Baltimore Ravens (4-3) +9 , o/u 36 at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2), 8:30 pm Eastern Monday, ESPN
by Zman of Predictem.com
An AFC divisional rivalry heats up when the Baltimore Ravens visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football tonight at Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh, at 5-2, leads the AFC North Division by a game over Baltimore, which is tied for second place with the surprising Cleveland Browns at 4-3.
The Steelers are coming off a 24-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals last week, while the Ravens, after falling to the Buffalo Bills 19-14 two weeks ago, had last weekend off.
Baltimore won the North last season, pounding Pittsburgh twice in the process. The Ravens won 27-0 in Baltimore in November, then beat the Steelers 31-7 in Pittsburgh in December, racking up a 217-84 advantage in ground yardage in the two games together. The first game stayed under its total of 39, and the second game crawled over its total of 37 by a single point.
But these two teams are having very different campaigns this season. Pittsburgh is no longer struggling with the Super Bowl curse, as they did last season, and QB Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and playing well. On the other side, it’s becoming clear that the Ravens won’t go 13-3 like they did last season.
Over the last four seasons, Baltimore has won five of the eight meetings between these two teams, with the o/u going 4-4 as those eight games averaged 34 points per.
The Ravens may have a winning record outright this year, but are a bankroll-killing 1-6 against the spread. Baltimore is also 1-3 straight up and 0-4 ATS on the road.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is 5-2 vs. the number this season, and 3-0 both SU and against the spread at home.
Also, the Steelers have won 11 straight Monday Night games at home, and they’ll have the added incentive of looking good in front of the All-Time Pittsburgh team, which will be honored tonight in celebration of the franchise’s 75 years of existence.
Statistically speaking, the Ravens are outscoring opponents on average this season 18-17, outgaining foes 327-268 and outrushing them 110-72.
The Steelers are doubling up on opponents by a 26-13 average score, outgaining foes 361-257 and outrushing them 159-78.
Baltimore is banged up, but the bye week allowed several regular starters to heal up enough to return to action Monday night. That includes QB Steve McNair, who is expected to start after missing the Ravens’ last two games. On the season, McNair has completed 66% of his passes for a 5.9 yards-per-attempt average, a 2/2 TD/INT ratio and an 80.2 passing rating.
On the other side of this match-up, Big Ben has hit on 65% of his throws this year for an 8.0 YPA average, a 15/6 TD/INT ratio and a 102.2 passing rating.
These two teams have played five common opponents already this season. Pittsburgh beat Cleveland 34-7, Buffalo 26-3, San Francisco 37-16 and Cincinnati 24-13, and lost at Arizona 21-14. Meanwhile, Baltimore beat the Cardinals 26-23 and the 49ers 9-7, but lost to the Bengals 27-20, the Browns 27-13 and the Bills 19-14.
The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com ranks the Ravens 24th at 16.1, the Steelers third at 29.9.
The o/u is 2-3-2 in Baltimore games this season, which are averaging 35 points per, while the totals are 3-4 in Pittsburgh games, which are averaging 39 points.
The Steelers opened as nine-point home chalk for Monday night’s game, with a total of 36 , and those numbers have held fairly steady. Also, Pittsburgh is listed at anywhere from -450 to -550 on the moneyline, with the Ravens getting between +350 and +400 on the comeback as road dogs.
Zman’s Pick: It’s a cardinal sin to lay the wood on MNF. Especially after I did so last week and got my ass handed to me. I just don’t see Baltimore mustering up enough offense to stay within ten so I’m laying the wood here. Good luck to us!