It really could only happen this way, couldn’t it. After the Baltimore Ravens (8-3) defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3), 17-14 on a last minute Joe Flacco touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmanzadeh, you knew that the path each team took to their December 5th showdown, would ultimately lead to the two teams battling for the division. I couldn’t have happened any other way. And to be honest, it’s kind of eerie how similar their paths really have been.
Each team had to survive a 3-point overtime win over the Buffalo Bills.
Each team manhandled a young, upstart Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. Say what you will, the Bucs were chasing the Ravens all day yesterday, and had it not been for a bogus holding call on Anquan Boldin during Ray Rice’s 76-yard touchdown, which would have put the Ravens up 24-3, the game would’ve been the blowout it really was.
Each team has had to overcome liabilities in their secondary.
Each team lost to the New England Patriots, although the Ravens at least put themselves in position to win their game. The Steelers just got B-slapped.
Each team’s overall defense has been good, but has looked older at times.
Each team is now battling injuries on their offensive line.
My point in all this is, could there be any other way for the Ravens and Steelers to arrive at this junction in their season?
It always seems to come down to this for these two teams. And really, as a football fan, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’ve always said, that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. And in our division, it’s the Ravens and Steelers. Cleveland is up and coming, but not there yet. And the Bengals are, well, the Bengals. The road to the postseason for the Ravens, is once again going to be determined by how they fare in the two games against Pittsburgh. The difference in a division title and a possible first round playoff bye, and fighting for a wildcard berth could be determined next Sunday night in M&T Bank Stadium. And that’s how any fan would want it.
To quote the great Ray Lewis, the bottom line is, after handling the Bucs last night, the Ravens can now put the focus squarely on the Pittsburgh Steelers, and controlling their own destiny. I’m getting that feeling again….the same feeling I had in 2000, 2006 and 2008. I’m not a big believer in the “team of destiny” mantra, but things are kind of playing out that way yet again. I’m just enjoying the ride.