NFL Steelers-Ravens clash highlights holiday slate

The Steelers lead the Ravens by one game atop the division heading into the penultimate week of the season.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are to meet the Baltimore Ravens in a vital clash on Christmas Day play

The Pittsburgh Steelers are to meet the Baltimore Ravens in a vital clash on Christmas Day

(GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP)
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Peace and goodwill may have to wait as bitter NFL division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore clash on Christmas Day, with the Steelers aiming to lock up the AFC North crown in front of their home fans.

The Steelers lead the Ravens by one game atop the division heading into the penultimate week of the season.

If Pittsburgh falter, they would leave the door ajar for the Ravens to snatch the title with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals in their season finale.

The Ravens, coming off a close-run 27-26 victory over Philadelphia that did little to build confidence in the locker room, are gearing up for the challenge, knowing that a loss to the Steelers could cost them not only a shot at the division but a playoff trip as well.

"This is what you live for," Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. "It's all the hours, all the sacrifice, all the time -- it's for a chance to win the division and get into the dance.

"You hope and dream every day you're getting up at 6 am or 5 am, you don't see your kids -- it's for this chance, and it's all worth it.

"We'll be ready to roll. There is nothing more out there for us than to have a chance at the division against a rival team. It's going to be amazing."

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will be under scrutiny thanks to the Ravens' offensive struggles this season. He's been criticized by fans frustrated by his lowly 27th ranking in the NFL in yards per passing attempt and his 13 interceptions.

"We've hit our bumps here and there, but we're starting to hit our stride," Flacco insists.

Certainly Flacco can draw on past success in Pittsburgh. The Ravens have beaten the Steelers in their past four clashes, and won two straight on the Steelers' home field.

"You dream about this," Steelers receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said of the chance to turn the tables. "This is what football is all about -- to have an opportunity to win a championship. What you do in big games at home matters."

Super Bowl champs on brink

Christmas Day also sees the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos trying to keep their post-season hopes alive as they face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs, shocked by the Tennessee Titans last week, need a win to have a shot at reclaiming control of the AFC West and the conference second seed from Oakland.

Both the Chiefs and Broncos have struggled for consistency on offense this season. The Chiefs surrendered a 14-0 lead in their loss to the Titans while the Broncos managed just a field goal in a loss to New England.

That means defense will be key.

Denver boast one of the NFL's best. The 310.9 yards per game allowed by the Broncos ranks second in the NFL and the 183 passing yards they have given up is top in the league.

The Chiefs' defense leads the league in takeaways with 28. They give up significant yardage per game, but rank eighth in the league in points allowed per game.

The holiday weekend features a dozen games on Christmas Eve, when the New England, trying to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs host the New York Jets. Oakland, trying to clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye, host the Indianapolis Colts and Houston have their sights on the AFC South title as they host the Cincinnati Bengals.

NFC West winners Seattle have a first-round bye in their sights as they host Arizona and the Green Bay Packers are closing in on a division title as they host the Minnesota Vikings -- who are also among the 22 teams still in the hunt for eight remaining playoff spots.

The Dallas Cowboys are already there, but will be chasing a division title,first-round bye and home field advantage when they take on Detroit on Monday.

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