Matt Williamson is a former scout for the Cleveland Browns and spent 10 years at ESPN as a scout and co-host of "The Football Today Podcast." Find him on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.
The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday night. If the Steelers (10-2) win, they'll clinch the AFC North. They're also in great position to get a bye in the playoffs, fighting New England for the top spot in the conference. Meanwhile, the Ravens are the sixth seed, and a win against a hated divisional opponent would be gigantic for their playoff aspirations.
For Baltimore to be successful, it has to follow a distinct blueprint. The Ravens need to play a low-scoring game. They have to win ugly. But they're facing a well-coached organization that plays to its strengths, especially this time of year.
Here are four things the Ravens need to do to pull off the upset:
One thing is certain with John Harbaugh's Ravens: They excel on special teams. That's no different in 2017. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has been victimized by several big plays in that area.
When it comes to field goals, Heinz Field is a notoriously difficult place to kick, but Justin Tucker is a weapon in this capacity like none other, and he has plenty of experience in that stadium.
It's also worth noting that the Steelers have moved to Martavis Bryant as their kickoff returner. Baltimore can't allow him to get free. If the Ravens can win this hidden yardage battle and create a big play in the kicking game, it will go a long way toward allowing them to play their kind of game.
Pittsburgh and Cincinnati engaged in one of the more violent games of the season Monday. The Ravens and Steelers are both operating on short weeks, but that contest could have taken a physical toll on the home team. And we know Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh is always a slugfest.
If the Ravens can be the more physical team Sunday Night, that will go a long way toward wearing down Pittsburgh in what Baltimore hopes is a close, grueling game.
A staple during the Joe Flacco era in Baltimore has been his ability to stretch the field with his big arm and speedy wide receivers. We haven't seen much of that recently, but last week he connected with Mike Wallace on two big plays. We saw the Ravens dialing up deep shots on early downs out of regular/running personnel groupings.
On the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh has been hemorrhaging big plays over the past month or so. With Joe Haden out, it looks like rookie Cameron Sutton will make his first career start opposite Artie Burns at cornerback. The Ravens have more than their share of offensive issues, but expect Flacco to test Pittsburgh's secondary with deep balls often in this game. With Mike Mitchell out last week, Robert Golden showed he's lacking the necessary range for deep middle responsibilities at free safety. If Flacco can hit on one or two of these attempts, the Steelers could find themselves behind the eight ball.
Also, with Ryan Shazier injured, the middle of the field looks extremely vulnerable for Pittsburgh's defense, and big plays could be the result, particularly after the catch on crossing routes. The Steelers were gashed on the ground last week, as well, and Alex Collins played well when these teams last met. Collins deserved more touches (nine rushes for 82 yards) than he got, and Baltimore could make up for that by giving him a heavy workload in this contest. Its receiving backs could also have an advantage over Pittsburgh's inside linebackers. Play action could become a key component for the Ravens, especially if Collins gets rolling early on. Baltimore's offense has been among the worst in football, but the Steelers' defense looks vulnerable.
This one is easier said than done. Antonio Brown was effective despite a toe injury last week, but will that injury slow him down in this contest? Without Jimmy Smith in the lineup and with JuJu Smith-Schuster suspended, Brown's health will be something to keep an eye on early in this game. If he's operating at an elite level, slowing down Le'Veon Bell becomes all the more difficult. But a healthy Brown only put up 34 receiving yards in the first meeting between these teams. The Ravens are exceptional against the run, but Bell operates with ungodly volume and is bound to get his on the ground with enough touches.
When these teams met in Week 4, he ran for 144 yards on a whopping 35 carries. But Bell is also difficult to contain in the passing game, as he has more receptions than any other running back in the NFL, and is 10th in the league overall with 66 catches. He has really hit his stride in this area over the past two weeks, racking up 194 receiving yards combined. Last week's showing was probably his most impressive of the season.
Baltimore simply can't let Bell take this game over, even if it means leaving Brown in one-on-one coverage.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)