game.

“Nothing is a secret about the way these two teams play against each other,” Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis told the Carroll County Times. “We know it’s going to be physical. They’ve got the No. 1 defense, we’ve got the No. 2 defense. It’s going to be one of those classic games.”

Pittsburgh has given up the fewest yards per game (256.9) and the fewest points per contest (13) of any NFL team this season. The Ravens are second in the league in total defense (268 yards per game) and are 10th with 17 points allowed per contest.

Both defenses have solid linebacking corps. Baltimore is led by Lewis, a two-time defensive player of the year, and Pittsburgh by James Farrior. But the Ravens will get a huge boost on Monday with the return of four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Trevor Pryce from injury.

“You can’t point to one guy and say ‘We’re going to block him,’ because if you block him, the other four will kill you,” Pryce said ahead of the game. “We have all the pieces as a whole. It makes the unit stronger. I just want to make it that much harder.”

Two of the last three games between these teams went under the total.

Roethlisberger to set record straight?

Last season, Ben Roethlisberger was terrible against Baltimore. The Steelers quarterback hopes to put the record straight when the Ravens arrive at Heinz Field for their Monday Night Football matchup.

In two games last year, Baltimore sacked Roethlisberger 14 times and forced him to throw four interceptions. He threw for just 370 yards and one TD over the two games, both of which were heavy defeats.

"You know how you felt afterward," Roethlisberger told The Associated Press this week. "You got embarrassed twice, once here, once there. It's not a good thing. It leaves a taste in your mouth. They roughed us up, a lot. We need another all-around performance like we had last Sunday, in all phases of the game.”

The Steelers defeated the Bengals 24-13 last week with Roethlisberger throwing for 230 yards and two TDs. The fourth-year QB has 15 touchdown passes and six interceptions for the season, compared to seven TDs with 14 picks at the same time last year.

"I think offensively we're playing well," Roethlisberger added. "I think the key is if we can keep doing that, just trying to get better. We need to keep improving and keep working on trying to be a good football team. I think we have the potential to be great, but we've got a ways to go."

The Steelers have yet to lose in Pittsburgh this season and haven’t dropped a home Monday night game in more than 16 years.

Steelers will run the football

Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is confident his team will be able to run the ball against the league’s second-best rush defense on Monday. Last season, Pittsburgh managed a combined 119 yards on the ground in two games against the Ravens.

"Partly, it was us; we took a pass-first mentality to Baltimore and it backfired," Arians told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after Saturday’s practice. "Last year was last year. All I'm worried about is this year. We're going to run the football, make no bones about it."

Pittsburgh’s star RB Wille Parker, who leads the league with five 100-yard games this season, was held to just 50 yards on 23 carries against the Ravens last season.

Asked by a reporter if he meant his offense would attempt to run the football, Arians said, "No, we're going to run the football."

In the past three games the Ravens have given up just 271 yards on the ground and a single rushing touchdown.

McNair ready for Ravens

Baltimore quarterback Steve McNair has had the past three weeks off to recover from various niggling injuries. As McNair gears up for his return, wide receiver Derrick Mason says he can notice the difference in the veteran QB.

"With three weeks off, a guy is going to be a little bit rejuvenated," Mason told the Washington Post. "You can see that he has that bounce back in his step again. I think Steve needed something like that, especially going into the second half of the season.”

McNair picked up a groin injury in the season opener and then hurt his back against the 49ers. Coach Brian Billick decided to rest him against the Rams and the Bills, and last week’s bye gave him three weeks of recovery time.

"The two or three weeks that I had off was good for the body. It gave me time to heal up and I played with a lot of confidence and not worry about the injuries,” said McNair, who struggled with his mobility earlier in the season.

“Mostly I was using my arm," he added. "Now I can go ahead and make sure that I can follow through with the right techniques. As a quarterback you've got to have the right techniques. When you're hurt, you kind of lose those techniques and now that I've got them back, things will work out.”

McNair has enjoyed continued success against the Steelers in his career. He is 11-4 against Pittsburgh, completing 62 percent of his passes and throwing for 21 touchdowns against them.

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Re: MNF 10 - 5

Baltimore at Pittsburgh
By Brian Edwards
VegasInsider.com

As if nearly being a double-digit underdog wasn’t enough to get Baltimore motivated for Monday’s AFC North showdown at Pittsburgh, the Steelers have also scheduled a party of sorts for the Ravens’ arrival in the Steel City.

The Steelers are holding a 75-year anniversary celebration, honoring the living members of the 33-man all-franchise team during pre-game ceremonies.

"We look at it as we have been scheduled for their homecoming," Baltimore head coach Brian Billick said this week.

Most sports books are listing Pittsburgh (5-2 straight up, 5-2 against the spread) as a nine-point favorite with a total of 36 ½. Bettors can back the Ravens for a plus 350 return (risk $100 to win $350).

Mike Tomlin’s team is off a 24-13 win at Cincinnati as a four-point ‘chalk.’ Willie Parker ran for 126 yards, while Hines Ward hauled in eight receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns to pace the winners.

