Podcast Episode 1: It’s time for a yard sale at the warehouse

Welcome to Episode 1 of the new Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell and editor Nolan McGraw.

Last week, the NFL released a new set of rules for players to follow during the National Anthem. Without going into the political side of the discussion, Jake and Nolan ponder what impact the new rules will likely have on the NFL and potentially the country.

Also last week, organized team activities (OTA’s) began for the Ravens in Owings Mills. After hearing from Joe Flacco, the CCBW crew analyze Flacco’s response to the Lamar Jackson questions after the two were on the practice field together for the first time.

With the Orioles now 20 games below .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League East, Nolan and Jake reinforce the importance of a rebuild that the franchise continues to put off. The two also discuss Jim Palmer’s comments about Chris Davis last week on MASN, and question what the Orioles should do with their slumping $160 man.

Last but not least, we end the episode by introducing a new segment called Don’t Be A Jerk! Who will Jake and Nolan call out this week? Listen and find out!

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes. Please leave us a review, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode!

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Five thoughts on Ravens 2018 regular season schedule

On Thursday night the NFL announced the 2018 regular season schedule. As usual the announcement did not go over well with many fans. Thursday night football continues to drive most of the debates but other issues and conflicts, such as the London and Thanksgiving games, will surely get their share of complaints.

In case you missed it here is the Ravens full 2018 schedule.

Preseason:

Thursday, August 2, 8:00 pm – Chicago Bears (HOF game in Canton Ohio)

Thursday, August 9, 7:30 pm – LA Rams

Monday, August 20, 8:00 pm – at Indianapolis Colts

Saturday, August 25, 7:00 pm – at Miami Dolphins

Thursday, August 30, 7:30 pm – Washington Redskins

Regular Season:

Week 1 – Sunday, September 9, 1:00 pm – Buffalo Bills

Week 2 – Thursday, September 13, 8:20 pm – at Cincinnati Bengals

Week 3 – Sunday, September 23, 1:00 pm – Denver Broncos

Week 4 – Sunday, September 30, 8:20 pm – at Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 5 – Sunday, October 7, 1:00 pm – at Cleveland Browns

Week 6 – Sunday, October 14, 1:00 pm – at Tennessee Titans

Week 7 – Sunday, October 21, 4:05 pm – New Orleans Saints

Week 8 – Sunday, October 28, 1:00 pm – at Carolina Panthers

Week 9 – Sunday, November 4, 1:00 pm – Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 10 – Bye

Week 11 – Sunday, November 18, 1:00 pm – Cincinnati Bengals

Week 12 – Sunday, November 25, 1:00 pm – Oakland Raiders

Week 13 – Sunday, December 2, 1:00 pm – at Atlanta Falcons

Week 14 – Sunday, December 9, 1:00 pm – at Kansas City

Week 15 – Sunday, December 16, 1:00 pm – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Week 16 – Sunday, December 23, 4:05 pm – at LA Chargers

Week 17 – Sunday, December 30, 1:00 pm – Cleveland Browns

Five Thoughts:

  1. Extra preseason game

This summer the NFL Hall of fame will welcome one of the most star-studded classes ever. Headlining the group will be former Ravens and Bears legends, Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher. So it’s only fitting that these two teams square off in the annual Hall of fame game to be played in Canton Ohio.

This extra preseason game presents a handful of challenges and benefits for the Ravens. On the plus side, John Harbaugh and his coaching staff will get and extra week to evaluate the players fighting for a roster spot. On that same token, the players the preseason with a lot to prove will have an extra opportunity to do so in a nationally televised preseason game.

The bad part of playing a fifth preseason game is the risk of injury and fatigue. We know that essential, franchise players like Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs will not be suiting up more than they have to this preseason, but the risk of injury should definitely be a concern. This is especially for a Ravens team that has experienced more than their fair share of training camp / preseason injuries in the past few years.

2. Three game road trip

One of the biggest complaints from fans every year usually surrounds a team being scheduled with three road games in a row. This year the scheduling committee made an effort to decrease this issue but the Ravens still ended up being one of the three teams with a three game road trip. Their three game stretch includes back-to-back divisional opponents (Browns & Steelers) as well as a meeting with the Titans.

