Baltimore Ravens (13-4 SU, 9-7-1 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4
SU, 10-6 ATS), AFC Divisional Playoffs, 4:30 p.m. EST, Saturday,
January 15, 2011, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa., TV: CBS
by Badger, NFL Playoffs Handicapper, Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Balt +3/Pitt -3
Over/Under Total: 36.5
Fans of the black and blue AFC North will get exactly what they
wished for this Saturday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, when the
Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens meet for a third-time rubber-match game
in the early afternoon opener of the AFC Divisional playoffs this
weekend on CBS.
Baltimore looked like a team on a mission by throttling the Kansas City Chiefs in their AFC wildcard round game Sunday, 30-7, to play
their way back into the rematch with the Steelers. The Ravens offense
controlled the ball (41 minutes time of possession to 18) en route to
30 points and a huge first down advantage (26 to 8) on the Chiefs,
while the defense stuffed the heralded Kansas City running game and
frustrated Matt Cassel into just 53 yards passing and three
interceptions in their playoff opener.
Next up for the Ravens are the rival Steelers, the last team to beat
them (on December 5th) during their seven-game win streak in a game
that turned on one play late in the fourth quarter and essentially
twisted these two teams playoff fates in the process. Pittsburgh
looked very good in their season finale tuneup against the Cleveland
Browns, 41-9, and will be rested and ready for a third grudge match
against the Ravens in a huge AFC Divisional opener.
Oddsmakers are giving the Steelers the standard home field advantage
factor in setting the opening betting line, listing Pittsburgh as 3-point favorites late on Sunday when the opening points spreads were
released. There are some offshore sportsbooks on the Internet
(Pinnacle) that have already moved the number to 3.5 as most of the
early, sharp money appears to be coming in on the Steelers, while the general betting public are hammering the Ravens (62%).
The over/under total opened at 36.5 and has yet to move in either
direction during the first few hours of its release.
Both head-to-head games between the Ravens and Steelers during the
regular season were similar defensive grudge matches, so handicapping
this game on the offensive side of the ball is going to come down to
a Joe Flacco-versus-Ben Roethlisberger matchup at quarterback.
In their first meeting this season in the same venue of Heinz Field,
neither team was successful running the ball (Balt. 70 yards; Pitt.
84 yards) against the immoveable forces of Haloti Ngata and Casey
Hampton in the middle of both defensive lines, so the Ravens and
Flacco went to the air in a 17-14 victory on the road. Flacco threw a
touchdown strike to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 32 second left and the
Steelers, who were forced to start Charlie Batch in place of the
suspended Roethlisberger, couldnt keep pace in the air with only 126
yards and a pick in the loss.
But in the second game in Baltimore on December 5th the game turned
on a fumble-sack by Troy Polamalu late in the fourth, setting up the
Steelers for a late touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Isaac
Redman. Up until the play by Polamalu the Ravens were en route to
another win even though neither team was able to run the ball again
(Balt. 54 yards; Pitt. 43 yards). With seven combined sacks in game
two the defenses once again stole the show, but with Roethlisberger
the Steelers were in until the end and capable of the comeback
despite being outplayed by the Ravens most of the game.
Both offenses will likely try and establish the run, but theres
little doubt the game will depend on which quarterback is able to
make plays down the stretch to break open a close, defensive battle
and both have shown the ability to do it in the clutch.
As far as betting trends go, the Steelers are on a little mini tear
at the betting window going 4-1-1 ATS against the Ravens in their
last six meetings.
But Ravens fans will love the fact that the underdog and the road team have been better trends of late, with the dog going 3-0-1 in the
last four meetings and the road team going 3-0-1 ATS during the same
The over wager also seems to be a very solid play this weekend, with
the over sporting a 5-1-1 record in the last seven head-to-head games
played at Heinz between these two, and a low total of 36.5 staring
bettors in the face.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Look for the Steelers to cool off the red hot Ravens and to advance to the next round of playoff games.