Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6 SU, 5-6 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (5-6 SU, 6-5 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date and Time: Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2013, 8:30 pm EST
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Pit +3/BAL -3
Over/Under Total: 40.5
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The normally white-knuckled, tense rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens may lack a little importance this time around since both teams are below .500 and struggling, but the heated AFC North rivalry game is still good enough to be the primetime featured telecast from M&T Bank Stadium Thanksgiving night on NBC.
It’s been a climb to get to the point of five wins for the Steelers, who are actually in the midst of a three-game win streak including last week’s victory on the road in Cleveland, 27-11. It’s not a coincidence that the Steelers injured and maligned offensive line has improved during the win streak, highlighted by no sacks allowed last week against a stiff Browns front seven.
The defending champion Ravens also enter the Turkey Day tilt on a modest roll, winning two of their last three including home wins over the first-place Bengals and an ugly one over the New York Jets last Sunday, 19-3.
One thing that you can almost set your watch too is the fact the Steelers and Ravens will play a tight, intense game. The games have been decided by 3-points or less in like, forever, and the Ravens haven’t lost by more than 6 points since the opener versus Manning and the Broncos.
The reason I mentioned the Steelers-Ravens history of close games, 3-points or less the paragraph before is because in true Las Vegas form, oddsmakers have punted on setting the opening point spread listing the Ravens as the “standard” 3-point favorite at home. The over/under total is even a ho-hum 40.5.
If this game plays out the way the season has been going so far, it could be a shock for some viewers waking up from their post-turkey feast to see neither team with any sort of a running game. That’s right, a Steelers-Ravens matchup that puts the 30th-ranked Steelers run game (77.3 ypg) versus the Ravens 27th-ranked attack (81.7 ypg). Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco have been forced to play with mediocre offensive lines all season, and as a result the Steelers have thrown it a ton (263 ypg – 8th) whereas the Ravens have just struggled in general (309 total ypg – 29th).
Much has been said about the re-making of the Ravens defense, and after 12 weeks its safe to say the unit is still formidable (329 ypg – 10th) and they have done a great job of forcing field goals to allow only 19 points per game, the 7th-best mark in the NFL. Pittsburgh’s defense is getting older and slower, but they haven’t forgotten how to play the game (13th overall, but 24th vs. run), and you know defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau knows how to defend against Flacco and the rival Ravens.
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As far as wagering on this rivalry, history has been kind to bettors on the Steelers. Pittsburgh has gone 4-1 ATS in the last five visits to Baltimore, and they are also 7-3-2 ATS (all those 3-pt spreads) if you go back through the last 12 meetings between these two.
The under is 4-1 in Baltimore’s last five AFC North games, and the under is also 4-1 when the Steelers play on Thursday nights and 5-0 versus the AFC North.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This game all boils down to line play and I don't believe the Ravens offensive line is good enough to give Flacco enough time to be productive enough to get the cover here. I'm making a lunch money bet on the Steelers here.
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