3. A change of pace

At the very least Ravens fans can be happy with the fact that the 2018 schedule looks very different than the ones they have seen in recent history. For just the second time in the last eight seasons, the Ravens will not play the Cincinnati Bengals in week 17. The NFL seems to like having divisional matchups at the end of the season so the Ravens will host the Cleveland Browns instead. The cynic in me says that the Browns will be a more dangerous late season opponent than the Bengals this year but a change of pace is certainly nice.

4. Lack of prime time games

Baltimore is slated for just two prime time games in 2018 but both will be on the road. In week 2 the Ravens will have a quick turnaround as they prepare to take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night football. At least the NFL did away with the color rush jerseys that were associated with Thursday’s. Two weeks later the team will be off to Pittsburgh for yet another Sunday night game against the Steelers at Heinz Field. The Ravens haven’t performed well in recent seasons, making them a less attractive team for national television, but this is just the second time since 2006 that there wont be a prime time game played in Baltimore.

5. Bye week placement

The Ravens 2018 schedule does not look very good on paper but at least they did not draw a short stick with their bye week. Unlike last year, the first half of the Ravens season appears to be tougher than the back end. This could pay off really well for Baltimore if they take care of business early on. Nine of the Ravens games in 2018 will be played against teams that made the playoffs last season but only two of them (Kansas City & Atlanta) appears after the week 10 bye.

Image credit: sportingnews.com

NFL Divisional Weekend Breakdown

The Divisional round of the NFL playoffs is often referred to as the best weekend on the pro football calendar. This weekend, eight teams will try to make the Divisional round live up to it’s name with four playoff matchups. In this special post on Charm City Bird Watch, we will break down each matchup. Each game includes a 100-word blurb and a score prediction from founder Jake McDonnell, and contributors Nolan McGraw, Tyler Feeser, and Vasilios Nikolaou.

Saturday, Jan. 13

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Image Credit: Atlanta Falcons 

NFC: #6 Atlanta Falcons @ #1 Philadephia Eagles – 4:35 pm – NBC

Jake: Just a few short weeks ago, the Philadelphia Eagles were the clear-cut favorite in the NFC to reach Super Bowl 52. Without their potential MVP-caliber franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, the Eagles are left with Nick Foles, and the #6-seeded Falcons are actually favored.

The end of Philadelphia’s regular season left a lot to be desired, whereas the Falcons clinched a playoff berth by beating the Carolina Panthers. Atlanta followed that up with an impressive Wild Card win on the road against the Rams. I originally picked the Rams to win that game, but switched to Atlanta heavily due to the battle-tested experience of Dan Quinn, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones. I am using that same narrative this week to pick Atlanta. Their experience will outplay, outthink, and outlast the experiences of Doug Pederson, Foles, and company.

Pick: Falcons 27, Eagles 16

Nolan: Despite finishing with one of the best records in the NFL and getting a first round bye, things are looking not so sunny in Philadelphia right now. The Eagles will be three-point underdogs this Saturday when they host Atlanta, mainly due to the loss of Carson Wentz. Since losing their star quarterback, the Eagles have averaged just 17.6 points per game while playing teams with a combined 18-30 record. I don’t see the Eagles defense stepping up and controlling the tempo of the game, which means 17 points will not be enough to beat Atlanta. Matt Ryan and the Falcons are heating up at the right time and should have no trouble taking the Eagles down.

Pick: Falcons 27, Eagles 16

Tyler: Like most people, I underestimated the Falcons this past week. They looked very good while taking down the NFC West Champion Rams. They don’t quite look as dominant as they did during last season’s Super Bowl run but they are hot and that is all that matters.

Now, the Falcons travel to Philadelphia and take on the #1-seeded Eagles. The Eagles are obviously without Carson Wentz, which helps the Falcons tremendously. Since Nick Foles has taken over at QB, he has only played well in one game. That’s not to say he has played terribly either. He has thrown two interceptions in roughly two and a half games compared to five touchdown passes. With the way the Falcons offense is clicking right now, Foles is going to have to be more than just a game manager for the Eagles. He is going to need to put up points. Will he be able to against the defense that just held the league’s highest scoring offense to 13 points? I don’t think he can.

