Week 8 Brings Compelling and Historic Coaching Matchup

With all due respect to the Saints and Bears and 49ers and Seahawks, the most intriguing matchup of the Week 8 slate in the NFL features the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens in a battle for AFC North supremacy in Baltimore. One team enters undefeated, while the other's only loss came to the defending Super Bowl champions.

Cincinnati has a lot of ground to make up in the division, and while Cleveland's 5-2 record is impressive, the gap between the Browns and the division's elite was quite apparent in the two matchups thus far.

That leaves Pittsburgh and Baltimore. At the top of the division now, likely fighting for that spot when they meet again on Thanksgiving night and continuing through the end of the regular season. After all, since 2007, it's been either the Steelers or Ravens to claim the AFC North crown all but three times.

No Coaching Carousel

The common theme (aside from Ben Roethlisberger) is the two coaches on the respective sidelines. Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin was hired in 2007 to replace Bill Cowher, while John Harbaugh came to Baltimore from Philadelphia a year later.

And now, all these years later, Sunday will mark the 25th meeting between the two coaches, the most all-time in the Super Bowl era. Tomlin and Harbaugh may never catch George Halas and Curly Lambeau, who met 48 times, but they could certainly pass Lambeau and Steve Owen, who met up on 28 occasions in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Advantage ... Anyone?

The Ravens are favored on Sunday by 3.5 points, which is par for the course in the rivalry. Two-thirds of the previous 24 meetings between Harbaugh and Tomlin have been decided by four points or less, with four of them going into overtime.

Harbaugh has a slight edge overall, winning 13 to Tomlin's 11, and both, of course, have a Super Bowl victory on their resumes. It's a matchup worthy of prime-time treatment (though, as noted, they'll get it in less than a month), but Tomlin did his best to downplay the significance of the chess match on Sunday:

"I think in moments like this or in the offseason and things of that nature, you get an opportunity, maybe, to appreciate it. But I think much like him, in the moment, they're nameless, gray faces on the other sideline, man.

"You're just so caught up in the strategy or the decisions that need to be made. When you're playing good people, it's paramount that you play (well)."

Exclusive Club

Tomlin and Harbaugh are two of just four coaches in the NFL who have been with their current franchise for at least 12 years, with Sean Payton of the Saints and Bill Belichick of the Patriots as the others. Both of those coaches also have Lombardi trophies on their resumes.

Sunday will go a long way in determining an NFC North champion, but it could also position Roethlisberger or Lamar Jackson further up the MVP balloting. The biggest surprise would be if the game produced a blowout.