NFL Picks: Ravens vs. Steelers Playoff Betting Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 1/14/2011
This game, played Saturday, Jan. 15 at 4:30 p.m. EST in Pittsburgh, is what the NFL is all about -- the prototypical, near-perfect playoff matchup. It really has everything. Two excellent teams that really, really hate each other and have a long history of playing very good, very tight games against each other. Two strong quarterbacks -- one among the very best in the league, and the other improving every game. Two ridiculously stout defenses that thrive on punishing people. It’s got it all.
There is a very good chance that this game is going to be close. The last four times these teams have met -- twice last season and twice this year -- the game has been decided by just a field goal. Each team has come out on top twice. It’s not a wonder, then, that the line is going to settle at or near three points.
The game requires a bit of a leap of faith for NFL handicappers to asses properly because of what the teams have been through recently. We know that the Ravens are in prime playoff form after their destruction of the Chiefs last week, and that they aren’t going to be bothered by playing on the road in the playoffs.
We can’t be nearly as certain of the form the Steelers will show, though. Their last two games of the regular season were ridiculously easy for them -- at home against Carolina, and then at a Cleveland team that was just a couple of days away from firing their coach. Their last truly meaningful game was at home against the Jets, and they lost that one. Add in the bye week and it has been nearly a full month since they have played a meaningful contest. That’s a long time to be running at less than full speed.
One of the many things that is remarkable about this matchup is that the teams are so evenly matched. We could go into detail about the players involved, but these are two of the better known teams in the league -- there are about a dozen commercials featuring the players. The Steelers have an edge at quarterback, but the Ravens are better on the defensive line. The Ravens are the better running team, but the Steelers have no issues stopping the run. Unlike most games there isn’t a clear mismatch on the field. This will be a brutal, brutal war -- in a very good way.
There are three keys to the game as I see it. First, the Ravens need to establish their passing game so they can score some points against the least yielding defense in the league. They haven’t had success with long passes against Pittsburgh, and the Steelers know it. Baltimore needs to find a way to threaten deep or Pittsburgh will be able to focus more on the short game and the run.
Second, Rashard Mendenhall has to have a good day. Baltimore has a tough defense, but not a fast one. Mendenhall can gain some yards, but it will take a while to establish the run game. If Pittsburgh can do that then they will be in good shape.
Finally, Ray Rice needs to get over the issues that have plagued him against this team -- he has just 52 yards rushing in two games. Pittsburgh is brutal to run against, but Rice needs to find a way to gain some yards.
Ravens vs. Steelers Playoff Betting Odds and Line Movement
The line, which is widely available, favors the Steelers by three points, according to the latest NFL point spreads, with 3.5 points available in some places. Just over 60 percent of all bets have been placed on the underdog Ravens. The total seems very stable at 37.
Ravens vs. Steelers Betting Trends
The Ravens are 4-0 ATS in their last four road games, and 4-1 ATS in their last five game overall. They are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 playoff games, but just 2-5-1 ATS in their last eight against the AFC North, and 2-5 ATS in their last seven Saturday Games.
Pittsburgh is 4-0 ATS in their last four home playoff games, 5-0 ATS in their last five against the AFC North, and 8-0 ATS in their last eight in January. They are 2-5 ATS in their last seven against teams with a winning record.
Baltimore has gone ‘under’ in four of their last five games as a road underdog, four of five in January, and in their last four against the AFC North.
The ‘over’ is 9-1 in Pittsburgh’s last 10 playoff home games, 13-3 in their last 16 playoff games overall, and 8-1 in their last nine playoff games in which they were favored.
Ravens vs. Steelers NFL Picks and Predictions
I’ll take the points. I like the Ravens a lot, and I was very impressed by what they did last week. They are sharper, and they seem hungrier. I expect them to win outright, but they should keep it close either way. I’ll take +3.5 all day.
The total is tight. I see it as too low to take the ‘under,’ but I’m not confident enough on the ‘over’ to take it either. I’d pass on the total, but if I had to take a side I would lean ‘under’.
Vegas Sports Informer has been hot for his football picks and he has gone 11-5 the last five weeks for his NFL picks and he will have a hot card for the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs this weekend. He has been firing on all cylinders for all sports, check out his current hot streaks here.
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