Matt Ryan and the Falcons are proving that their playoff experience and confidence is carrying them right now and I look for them to continue it into conference championship weekend.

Pick: Falcons 20, Eagles 16

Vasilios: Atlanta absolutely stunned the top-scoring offense in the NFL last week in the Rams, and all of a sudden they regained their composure from last year’s playoff run. It seemed the old Falcons were back. Last week was the first road playoff victory of Matt Ryan’s career and he will look to make it two consecutive weeks against the Eagles. The Eagles finished as the #1 seed even after the devastating loss of sophomore phenom Carson Wentz. Nick Foles will be under center and the loaded RB stable will be relied on heavily. Eagles are most likely to be one and done.

Pick: Falcons 24, Eagles 10

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Image Credit: WBUR

AFC: #5 Tennessee Titans @ #1 New England Patriots -8:15 pm – CBS

Jake: Last week the Tennessee Titans shocked the world when they marched into Kansas City, scored 19 unanswered points, and won their first playoff game in 13 years. Marcus Mariota looked like the franchise quarterback that the Titans drafted him to be, throwing touchdowns to himself and leading the Titans back from an 18-point deficit.

The Titans’ playoff party will end on Saturday in New England. Despite what may or may not come out of the Patriots rumors that recently came to light, the Patriots cannot be pleased with this latest distraction. Even if the relationship between Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady is at a stand-still right now, they’ll want to prove that they’re as strong as ever. This game has blowout written all over it.

Pick: Patriots 34, Titans 13

Nolan: For the second year in a row, New England will be facing a pushover team in the divisional round. Last year the Patriots defeated a very weak Houston Texans team and now they look for their seventh straight trip to the AFC championship as the Titans come to town. I doubted Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense coming into the playoffs but they really showed a lot of poise in their comeback against Kansas City. If Tennessee is going to pick up another upset, they have to be perfect. Anything is possible, but you would be a fool to bet against New England here.

Pick: Patriots 30, Titans 17 

Tyler: This game is not appealing. It’s football so it’s better than nothing but for a divisional round matchup it leaves a lot to be desired. I know I trashed the Titans last week and said that they weren’t a traditional playoff team and that they were helped out by a weak AFC conference. That is still all true. If anything, last week’s game against the Chiefs speaks volumes about how weak the AFC is. This week they will are in for a much bigger test.

Don’t let week one convince you that Kansas City is a better team than New England. They were back then, but now New England would embarrass Kansas City. Bill Belichick will always take away the opposing team’s best option on offense, which this week is clearly Derrick Henry. Look for Henry to be bottled up most of the afternoon. The Patriots are going to force Marcus Mariota to beat them and I don’t think he can do that. Even if he can sustain a few drives here and there, I see no way that he can keep pace with Tom Brady and the Patriots offense on the other side.

Pick: Patriots 34 Titans 20

Vasilios: Tennessee had an impressive win last week against the Chiefs that almost no one saw coming. I still hold true to my take that the Titans are the weakest team talent-wise in the playoffs. Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota made it look easy in last week’s second half, but Tom Brady and the Patriots will surely crush the Titans. The Patriots are the most vulnerable they’ve been in years. The Titans will go step for step in the first quarter, but after that, it’s just a formality.

Pick: Patriots 27, Titans 17

Sunday, Jan. 14

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Image Credit: Steel City Blitz

AFC: #3 Jacksonville Jaguars @ #2 Pittsburgh Steelers – 1:05 pm – CBS

Jake: In October, the Jaguars picked off Ben Roethlisberger five times and handed the Steelers a 30-9 loss. What people forget about that game is how well the Steelers defense played against Jacksonville’s offense. Two of Jacksonville’s four touchdowns were scored on defense, and Leonard Fournette broke free for a 90-yard score in garbage time. If we took away that 90-yared run, Fournette was limited to 91 yards on 27 carries (3.37 yards-per-carry). Blake Bortles threw for just 95 yards on eight completions with an interception.

