The Baltimore Ravens were victorious in what was the first game of a three-game homestand against the New York Jets Sunday, but their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Thanksgiving night is a must-win in more ways than one.
Obviously, the intensity this game brings because of the rivalry factor will be there. It’s a primetime game on the best day to watch football with the entire family. This game also has huge playoff implications that could spur either team to new heights in the AFC playoff picture.
Either one of these teams can and probably will lose a game or two or more remaining on their respective schedules. However, they must win this game or their season is likely finished.
For Baltimore, it’s not often that teams can get a chance to play in three-straight home games. Not only that, but the opponents they face aren’t high-quality football teams. They all have their own respective issues and are very beatable in more ways than one. The Ravens also play far better at home than on the road as they have won just one game away from M&T Bank stadium this season. They can afford to lose their final remaining home game after this stand against the New England Patriots because they are the Patriots. It’s different if the Ravens drop a game to the Minnesota Vikings or Steelers. Those kinds of losses sting worse than losing to a good football team. Plus, a team riding a three-game winning streak — if they win all three — has all of the momentum and confidence in the world. They could face any opponent on the other side of the field and give them one heck of an effort regardless.
For Pittsburgh, it’s a must-win because all they have been doing after starting 0-4 has been winning. Sure, they are 5-6, but they have looked like the Steelers of old and appear to be on the fast track back to the playoffs. Losing a game to their bitter rival could cripple the team’s morale. Not only that, but the team has had evident dissension between their star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. What would a loss to the Ravens do to a team that has seemingly come together since their poor start?
The teams fighting for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC all have their issues and will likely lose at least a game. However, timing is everything for the Ravens and Steelers. The short week will likely help Baltimore since they are home, but defense travels and neither one of these offenses are all that explosive. With both teams getting a 10-day reprieve until their next game, saying this is do-or-die might be an understatement.