Another disclaimer: If you are looking for the usual even-handed, unbiased game preview you’ve come to expect from the Nest, you won’t get it. The Squealers hold a special place in our farts, er…hearts, and as such get a column big on hate, little on analysis. Anyway, the mid-season review had enough stats for one week, right?
The Ravens (4-3) come off the bye with a bang this week, immediately being thrust into the national spotlight to clash with the division leading Shitsburg Squealers (5-2). In a game that is as close to a “must-win” as is possible at midseason, the Ravens are facing a potential 2 game swing in this one, as a win would tie them for the AFC North lead, while a loss would leave them looking up across a 2-game canyon at the hated Steelers. The Steelers have been playing out of their minds this season, outscoring their opponents in their 5 victories by a 142-39 margin. Rookie head coach Mike “Omar Epps” Tomlin has found time in his busy schedule of filming the hit show “House” to seemingly right the ship up in Pierogie-ville, after Bill Cowher’s farewell tour fizzled out at 8-8 last year. As loathe as we are to admit it, as nauseous as it makes us at the Nest, the black-and-gold (aren’t those colors better suited to a high school or college team, by the way? My high school and college both used pee and dung for colors. Bring your uniforms up to a professional level, losers) may just be a decent team. Again.
On offense, the Steelers have the number 1 rushing attack in the league, led by the NFL’s second leading rusher, “Fast” Willie Parker. Back in our neighborhood growing up, there was a crazy old man that wandered the streets talking to himself and trying to find his marbles – we called him “Fast” Eddie. Probably Willie’s uncle. Willie has been running with a chip on his shoulder all season, but hey – we would be bitter too if we spent four years in college ball playing end, guard, tackle (sit on the end of the bench, guard the water, and tackle anybody who tries to drink it) like Parker did. Moderate pace William has went over 100 yards in each of the Squealers’ five wins this season, while going for just 37 in the week 4 loss to Arizona, and 93 in the week 7 loss to Denver. Following A to B – stop Willie, stop the Squealers. What better team to do that than the purple and black, the NFL’s #2 ground defense, currently holding teams to a paltry 72 yards per game? In the two glorious beatdowns in ’06, the Ravens held Slow Bill to 51 yards on 23 carries. We think we should point out that, yes, Slow Bill had fewer total yards in 2 games than the Ravens had points (58-51). Stop Willie? Don’t mind if we do.
The next “weapon” the Ravens will have to contend with is the arm of one Baby Ben Toothlessburger, who was miraculously able to avoid the grilles of Chrysler New Yorkers this off-season. Actually, he avoided all grills with equal gusto, refusing his teammates’ invites to their summer Bar-B-Qs, steering clear of the outdoor appliance section at Wal-Mart, and ignoring text messages from rapper Lil’ John and Bengals WR Chad Johnson. Just a season removed from leading the NFL in interceptions, Baby Ben has thrown only 6 this year, to go along with 15 touchdowns. Although, he is probably just trying to avoid anything that sounds at all like “intersection.” If Ben is able to quiet the constant ringing that we imagine goes on inside his noggin enough to run an effective no-huddle, he may be able to do some damage. Also, we expect the Steelers to try to move the pocket for him, and utilize his mobility better than in past meetings. Last year, sitting in the pocket, the Ravens absolutely battered him, sacking him 14 times and causing him to at one point say that Bart Scott hit him harder than he had ever been hit (this from a man who, a few months earlier, had been hit by a car! Rest assured Ben will search out #57 before every snap).
The Steelers also have a new secret weapon, mascot Steely McBeam. The love child of former coach Bill Cowher and homosexual adult film actor Phillup Seymour Buffmen, the chiseling of McBeam’s chin is rivaled only by that of his abs. It seems the Steelers management knew a big hunk of burnin love man-meat would do a much better job of exciting the crowd than something as silly as scantily clad females with pom-poms. With McBeam to go along with all the snapping towels, Pittsburgh has succeeded in turning Heinz Field into the world’s largest outdoor men’s locker room. Way to go! Might as well just get it over with and rename it “Heiny Field.”
If there is one thing that worries us about this one, its the fact that it is a Monday nighter. The Ravens, for as much as they seemingly love the limelight, play atrociously in nationally televised games. They have lost their last 4 such contests, including playoffs (after winning two in a row in weeks 15-16 of 2005, over the Green Bay Packers 48-3, and Minnesota Vikings 30-23 – go figure). This is a bugaboo they need to get off their back this week, with 2 more primetime games on the schedule, against the Colts and Patriots, no less. Will they be able to do it?