When people first looked at the Ravens' 2012 schedule, it's probably a fair guess that the first games they circled were those with Pittsburgh. Every team in football has their big rival, and there's no question Pittsburgh wins that title with the Ravens.
Whenever the Ravens play the Steelers, the intensity gets ratcheted up a notch or two on the field and off. The fans pay more attention. The media does the same. Others throughout the league are watching just because it's the Ravens-Steelers.
Why is this such a big rivalry? A big reason is both teams have been so good for so long. And they've played some real big games. That adds to the excitement and intensity.
But football has more of that than any other sports. In baseball, the Yankees-Red Sox series often brings plenty of intensity, even if Boston's struggling like it did this year.
In pro basketball, you'll see the same thing from a Lakers-Celtics match-up. Two big teams usually have a big game, and that means something.
In football, though, it's different. Maybe because it's a different kind of sport, and one game can mean so much to a team. There are a number of good NFL rivalries that have developed over the years. The Patriots and Colts have a nice rivalry; the question is if it can keep going with Peyton Manning not in Indianapolis any more.
Plus, there's a week between games and so much attention gets paid to a big contest. It adds to build-up and intensity.
The Ravens and Steelers are on national TV Sunday night in a game that basically means first place in the AFC North. There's been so much talk and analysis in the last seven days. The teams were even talking about it after last week's games.
Now it's time to play.