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NFL Picks: Steelers vs. Ravens Betting Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 12/5/2010

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Pittsburgh QB Ben Rothlisberger

It’s always a big deal when these two teams play. They are divisional rivals that really don’t like each other, and they play similar smash-mouth styles. The stakes couldn’t be higher here -- the winner will have a solid lead in the division, while the loser may have to endure a battle for a Wild Card spot. If Baltimore wins the results would be even more decisive -- Baltimore has already beaten Pittsburgh once this year so they would dominate the tiebreaker and would effectively have a two-game lead with four games remaining.

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The biggest story in this game is Ben Roethlisberger’s foot. Earlier in the week the story was that Big Ben was wearing a boot because of a sprained foot, but that he would be participating in practice and would be fine on Sunday. Now that sprain has turned out to be a broken bone - a metatarsal.

The degree to which you can have faith in the Steelers really depends on how much faith you have in the ability of that foot to hold up to the beating it will take in the game. Big Ben’s impact really can’t be overstated here - neither coach John Harbaugh nor QB Joe Flacco has ever beaten Roethlisberger. They needed him to get suspended to win the first meeting of this season.

Regardless of Roethlisberger’s status the Steelers come into this one angry. James Harrison feels like the league is picking on him and the way he plays. The team doesn’t like that, and they don’t like that guard Chris Kemoeatu was called for four phantom holding calls last week. On top of that, Hines Ward entered into a verbal war with the league over his perception that they value money over their players because of their interest in the 18-game NFL schedule. If the team can make that anger a positive influence then the Ravens could be in trouble. It could easily be a distraction for the team, though - especially if a questionable call goes against them early on.

Baltimore’s chances of winning could come down to the pass rush. Roethlisberger has lost twice this year, and both times it has been because he has been chased early and often. Last week the Bills got to him five times and should have come out with a win. In short, when Big Ben is rushed he struggles.

That’s not entirely good news for the Ravens - their pass rush hasn’t been great, though it has shown clear signs of improvement in recent weeks. There’s a decent chance that they will have a strong game here - the Pittsburgh offensive line is beaten up badly, and Roethlisberger’s mobility could be threatened.

Steelers vs. Ravens Betting Odds and Line Movement

 

The line opened with the Ravens favored by a field goal - just the home field advantage, according to the NFL lines. That largely hasn’t changed, though 2.5 is now available at some betting outlets. The action is evenly split between the two teams right now, so any movement that does happen would be a sign of smart money action. The total opened at 38.5 and now seems stable at 40.

Steelers vs. Ravens Betting Trends

 

The Steelers are 3-1-1 ATS in the last five meetings of these teams, though they haven’t covered the last two. The ‘over’ is 2-1-1 over that stretch.

Pittsburgh is 7-1 ATS in their last eight as underdogs, and 6-1 ATS in their last seven as road underdogs. The last 10 times they have been underdogs of three points or less they are 8-2 ATS.

Pittsburgh is 1-4 ATS against teams with a winning record. Baltimore is just 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 against teams with winning records.

Baltimore is 2-5 ATS in games in which they are favored by a field goal or less.

The ‘under’ is 5-1 in Baltimore’s last six against teams with a winning record, and 6-2-1 in their last nine against the NFC North. The ‘under’ is 4-1 in Pittsburgh’s last five as an underdog.

Steelers vs. Ravens NFL Picks and Predictions

 

I really like Baltimore in this one. I’m concerned by Roethlisberger’s foot, and by Pittsburgh’s offensive line. I don’t believe Pittsburgh will be able to run effectively, and that will make their offense more one-dimensional than is ideal against Baltimore. The Ravens can cause issues for the Steelers with their secondary. Baltimore is at home, and they have a much better mindset coming into this one - and they are healthier - so they are the clear choice in my eyes - especially at -2.5.

These teams like going ‘under’ so much that I would struggle to justify going ‘over’. I would probably pass, but the ‘under’ would be the choice if I had to have one.

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