The Spread and Total
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.5, O/U 43.5), courtesy of Sportsbetting.ag.
The line opened at Steelers -5.5.
Baltimore Ravens: 7-5 SU (6-5-1 ATS); 2nd AFC North
Pittsburgh Steelers: 10-2 SU (6-6 ATS); 1st AFC North
CB Jimmy Smith (leg), out; LB Za’Darius Smith (shoulder), out; LB C.J. Mosley (neck), questionable; WR Jeremy Maclin (back), questionable.
LB Ryan Shazier (back), out; CB Joe Haden (leg), out; LB Tyler Matakevich (shoulder), doubtful; LB TJ Watt (knee), probable; TE Vance McDonald (probable), out; S Mike Mitchell (ankle), probable; WR Antonio Brown (toe), probable.
Oct. 1, 2017 (M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore): Pittsburgh 26, Baltimore 9
Dec. 25, 2016 (Heinz Field, Pittsburgh ): Pittsburgh 31, Baltimore 27
Nov. 6, 2016 (M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore): Baltimore 21, Pittsburgh 14
Dec. 27, 2015 (M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore): Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 17
Oct. 1, 2015 (Heinz Field, Pittsburgh): Baltimore 23, Pittsburgh 20 (OT)
Significant ATS Trends
The Ravens are owning this matchup from a betting perspective, going 6-2 ATS in their last eight against the Steelers.
Pittsburgh has gone 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS loss.
Pittsburgh is 7-0 ATS in their last seven Sunday Night Football games.
The total has gone OVER in six of Baltimore’s last eight games.
The total has gone UNDER in four of the last five Ravens/Steelers meetings.
If you were turned off by some of the questionable hits and awful injuries in Week 14’s Steelers/Bengals games, this Sunday nighter probably isn’t for you. If you’re more of a Brent Musberger, well then why are you reading this? Shouldn’t you be in a glass box in South Point Casino tracking line movement. Get back to work, you bum!
For the second year in a row, Pittsburgh can clinch the AFC North by beating their most bitter rival on home soil. Last year’s win wasn’t just significant for that reason, though, it also stopped a four-game skid against Baltimore. Since then, the Steelers have rolled through the AFC North, going 4-0 against divisional opponents this season, after going 5-1 intra-division last year.
Even though the Ravens weren’t playing bruising “AFC North football” last week against the Lions, they still ended up suffering crucial injuries, losing lockdown corner Jimmy Smith for the year. In their Week 4 meeting with Pittsburgh, Smith helped keep Antonio Brown to just 34 yards on four catches, his lowest output of the season. Without him, Brandon Carr and rookie Marlon Humphrey will have to stop the league’s hottest receiver, who has 414 yards and six touchdowns in his last three games.
Though the Ravens were limited to just nine points, themselves, in Week 4 (a 26-9 loss), historically, they have found offensive success against the Steelers. Prior to Week 4, Baltimore had scored over 20 points in eight straight meetings. If last week’s 44-20 win over Detroit wasn’t an aberration brought on by playing the Lions, the Ravens’ stagnant offense may have finally turned a corner. Joe Flacco had his best passing game of the season, throwing for 269 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. His ability to complete a few deep balls to Mike Wallace and avoid back-breaking turnovers gave the Ravens run game space to put the game away in the second half. If he can replicate that effort this weekend, Baltimore will be in good shape, because the Steelers defense is beaten down.
Cincinnati rolled up 130 rushing yards on Pittsburgh last week, and ran the ball effectively even after Joe Mixon left the game in the first half with a concussion. The Steelers looked lost when Ryan Shazier left the game with a spine injury, and faced even more trouble after his backup, Tyler Matakevich, was knocked out as well. The Steelers signed former linebacker Sean Spence this week to help fill the holes up the middle, but there will still be opportunities for big plays in both the run game and Flacco’s favorite play, the checkdown.
This game will be decided by who wins between Baltimore’s no. 1-ranked defense (per DVOA) and Pittsburgh’s high-powered offense (5th in offensive DVOA). The Steelers technically took round one, racking up 381 yards and 26 points in Week 4, but 14 of those points came following turnovers. Ben Roethlisberger has his own penchant for turnovers, with three interceptions in the last two games and 13 on the season. This should be another week where Pittsburgh rides its Le’Veon Bell cow to victory, as the running back has more career rushing yards and touchdowns against the Ravens than any other team.
However, Bell will only find success if the blocking up front is there, and that should be a fascinating matchup. The Steelers’ offensive line ranks seventh in Football Outsiders run-blocking efficiency, while the Ravens defensive line ranks eighth in run-stuffing efficiency. It’s cliche to say this game will be won and lost in the trenches — especially since Bell waits about three seconds to even enter the battlefield — but that war will have a resounding impact on the game.
I felt really good about Baltimore in this spot before Pittsburgh completely no-showed the first-half on the Bengals game. Now, I would be relying on three straight underwhelming Steelers games in a row. Outside of last week, Pittsburgh had been following up ATS losses with dominant wins all season. They’re also great in December, going 12-4 ATS in their last 16.
Considering where the holes on both these top-notch defenses are, I think we could see the rare Steelers-Ravens shootout too. Take the OVER here.
Pick: Steelers (-4.5) and OVER (43.5).