Jacksonville’s defense won that game for the Jags, plain and simple. Is their defense capable of doing that again? Sure, but that won’t happen in Pittsburgh in January. Yes, Antonio Brown will not be 100% coming back from that calf injury, but against Jalen Ramsey, how effective would he be anyway? Look for a Steelers win off a big day from Le’Veon Bell, as well as some help from JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant.

Pick: Steelers 20, Jaguars 13

Nolan: The Jaguars escaped their Wild Card game against Buffalo with a 10-3 win thanks to a stout performance by their defense. Many are already counting them out against Pittsburgh but that is simply foolish. I am fully aware that Blake Bortles only collected 87 yards on Sunday but when the Jaguars laid the smackdown on the Steelers earlier this year, Bortles had just 95 yards and no touchdowns. An effective defense and heavy rushing attack was good enough to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh 30-9. Bortles is just a few adjustments away from making this team complete in my opinion. I expect the Jags to walk into Pittsburgh on Sunday and play like they have nothing to lose.

Pick: Jaguars 27, Steelers 24

Tyler: Up until Sunday I had this game as a toss up. I was really considering picking the Jaguars. I thought they had the team to potentially knock off the Steelers and the Patriots. After watching the sad excuse for an offense that the Jaguars rolled out on Sunday I don’t think they have what it takes. Their defense is still championship-caliber and they will give the Steelers problems on Sunday.

One thing that the Steelers can learn from the Bills is that running the ball is the way to beat Jacksonville. The Bills were effective with a banged up LeSean McCoy on Sunday. The Steelers should be more effective with a fully healthy and rested Le’Veon Bell. When they do need to pass, Ben Roethlisberger is a much better option than Tyrod Taylor as well. I expect the Steelers defense to sell out, to stopping Leonard Fournette just like the Bills did. This will force Blake Bortles to beat them. I expect more than 13 points to be scored this week but I still expect a relatively low-scoring, defensive game.

Pick: Steelers 23 Jaguars 13

Vasilios: The Jaguars defense was very impressive last week as they held the Bills to a measly three points. Blake Bortles on the other hand, did all of his damage with his legs, as he compiled 88 rushing yards and only 87 passing yards. The Jaguars offense looked inept and the defense should and will be their saving grace in this playoff run. They beat the Steelers earlier this season and Big Ben threw 5 interceptions. I think they replicate that success, especially without Antonio Brown at full strength for Pittsburgh.

Pick: Jaguars 20, Steelers 17

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Image Credit: Minnesota Vikings 

NFC: #4 New Orleans Saints @ #2 Minnesota Vikings – 4:40 pm – FOX

Jake: From a football standpoint, this is clearly the best game on this weekend’s schedule. There are so many exciting young players on both teams that have made their units among the best in football.

Seeing the top-ranked Saints offense battle the #1-rated Vikings defense is going to be a treat. For New Orleans, running backs Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara are the first running back duo in history to record 1,500 yards from scrimmage in a season. Second-year receiver Michael Thomas ranks sixth in the NFL in receiving yards (1,245). For Minnesota, linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes are some of the best in the business and were all named to the Pro Bowl.

Going back to the experience factor, it will be interesting to see how longtime journeyman quarterback Case Keenum fairs in his first career playoff start. Keenum has several receiving weapons in Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and Adam Thielen that will go up against the likes of stud rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

I know many people, including myself, want to see the Vikings be the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl in their home stadium, but I have to go Saints here. Drew Brees plays particularly well indoors, and I think that him and Sean Payton will find a way to win. I see Keenum making a late-game mistake to seal it for New Orleans.

Pick: Saints 24, Vikings 21

Nolan: I had high hopes for the Vikings coming into the playoffs but the Saints are probably the last team they want to face in their first divisional game since 2009. These two teams opened up the season against each other and Minnesota came out on top 29-19. This rematch should be just as exciting since the Saints have a highly explosive offense and the Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league. If there is one team that can keep Drew Brees and New Orleans in check, it’s probably the Vikings. None the less, this game is hard to predict but I am rolling with Minnesota and their 7-1 home record.

