Finally an intriguing Sunday night game, it seems the last few weeks have been duds for football fans. When the Ravens and Steelers meet, though, you can bet that it is going to be an entertaining affair. The Steelers are fresh off a huge win against the Patriots last week, where they limited Tom Brady and Big Ben diced up the Patriots defense. The Ravens on the other hand needed a big comeback to win 30-27 against the Cardinals. The Ravens erased a 21- point deficit to make it the biggest comeback in team history. Both teams have put both those games in the past, however. All attention is on this week.
Most would agree that the Ravens have been a mixed bag this season. They started off the year hot with a blowout victory against the same Steelers they will be playing this week. However, they looked like a different team against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a losing effort, 12-7. The Ravens also needed a 21-point comeback to beat the below average Cardinals last week. Much of the blame has been placed on Joe Flacco. The problem certainly isn’t the defense, as they are a top-3 unit again. Even after giving up 27-points to the Cardinals, this is still a defense with an array of playmakers. Flacco, however, has been lackluster to his standards. Flacco passed for 336 yards last week, but most of it was due to the fact they were playing from behind. He also threw an interception with no touchdowns. Flacco currently has a pedestrian 8 TDs with 6 interceptions. If it wasn’t for Ray Rice the offense would definitely struggle to put points up. Rice is having himself a career year, continuing his torrid pace with 3 TDs last week. He has 862 all-purpose yards in total on the year; he is a threat on the ground and receiving. The Steelers found that out in week 1, where Rice rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries. He also hauled in 4 balls for 42 yards a touchdown. It could be difficult for the Steelers to contain him without James Harrison, James Farrior, and LaMarr Woodley. Woodley has been ruled out for Sunday, but Harrison and Farrior look like will be game time decisions. Farrior failed to play against the Patriots, and Larry Foote did an excellent job in his spot.
The Steelers have gone away from their identity in a sense. It’s true that the Steelers have had to be a pass happy offense to win games lately. Simply because the running game has been so bad with Mendenhall. He is only averaging 60 yards, and should find it hard to run against the Ravens stingy defense. The Ravens are number 1 in the NFL in total defense, only allowing 263 yards a game. They are equally strong against the air and ground attack (3rd). If the Steelers get into a one dimensional game I think the Ravens defense could eat them up like in week 1.
Ravens vs. Steelers Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Baltimore Ravens +3.5
@Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5
Over 42.5 (-110)
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Ravens vs. Steelers Pick:
I don’t feel like this game is going to be anything like the first meeting from earlier in the year. I think this one gets back to classic Ravens/Steelers football. In other words, it should be a close game that comes down to the final 2 minutes. These games have historically been very close, usually 3 points either way. The 7-point Steelers win in the playoffs was much closer than the score indicated. It could have gone either way without a doubt.
If the Steelers were completely healthy on defense I would be inclined to take the Steelers. However, I feel that Ray Rice can do some big damage against a banged up unit. The Steelers beat up on a finesse Patriots team, but the Ravens are a different animal. They should limit the Steelers on the ground, which will force Roethlisberger to throw it up against Ed Reed and company. Another thing worth noting is that the line opened at -3.5, but it is moved down to -3 with money on the Steelers. The line movement angle doesn’t always work, but in big games Vegas is usually sharp. Some people see the Ravens game last week as a negative, but I think the comeback put a shot of energy into the Ravens. I would take the points in a game that is notoriously close.