AFC Jibber Jabber and Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers Open Thread

Not sure too many of us really care what happens tonight, but there's only 6 games of NFL football left in the 2008 season. I imagine some of y'all may watch even with zero rooting interest. Hey, Arizona is Steelers West, so if you're so inclined cheer on Ken Whisenhunt, Russ Grimm and a bunch of other castaways like Sean Morey and Clark Haggans as they travel to Carolina to take on Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith and the two headed rushing attack of the Panthers.

More importantly though - let the giddy anticipation of tomorrow's game and talk about that wacky and ugly prize fight between the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans continue on here. Congratulations to Baltimore for doing the improbable - bouncing back from a sub par 2007 to make the AFC title game under the direction of a 1st year coach and rookie QB.

Impressive stuff, but let's be real for a second: Baltimore got owned in today's game. 391 yards for the Titans. Just 211 for the Ravens. 3 red zone turnovers did in Tennessee today; a 4th turnover on downs well inside Baltimore territory only added to their frustrating day finishing off drives. 12 penalties for well over 100 yards never help either.  Remember how we only scored 11 points on well over 400 total yards of offense against the Chargers? This was that game for Tennessee. Very good to brilliant execution for 90 % of the game; but catastrophic for 5 snaps and 12 penalties and all the good gets counterfeited in a hurry.

We'll see what comes out in the early week injury reports - provided we even care and haven't lost to the Chargers tomorrow - but the early prognosis is one of carnage. Terrell Suggs, Samari Rolle - both went down to injury. LeRon McClain and OT Willie Anderson as well. I have no information as of now so will just say that both teams absolutely beat the tar out of each other all day. For Baltimore, the big hits too often came after big gains for Tennessee.  Fill each other in when possible as information becomes available.

Anyway..

Boy oh boy have the stars aligned for the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers. There are two teams standing in our way from a trip to the Super Bowl - an 8-8 SD team without two of its best offensive play makers; and a Baltimore team that's beat up on defense and clearly not that impressive on offense unless given multiple opportunities vis a vis turnovers.

For those who wanted revenge at Tennessee - that's all fine and well. I will say though that I'm more inclined to understand if the reason is derived from wanting to get payback for the showboating the Titans enjoyed at the Steelers expense in victory. But if you want Pittsburgh to have the best possible path towards glory - wow, I couldn't feel more strongly that this was the ideal development for the Steelers.

Baltimore's tough, but what we saw Tennessee do today offensively in between the 20s was pretty darn impressive. Kerry Collins was precise; Chris Johnson was running wild; Justin Gage looked like Jerry Rice; and once more their offensive line was dominant. They owned the Ravens for most of the night opening up gaping running lanes and protecting Collins in the pocket. It may have been a product of fatigue in Week 15, but the Tittans tackles pretty much silenced Woodley and Deebo. Harrison of course got his sack, but it was a tough day at the office for them. Baltimore's offensive line vs. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Yes Please!,

Baltimore on the other hand was shaky running the ball. Flacco didn't get anything going outside of one bomb early and a few FG drives. More importantly though, this Ravens defense is not as scary as people make it out to be. You have to give them credit for both forcing and pouncing on those fumbles, but you still can't dismiss the fact that the Titans did whatever the hell they wanted to all day long, particularly in the first half before Chris Johnson got injured. This was highway robbery by the Ravens but hey, they created some of those breaks for themselves and took advantage. When they needed it most, Flacco delivered and stayed collected under pressure. He and Baltimore live to see another day somehow. It's been an amazing season for them and they are certainly capable of playing better than they did today next week.

But we've all but shut them out the first two meetings. LeRon McClain was about the only Ravens player to have any sort of offensive success in the second game, but it's not clear yet if he is going to be avaiable or at 100%.

Discuss away. I'm so excited I can't even describe it, but of course, there's this little thing called a football game that we must win tomorrow before moving on to the ultimate potential match up a week from now. A winner-take-all finale against the hated Ravens. In our house. I must resist writing about why this is such an ideal development outside of that pesky but often perilous thing called revenge. I sure hope I get a chance to though tomorrow evening or early Monday.

Please, please Steelers..take care of business tomorrow against a team you're physically superior to. Everything has broken just right. It'd be a shame to at least not get to the final showdown.

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