Pick: Vikings 24, Saints 23

Tyler: On Sunday Minnesota will try to become the first Super Bowl-hosting team to make it to a conference championship game. The Saints looked good last week even with the inability to run the ball. Like I stated last week, Drew Brees still has it. If defenses key on the run game, Brees will just beat them through the air. This week will be a little different as Minnesota boasts a better defense than Carolina does and the Saints will be on the Road.

These two teams met all the way back in week one in Minnesota with the Vikings winning 29-19. They are much different than they were roughly 19 weeks ago. I think this game could be surprisingly high scoring even with the two stout defenses. The key to this game is going to be Case Keenum. If he can continue to play the way he has and not turn the ball over, the Vikings will be in good shape. If Keenum doesn’t protect the ball it’s game over and season over for the Vikings.

Pick: Saints 28 Vikings 24

Vasilios: These teams faced each other in week 1 and things couldn’t have looked more different back then. The Saints had a narrow victory against the Panthers last week in which the offense exploded. Defensively, rookie sensation Marshon Lattimore had his best game as a pro. This will be a tougher test. Vikings are at home, they have the best defense in the NFC this year and Case Keenum is playing lights-out football. Everyone is on the edge of their seat to wait and see if Keenum will revert back to the quarterback that bounced around to several different teams early in his career. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will be huge factors in this game. They are the best receiving tandem Atlanta will face in the playoffs.

Pick: Vikings 28, Saints 21

Podcast: The McDonnell brothers dissect the NFL playoff picture, week 17 matchups

Welcome to this special Christmas episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On this episode, Joey McDonnell, brother of Charm City Bird Watch founder Jake McDonnell, joined the show to break down the NFL playoff picture following week 17.

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud. Leave a 5-star review on iTunes, we may read it on a future episode! happy Holidays!

Podcast: Jake and Vasilios talk Ravens, Steelers getting robbed, and Manny Machado

Welcome to the latest episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On today’s show, Charm City Bird Watch reporter Vasilios Nikolaou joins owner Jake McDonnell for a half-hour of sports talk.

Topics covered:

  1. The Ravens’ 27-10 win over the Browns: praise for Sam Koch, questionable coaching decisions, turnovers
  2. Looking ahead at the Ravens’ remaining schedule, and comparing it to the other AFC Wild Card competition
  3. Saying goodbye to Marvin Lewis after 15 years – his last game as head coach of the Bengals will be in Baltimore
  4. Reaction to the crazy Jesse James no-touchdown call from the Patriots and Steelers game, and criticizing the silly rules of the NFL
  5. Breaking down the Manny Machado rumors: Should the Orioles try to work out a contract with Manny, or better the team’s farm system with a trade? With expiring contracts after the 2018 season, what will Duquette and Showalter’s level of motivation be?

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud: Leave a 5-star review on iTunes, and we will read it on a future episode! Thanks for listening!

Ravens look to end Steelers seven game win streak in prime time matchup

This past Monday night the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals faced off in one of the ugliest games of the year. In fact, it’s probably been the hardest game to watch since the same teams met in the playoffs two seasons ago.

The Steelers’ defense took a huge blow when they lost linebacker Ryan Shazier to an ugly back /spinal injury. Shazier was carted off the field and immediately rushed to a hospital after he told team doctors he had no feeling in his legs. Pittsburgh’s 2014 first-round pick has progressed slowly this week and is showing some signs of improvement, but his timetable remains unknown. The thought now is that he will never play football again.

Shazier wasn’t the only player to be carted off in Monday nights game. Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster may be new to the NFL and AFC North but he didn’t have a problem delivering a huge hit to a defenseless Vontaze Burfict. The hit was followed by a blatant taunt and Burfict had to be carted off the field. After the game, there was plenty of talk and controversy surrounding both injuries and the overall roughness of the game.

With a game against Baltimore on the horizon, the media questioned a few Steelers players about the difference between playing the Bengals and Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger has faced the Ravens many times and he had some interesting words about the rivalry. “The difference between this game and the Cincinnati game is these two teams — us and Baltimore — there’s always a respect involved in it.”

