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Thursday Night Football Preview: An AFC North Rumble in Baltimore

Two bitter rivals with lots of question marks face off in Charm City. What should we expect?

It's no secret that there's no love lost between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The two teams have a history of gritty, hard-nosed, smash-mouth football - whatever that means, in an era when Joe "Elite" Flacco is throwing 62 passes in a game - and an even more prominent history of hating each other's guts.

But this isn't a rivalry based simply on hatred. We only care because the Steelers and Ravens are perennial contenders. They've each got two Super Bowl victories in the last 15 years. They've each boasted defensive units that rank among the best of all time. Even last year, when both clubs finished 8-8 and failed to live up to their own standards and their fans' lofty expectations, they were each competing for playoff berths in Week 17.

So what can we expect from their first meeting in 2014? For starters, lots of question marks. The Steelers are coming off of a thrilling last-minute victory over the surprising Cleveland Browns, in which they utterly dominated the first half before rolling over for about 28 minutes of the second half. The Ravens are trying to put the pieces back together after not only a disappointing defeat at the hands of the Bengals, but the dismissal of disgraced running back Ray Rice.

As always, though, the team that wins is the team that plays to its strengths and to its opponent's weaknesses. It's like what Polonius says in Hamlet: to thine own self be true, and to the other guy's self be unremittingly, relentlessly, aggressively opportunistic. For the Steelers and Ravens in Week 2, that boils down to a couple major factors that could very well swing the game in either team's favor.

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