1. What are the chances injured TE Dennis Pitta returns Thursday against the Steelers?
Slim to none. All reports indicate Pitta will return next week for the Vikings game. It was a pretty crazy injury for Pitta to dislocate and fracture his hip. It's also something you just can't rush back from. However, I do wonder if he could've had a chance to play if this game was on Sunday and not Thursday.
However, the Ravens need Pitta back in this offense bad. For the first couple of days in training camp he looked great. Then the injury happened. As you've seen all year, the offense has regressed from where it was in the 2012 postseason and Pitta's absence has played a large part of that.
Getting Pitta back will be key for any late season run. But they can't afford to risk re-injury.
2. Do you feel the short week is an advantage for the Ravens in this game?
I don't think either team has an advantage in that regard. Preparing on a short week is brutal for both teams. It's almost a situation where, at least in my opinion, two teams wind up lining up against each other and just play old-school football against each other. I feel you don't necessarily see schematics play out since no one is fresh for the game.
Maybe it's just me, but I feel Thursday games are generally low-scoring and don't offer much flare to them. Part of that could come from the fact that it's mostly base against base since you're working against the clock to prepare. Teams don't get the chance to hit much in practice. I think a perfect example of that came last week during the Saints-Falcons game. If that game is on Sunday, the Saints probably blow the Falcons out.
Without much time to prepare, the Saints were held to 17 points against a Falcons team that has been horrible all year on defense. I know the occasional Thursday night shootout has happened. It just seems like that's a rare occasion.
I must make it clear that I haven't done any research to back that claim up. It's purely an eye test sort of thing.
3. If I put the over/under for pass attempts in this game at 65, which would you take and why?
I'd take the under most likely. Both secondaries have been playing good football lately. The Ravens are getting quality production out of Jimmy Smith and Corey Graham, the latter of which had two interceptions last week (although those two picks were against the Jets). The Steelers have boasted one of the better secondaries all season. I don't think much will be open for either team's passing game.
In addition, as I mentioned above, I think this game has a run-first, slug-it-out feel that we're all used to in Ravens-Steelers game. I have a feeling the winner is once again decided by three points with either squad lucky if they reach 20 points.
4. Is the loser of this game essentially eliminated from the playoffs, in your estimation?
No, and the only reason is because the AFC has been atrocious from sixth through last place. And by atrocious, I mean not up to the standard set by the top five teams. There's a clear drop-off, especially considering the Jets, of all teams, were the conference's sixth-seed heading into last week.
There's a very good chance that the second Wild Card spot goes to a team that finishes 8-8. Therefore, I think either the Ravens or Steelers could lose this game, lose another, and still wind up with a shot at the playoffs. One thing I will say is that the Steelers have a better chance, in my opinion, at reaching the playoffs if they lose based on the level of football they've played of late.
Baltimore's been up and down all year. The Steelers started out bad and have progressed into a much better team. They could lose this game and rebound easier, knowing they have what it takes to hit another winning streak. The Ravens have yet to see a significant winning streak, or win a game that drives home confidence that it will continue.
5. There is always a big defensive and/or special teams play in these games. Which team will make it, and who will it be?
I'm horrible with these kind of predictions. But if you forced me to, I'd say the Ravens get a big play from a defensive back in front of the home fans at M&T Bank Stadium. I also think Terrell Suggs' three game skid without a sack ends this week.
Perhaps my trepidation on those kind of predictions comes from a cliched in the belief that anything can happen in this league.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Steelers vs. Ravens Gameday Stream: Everything you need to know
- The Standard is The Standard: Steelers vs. Ravens pregame podcast
- Reasons the Steelers will beat the Ravens in Week 13
- Fantasy Football Week 13: Which Steelers to start/sit
- Steelers vs. Ravens Week 13 2013: Game time, TV schedule, online streaming, odds and more