Lost in all of this commotion was the Steelers picking up their seventh straight win thanks to yet another game-winning field goal. Pittsburgh’s schedule gave some Ravens fans a reason to be cautiously optimistic, but after Monday’s game the Steelers are just one win (or Ravens loss) away from locking up the division.

Technically, the Ravens still have a chance to win the division, but they need to win out, and the Steelers need to lose all of their remaining games. This makes Sunday night’s game a little interesting from a playoff perspective, but it is nowhere near as critical as last years infamous Christmas game.

In many ways, this should be a relief for Ravens fans. It’s disappointing that a division title is practically out of reach, but we’ve been anticipating that for weeks now. Instead, fans should be happy that Sunday’s game will not make or break the team’s playoff chances.

Last Meeting: The Ravens hold a 6-4 advantage in the last ten games against their division foe, but the Steelers have won the last two matchups. Pittsburgh’s 26-9 win over the Ravens earlier this season marked their first at M&T Bank Stadium since 2012 and Roethlisberger’s first since 2010. The Steelers are 7-5 when hosting the Ravens since 2008.

Injury Report:

 

Notes on Steelers:

  • Juju Smith-Schuster will miss this Sunday’s game after receiving a one-game suspension for his illegal hit on Burfict. After the game, the rookie seemed to regret the viciousness of the hit but his teammate, but Antonio Brown had a different opinion. Schuster appealed the suspension but the league was quick to uphold it.
  • The Steelers’ current seven-game win streak is tied for the teams longest since 2004 when they finished the season with 14 straight wins for a 15-1 record.

Notes on Ravens:

  • It’s been a rough week for cornerback Jimmy Smith. After suffering an achilles injury in Sunday’s win against Detroit, Smith was handed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. The good news is that Smith can serve his suspension during the final four weeks of the 2017 season so it will have no impact on his eventual return next year.
  • After Smith’s injury, the Ravens now have over $44 million invested in injured or released players. This makes up over a quarter of the $167 salary cap.
  • Mike Wallace has averaged over 54 yards-per-game and over 13 yards-per-reception when playing against his former team.
  • Just how much of an impact has Brandon Williams had on the run defense? The stats show that his presence has helped greatly. Without Williams, the Ravens gave up an average of 169.5 rushing yards a game. When he has suited up, the team has given up just 84.25 yards a game.

Details:

When: Sunday, Dec. 10, 8:30 pm

Where: Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA

Radio: WBAL 109098 Rock

Commentators: Gerry Sandusky, Jarret Johnson, Stan White

TV: NBC, WBAL-TV

Commentators: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

Image Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Le’Veon Bell breaks out, offense can’t catch up in Ravens 26-9 loss to Steelers

BALTIMORE — Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell skipped most of training camp because of a contract dispute with the Steelers. That showed throughout the first few weeks, with Bell failing to record 100 rushing yards in the first three weeks of the season. On Sunday, Bell finally broke out, dashing for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers’ 26-9 win over the Ravens.

For the second week in a row, the Ravens’ offense got shutout in the first half. In the opening 30 minutes, Baltimore punted four times, missed a field goal, and turned it over when Alex Collins fumbled on a run play. The ineptness of the Ravens’ offense led to a 19-0 Pittsburgh lead, and the Ravens never dug themselves out off the hole created in the first half.

The Steelers, now 3-1, take first place in the AFC North. The Ravens fall to 2-2 and occupy second place. The Bengals, now 1-3, man third place, and the Browns come in last at 0-4.

The Steelers got their 19 points on two touchdowns (with a failed two-point conversion) and two field goals. The Ravens began the game with the ball, but punted after six plays. Pittsburgh got the ball on their own 3-yard line and answered with a 16-play, 84-yard drive that ate up 10:23 of clock. Bell was all over the place on this drive, rushing for 59 yards and catching two passes for 20 yards. Baltimore made a stop when it counted, and forced the Steelers to settle for a 30-yard Chris Boswell field goal for their first points of the afternoon.

