NFL Predictions: Ravens at Steelers Odds and Week 7 Picks
by Alan Matthews - 10/17/2013
Quick, name the best rivalry in the NFL for the past, say, decade. If it's not Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers, I'm not saying you are wrong. At worst, though, Ravens-Steelers was the most heated and definitely most physical rivalry in football. Usually it was money in the bank to bet against either team the week after a game because they were both so banged up from just beating the heck out of each other for 60 minutes.
Since the creation of the AFC North for the 2002 season, the Steelers and Ravens combined to win the division nine times -- the Bengals the other two. Baltimore reached three AFC title games and won last season's Super Bowl. Pittsburgh reached four conference championship games and three Super Bowls, winning two.
That's why I'm so curious to see this season's first installment of the rivalry on Sunday afternoon as a nice warm-up to Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis in the night game. How intense will this really be? It's now missing perhaps the three most intense players from both sides, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison and Ravens future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis -- probably the guy most responsible for how crazy things got between the teams -- and Ed Reed.
Both teams really are in transition -- Cincinnati is the -175 division favorite at Bovada and looks like it will be good for a while with young talent in place at key positions. Baltimore lost a ton off last year's champs and is 3-3. Maybe a playoff team but doesn't look like any sort of threat to repeat (50/1). Pittsburgh is off to one of its worst starts in decades at 1-4 and has holes everywhere. The Steelers are +1500 long shots to win the division. When's the last time Pittsburgh was behind Cleveland to win the division?!
Ravens at Steelers Betting Story Lines
The Pittsburgh defense finally looked like it used to in Week 6, winning 19-6 at the Jets. It was the 600th win in team history. The Jets managed just 267 yards and 3-of-11 on third down, but we are talking about Geno Smith here, and the Jets didn't even have Santonio Holmes. The Steelers forced their first two turnovers of the season. Offensively, there was still plenty to be desired with four field goals. The rushing attack, a disaster all season, had 73 yards on 26 carries. Only Jacksonville averages less than Pittsburgh's 61.0 yards per game.
A big problem has been the Pittsburgh offensive line, which lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey in the opener. In a cruel twist of fate, the Steelers traded for Arizona tackle Levi Brown on Oct. 2, and then his season was finished before he played a down with the team. Amazingly, Brown hurt his triceps in warm-ups before the Jets game. Pittsburgh's starting two tackles right now are Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert. A bit to be desired there.
Baltimore lost 19-17 at home to Green Bay last week. Joe Flacco threw for 342 yards and two TDs with no picks, but the running game has also been a problem for Baltimore this season and managed only 47 yards on 22 carries against the Pack. It was the ninth straight time the Ravens lost when rushing for fewer than 60 yards. Baltimore's Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, a pretty good duo, kept getting stuffed on first and second down. That led to many long third downs. Baltimore went 2-of-14 on third down, needing at least 10 yards on nine of those. The average distance needed to convert was 11.2 yards. The Ravens rank No. 27 in rushing, averaging 72.2 yards per game.
Despite losing Lewis, Reed and a few others starters on defense, that unit, outside of the opener in Denver, has played pretty well. No team has scored more than 23 points on Baltimore, not including the other-worldly Broncos.
Ravens at Steelers NFL Week 7 Betting Odds and Trends
At Bovada, Pittsburgh is a one-point favorite with a total of 40.5. The Ravens are 3-3 ATS (1-2 on road) and 2-4 “over/under” (2-1 on road). The Steelers are 1-4 ATS (0-2 at home) and 2-3 O/U (1-1 at home). Baltimore is 4-0 in its past four after an ATS loss. It is 1-6 ATS in its past seven in October and 0-4 ATS in its past four road games against teams with a losing road record. Pittsburgh has covered just twice in its past 11 after allowing less than 15 points in its previous game. The under is 7-1 in Baltimore's past eight against teams with a losing record. The under is 5-1 in its past six in the division. The under is 13-3 in Pittsburgh's past 16 home games. It is 5-0 in its past five against the AFC. The road team has covered five of the past nine meetings. The over is 4-1 in the past five.
NFL Predictions: Ravens at Steelers Week 7 Betting Picks
Last season the team split the series, with each winning on the road. They played just two weeks apart. In Week 11 in Pittsburgh, the Ravens won 13-10 in a game Ben Roethlisberger missed with an injury. Yet the Steelers outgained Baltimore 309-200, but three turnovers were the difference. The Steelers dropped to 0-5 against Baltimore without Big Ben, while Flacco improved to 3-2 at Pittsburgh in the regular season. In Week 13 at M&T Bank Stadium, the Steelers won 23-20. Big Ben sat out again, but former No. 2 Charlie Batch rallied the team to a game-tying TD with 7:24 in the fourth and the game-winning field goal as time expired. It ended Baltimore's 15-game home winning streak.
The key will be keeping pressure off Big Ben, as usual. He has gone down 19 times, while Baltimore is second in the AFC to Kansas City with 22 sacks. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have combined for 12. While Roethlisberger has beaten the Ravens in five of his past seven starts at Heinz Field, take home-field out of this and look at the talent. Baltimore is better almost everywhere. A loss by Baltimore would make it the first defending Super Bowl Champion to have a losing record through seven games since the 2006 Steelers. I don't see it. Ravens win a low-scoring game, so take the under.
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