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Each Tuesday, WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
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Game of the Week: Ravens at Steelers
The Bears and Packers may be one of the oldest rivalries in the league, while the Cowboys-Redskins feud has long been held as the greatest grudge on the gridiron. The Jets and Patriots have certainly set off their fair share of fireworks the past few seasons, although New England's battles with Indianapolis have been more entertaining on the field.
Yet no conflict embodies the principles of pigskin more in present day than the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Both are successful, as Pittsburgh is 39-17 since the start of the 2008 season, with the Ravens slightly behind with a mark of 37-18. The animosity is certainly palatable, with Terrell Suggs' infamous bounty on Hines Ward and Willis McGahee's concussion from a controversial hit by Ryan Clark serving as catalysts for the hostility. Both even share some of the same TV markets. With the two teams fighting for first place in the division, Sunday's matchup in the Steel City serves as our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
Historically known as a ground-and-pound team, the Steelers are taking an alternative route in their offensive game plan this season. Rusher Rashard Mendenhall posted nearly 1,300 yards with 13 touchdowns last season, but the back has yet to get going in 2011, with just 421 yards and three scores in seven games. With the ground game stalled, the Steelers have taken to the air. Ben Roethlisberger is averaging over 287 yards per contest, finding the end zone 14 times. Mike Wallace continues to develop into one of the league's finest deep threats with 800 yards on a mere 43 receptions, while second-year man Antonio Brown has emerged as a new safety net over the middle, leading the team with 63 targets and hauling in 67 or more yards in five of the past seven contests.
As for the defense? Subtract the 35 points posted by Baltimore in the season opener and the Steelers are surrendering a meager 14.9 points in their seven other ball games. The passing game is suffocating opposing signal callers to a league-low 171.6 yards, and their rush defense, while suffering scrutiny early in the season, is one of four AFC teams holding adversaries to less than 100 yards per contest. The Steel Curtain is back, indeed.
Consequentially, one of the three other AFC squads that stop the run is Baltimore, sporting an 89.1 yards-per-game mark on the season. But as resolute as the Ravens are against the run, the team's statistically stouter through the air, squashing signal callers to an incompetent QB rating of 65.5. Led by savvy veterans Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, the Ravens may boast their most sound and dexterous defensive unit since the celebrated Super Bowl squad of 2000.
However, Baltimore's title aspirations may ultimately lie with the erratic arm of Joe Flacco. At times, Flacco has been magnificent, throwing for 1,254 yards, six touchdowns and two picks in Baltimore's odd games (Game 1, Game 3, etc.) this season. In a related note, the Ravens are 4-0 in those contests. But in the even games? The Delaware product has been horrendous, tossing for a feeble 497 yards and four picks. Consequentially, Baltimore is just 1-2 in these ball games. Ray Rice may be one of the best multipurpose backs in the NFL, but as Flacco goes, so goes Baltimore.
So who wins this battle of AFC North powerhouses? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Steelers come out on top 51.0 percent of the time, winning by an average score of 19-18. For the rest of this week's predictions, check below:
Please note: The Seahawks/Cowboys, Browns/Texans, Giants/Patriots, Broncos/Raiders, Rams/Cardinals, Ravens/Steelers and Packers/Chargers were resimulated on 11/3 to account for injuries and roster updates.
NFL Week 9
|@ Dallas Cowboys||79.0||27||Simulate Game|
|@ Houston Texans||78.5||29||Simulate Game|
|@ Kansas City Chiefs||66.5||24||Simulate Game|
|New York Giants||39.5||21||Boxscore|
|@ New England Patriots||60.5||25||Simulate Game|
|@ Oakland Raiders||59.7||20||Simulate Game|
|@ Philadelphia Eagles||59.5||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Tennessee Titans||57.6||20||Simulate Game|
|St. Louis Rams||44.2||21||Boxscore|
|@ Arizona Cardinals||55.8||22||Simulate Game|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||45.1||25||Boxscore|
|@ New Orleans Saints||54.9||27||Simulate Game|
|@ Pittsburgh Steelers||51.0||19||Simulate Game|
|New York Jets||64.0||22||Boxscore|
|@ Buffalo Bills||36.0||18||Simulate Game|
|Green Bay Packers||79.5||30||Boxscore|
|@ San Diego Chargers||20.5||20||Simulate Game|
|San Francisco 49ers||82.1||23||Boxscore|
|@ Washington Redskins||17.9||12||Simulate Game|
|@ Indianapolis Colts||12.5||14||Simulate Game|
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