On their second drive of the second quarter, the Steelers doubled their lead with a 49-yarder from Boswell. On the ensuing Baltimore drive, Collins fumbled the football and defensive end Cameron Heyward picked it up to give the Steelers the ball at the. Ravens’ 32-yard line. On a 2nd-and-15 play, Ben Roethlisberger linked with tight end Jesse James for 15 yards. Bell and rookie running back James Conner combined for 13 yards in two carries to get the ball on the goal line. From there, Bell ran it in, scoring the first touchdown of the game with 3:24 to go in the first half.

Baltimore’s offense, much maligned by injuries and poor play, responded with a three-and-out and gave the Steelers the ball right back. With 2:13 to go in the first half, and the ball on their own 30-yard line, the Steelers marched down the field. Roethlisberger found receiver Martavis Bryant twice for gains of 24 and 19 yards, setting Pittsburgh up on the Ravens’ 11-yard line. After an incomplete pass attempt to Bell, Big Ben connected with rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster for his lone touchdown pass on the afternoon. The Steelers tried to give themselves a three-touchdown lead with a two-point conversion attempt, but they did not come up with it.

Last week in London, Baltimore trailed 23-0 at halftime. The deficit was four points less than last week, but the Ravens needed a quick spark on offense to begin the second half. The Steelers collected the latter half kickoff, but Roethlisberger got intercepted on the third play of the opening drive. Receiver Antonio Brown could not complete the catch, and as he was tackled by cornerback Jimmy Smith, the ball popped into the air. Safety Eric Weddle capitalized, catching the football and taking it back to the end zone. However, after a review, the refs called it a fumble, but gave Baltimore the ball at Pittsburgh’s 18-yard line. The Ravens did not gain any yardage, and received their first points of the game off a 42-yard field goal by Justin Tucker.

On the ensuing Pittsburgh drive, Boswell missed a 44-yard field goal. Baltimore responded with a three-play touchdown drive that featured a 50-yard run by Collins. Following an incomplete pass, Joe Flacco threw a 16-yard pass to Mike Wallace for a touchdown. The Ravens went for two points with a handoff to Terrance West. The attempt was initially ruled good, but after review, the ruling got changed to no good. Baltimore would not score for the remainder of the game.

In the fourth quarter, Flacco threw two bad interceptions, with the latter leading to Pittsburgh’s third touchdown of the game. That second interception occurred with 5:37 to go in the game, essentially ending it with Pittsburgh owning a 10-point lead. On the seven-play drive, Bell recorded a 21-yard run, and punched the ball in from one yard out. Boswell’s extra point put Pittsburgh up 26-9 with 2:26 remaining, a 17-point difference.

Flacco has now thrown an interception in 10 straight games for the Ravens, which leads the NFL. He went 31-for-49 on Sunday, throwing for 235 yards. Roethlisberger completed 18 passes on 30 attempts for 216 yards. Along with Bell’s 144 rushing yards, Collins led the Ravens with 82 yards on nine carries. Bryant led Pittsburgh receivers with 48 receiving yards. Bell & Brown caught four passes apiece, but did not match Bryant’s 48 yards. 42 reception yards for Bell gave him 186 total yards from scrimmage. Wallace led Baltimore receivers with 55 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.

On defense, Ryan Shazier finished with 11 tackles (10 solo) and one tackle-for-loss. Pittsburgh’s defense combined for four sacks – Heyward with two, Mike Hilton with one, and Bud Dupree & Stephon Tuitt combining for the last one. Hilton and Shazier registered interceptions.

C.J. Mosley led the Ravens with 12 tackles (10 solo) and two tackles-for-loss. Lardarius Webb tallied Baltimore’s only sack.

Pittsburgh out-gained Baltimore 381-288 on offense. The Steelers converted 22 first downs, and the Ravens had 18. The Steelers ran 73 plays on offense, and the Ravens ran 68. In the penalties department, eight penalties for 60 yards got called against Pittsburgh, and six penalties for 55 yards were called against Baltimore. The Steelers won the time-of-possession battle, 35:29-24:31.

Coming up next week, both teams will play on Sunday, Oct. 8. The Steelers tangle with the Jacksonville Jaguars, now 2-2, at 1:00 EST from Heinz Field. The Ravens head out west to face the Oakland Raiders, which begins at 4:05 pm EST.

Image Credit: TribLIVE