While Sunday's match up between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers doesn't have the implications that its had in previous meetings, it is still important for both teams. The Steelers are playing for a berth and seeding in the playoffs, while the Ravens would love to boast sweeping their rivals in 2015.
Check out these matchups as key in determining the outcome of this AFC North Division dust-up.
Key Matchup #1
QB Ben Roethlisberger vs LB Elvis Dumervil and LB Courtney Upshaw
The Ravens look a whole lot different since the last time Ben Roethlisberger lined up against them in last January's WC clash, but constants do remain on defense. Gone are notorious Steeler-terrorizers Haoli Ngata and Terrell Suggs, but Dumervil and Upshaw coming at Ben are just as daunting.
Dumervil has 43 tackles and six sacks on the season, while Upshaw has 42 and one. Suggs absence looms large as the Ravens haven't had the production from the pass rush that they are accustomed to, but Elvis and Courtney are the biggest threats to disrupt Big Ben's mojo.
Roethlisberger is enjoying a Pro Bowl season and is having a MVP-caliber campaign. But despite the numbers, the Steelers fortunes rise and fall with the health and availability of #7. The responsibility of keeping Ben upright and the duo of Dumervil/Upshaw away, falls on the shoulders of Al Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert. They passed the test of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware last week and that of the Bengals demon pass-rushers the week before. A reprisal of those performances are vital for victory.
Key Matchup #2
WR Antonio Brown vs CB Jimmy Smith
Gary Kubiak, the Broncos head man, was quoted as saying that he would vote Antonio Brown as MVP after his two touchdown and 187-yard performance against Chris Harris Jr last week. Brown is having a HOF-quality stretch that shows him as eclipsing 1,500 yards the past two years in a row after 1,499 in 2013.
Jimmy Smith was impressive against Brown in Week 4, however those results may have been jaded due to the fact that the game featured Mike Vick's first game as a starter and he and Brown never clicked. Smith is a talented cover corner with two picks and eight pass defenses in 2015, but is not of the same ilk as a Harris Jr. Smith is listed as probable this week after a thigh injury and will need to be perfect to hang with Brown on Sunday.
Key Matchup #3
DE Cameron Heyward vs LG Kelechi Osemele
Heyward is not a Pro-Bowler, but is arguably the MVP of the Steeler's defense. With seven sacks and 48 tackles, Cam has a nose for the ball and always seems to be involved in a play.
Osemele is a wall of a blocker and is very adept at keeping defenders away from his QB. This matchup of prime players will be fun to watch.
Key Matchup #4
LB Lawrence Timmons vs RB Javorius "Buck" Allen
Since becoming the man in Charm City in Week 11 after the broken wing of Justin Forsett, Allen has shown signs of being a possible marquee runner for John Harbaugh's club at times. He rushed for 185 yards those first three weeks, but has 32 the past two weeks against top rush defenses of Seattle and Kansas City.
Allen's audition doesn't get any easier this week against the fifth-ranked rush defense of Pittsburgh. Led by Timmons and his 102 tackles, the Steelers defense has allowed average of 89.2 yards per game on the ground.
It might be tough for Allen to "buck" that trend, but if he can get going on the ground, it could bring balance to the offense and ease the burden on the Baltimore passers.
Key Matchup #5
CB William Gay vs WR Kamar Aiken
It will be interesting to see which Steeler secondary shows up in Baltimore. Will it be the cushiony and lethargic group that appeared in the first half against Denver or will it be the tight-coveraged group of ball bandits that lurked in the second half?
William Gay has been the least suspect of a 31st-ranked secondary that has struggled in 2015. Gay, in his ninth year, has a pick on the year and six passes defenses and will have his hands full against Aiken.
Aiken, with 802 yards and five TDs, has emerged as a viable pass-catching threat for the Ravens. With Steve Smith Sr out, Kamar has cemented a future in Baltimore. Aiken is a threat to go deep and stretch the Steeler secondary.
Other Notable Matchups
C Cody Wallace vs NT Brandon Williams
RB Deangelo Williams vs LBs Daryl Smith and CJ Mosley
DE Stephon Tuitt vs RG Marshall Yanda
DC Keith Butler vs QB Jimmy Clausen or Ryan Mallett