Baltimore (4-3 SU, 1-6 ATS) is off a bye week following a 19-14 loss at Buffalo as a three-point favorite. After the setback at Orchard Park, LB Ray Lewis caused a stir by being critical of Billick’s offensive play-calling.

Lewis wanted Billick to use RB Willis McGahee more. McGahee ran for 114 yards and one touchdown, but he only had 19 carries. For the season, the team’s prize off-season acquisition has run for 639 yards, averaging 4.4 YPC.

Steve McNair will get the starting nod at QB after missing two games with a groin injury. He has connected on 65.6 percent of his passes for 922 yards, with a 2/2 touchdown-interception ratio.

With the exception of a turnover-prone performance in a loss at Denver, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger is enjoying an outstanding bounce-back season. He has completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 1,533 yards, with a 15/6 TD-INT ratio.

Santonio Holmes has been his favorite target, pulling in 26 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns. TE Heath Miller has 24 receptions for 333 yards and four TDs.

But Parker is the go-to guy for this offense. He has run for 726 yards, while back-up RB Najeh Davenport has also been effective, averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

Baltimore has been horrible on the road this year, compiling a 1-3 SU record and a 0-4 ATS mark. The lone outright victory was a 9-7 win at San Francisco when 49ers’ back-up QB Trent Dilfer started for the injured Alex Smith.

The Ravens won both head-to-head meetings in 2006. In fact, they dominated the Steelers in both encounters. Baltimore won a 31-7 decision at Heinz Field as a four-point road underdog, and it dealt woodshed treatment in a 27-0 home triumph as a three-point ‘chalk.’

Baltimore CB Chris McAlister is “doubtful” with a knee injury.

The ‘under’ is 2-1 for Pittsburgh at home, 4-3 overall. The ‘under’ is 4-2-1 overall for the Ravens, 2-1-1 in their road games.

Kick-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Eastern with ESPN providing television coverage.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Baltimore has covered the spread in five of the last six head-to-head meetings against Pittsburgh.

--The Steelers haven’t lost a home game on Monday Night Football in 16 years, winning 11 in a row since a 1991 loss to the Giants.

--My Dad couldn’t use the Steelers in his (I mean our) Eliminator League and didn’t like any of his options this week. Before settling on the Chargers, he asked me if there was any reason not to take them other than them being on the road. I said, “Well, there’s a chance Adrian Peterson could just dominate like he did in the win at Chicago a few weeks ago.” Unfortuantely for Pops, I was right on the money. Peterson rushed for an NFL-record 296 yards on 30 totes. Seriously, six teams passed on this guy in the draft?

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Re: MNF 10 - 5

Baltimore (4-3 SU, 1-6 ATS) at Pittsburgh (5-2 SU and ATS)

The Ravens try to draw even in the AFC North when they visit Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in this nationally televised game tonight.

Baltimore routed Pittsburgh twice last season, including 27-0 at home as a three-point favorite and 31-7 in Pittsburgh as a four-point underdog en route to a 13-3 mark and division crown. The Ravens sacked Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 14 times in the two games and held RB Willie Parker to 51 yards on 23 carries in two outings.

The Ravens are 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS the last two seasons and 6-3 ATS the last nine times these two have met.

Baltimore had last week off, but two weeks ago went to Buffalo and fell 19-14 as a three-point chalk. The Ravens road woes have them at 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS this season.

Baltimore gets the job done with defense, holding teams to 71.9 yards per game and 268 total yards per game, second in the NFL behind just the Steelers’ 256.9 yards allowed. The bye week allowed the Ravens’ QB Steve McNair to get healthy and return to the starting lineup for tonight’s contest.

Roethlisberger is completing 64.5 percent of his throws this season and has racked up 1,533 yards, 15 TDs and six INTs. The Steelers went to Cincinnati last week and scored a 24-13 win as four-point favorites. Pittsburgh hasn’t had a home game in a month, but it’s 3-0 SU and ATS in front of the home crowd and the Steelers have outscored the opposition 84-19 at home.

On Monday nights, the Steelers have won 11 straight home games and haven’t lost in front of the home fans since a 23-20 defeat at the hands of the Giants in 1991. Pittsburgh is 20-5 SU and 18-7 ATS at home on MNF. Baltimore is just 1-3 SU and 2-2 ATS on the highway on MNF.

The Steelers are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 overall while the Ravens have struggled, going 1-7 ATS in their last eight overall.

The under is 20-8-3 in Baltimore’s last 31 on the road and 17-7-5 in the Ravens last 29 against the AFC. The under is 4-2 in the Steelers last six overall.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER

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Re: MNF 10 - 5

NFL Inactives (Monday, November 5, 2007)
November 5th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The following is a list of inactive players for this week's NFL games.

BALTIMORE RAVENS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS, 8:30 P.M. (ET)

Ravens - 3rd QB Troy Smith, CB Chris McAlister, CB Samari Rolle, RB Cory Ross, RB Mike Anderson, LB Antwan Barnes, TE Daniel Wilcox, TE Todd Heap.

Steelers - 3rd QB Brian St. Pierre, WR Willie Reid, S Ryan Clark, RB Gary Russell, G Darnell Stapleton, TE Jerame Tuman, T Trai Essex, DE Aaron Smith.

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