For the AFC North, defense will always decide who wins the division. 

This rivalry up north is everything you want in an NFL showdown. Legends and legendary teams have faced off in some hard fought battles to win the AFC North between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens over the years. Players of old like Troy Polamalu, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed define what this matchup embodies — hard fought defensive games that, if victorious, leads to playoff berths. 

This year will be no different. The Steelers are undefeated so far this season while the Ravens are 6-2. These squads already met once this season, as the Steelers came out with a narrow 28-24 victory. Their next matchup is set for primetime on Thanksgiving night as all of America will tune in to watch defensive football being played as its finest. 

Since the new millenium, the battle for the North, among a majority of the games, has been decided by one score or less. For example, a November match up in 2009 was decided in overtime 20-17 with the Ravens leaving victorious. A month later in December, however, the Steelers got their revenge on the Ravens, beating them 23-20. This narrative is consistent with the playoffs as well. In 2011 the Steelers celebrated a Divisional Round victory in a tight one score 31-24 ball game. 

This 2020 season the AFC North will be won like it is every other year — through defense. The Steelers lead the league in sacks with 32 on the season. They have scored twice on defense with a plus seven turnover ratio, as the defense has come up with 22 turnovers on the season. The Ravens come in at sixth in the league for defensive sacks at 24 and have a total of 19 forced turnovers.    

On Thanksgiving, America will see who wins the division with a reminder that football is still a physical, hard-nosed game. Sure, the flashy offense of the Ravens led by reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson, and the attack from future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will need to show up like they always do. But the real competition between these two squads will be played on defense. 

T.J. Watt for the Steelers should give Jackson trouble all night long as Watt has a total of seven sacks on the season. On the other side, Ravens’ linebacker Patrick Queen will be a tackling menace against the Steelers offense. Queen has a total of 52 total tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Both of these players play their positions with a fast and physical mentality and they continue to uphold the great defensive tradition both teams possess. 

As much as 2020 has been the year of change, no pandemic or west coast offense will ever stop how the North is won; through old school, hard nose defensive football. Put into account that these teams strongly dislike each other, and you can expect each teams’ best performance to come out on Thanksgiving night. 

As of now the Steelers have been playing better defense, but it’s not by much. According to the Steelers are ranked as number one while the Ravens are ranked at number two in terms of overall defensive production through the first eight weeks of play. If the Steelers keep up their championship level defense, they should once again beat the Ravens and clinch a 24th divisional title.