NFL Week 12 Picks: Ravens vs. Steelers
Baltimore Ravens (6-4 SU, 4-6 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0 SU, 8-2 ATS)
When: Thursday, November 26, 8:20 p.m.
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Point Spread: BAL +3.5/PIT -3.5 (Intertops - 200% Bonus! Deposit $25 and get $50 FREE! Must use bonus code ROOKIE200)
Total: O/U 45
This is about the last game that the Ravens need right now. Baltimore started the year looking virtually invincible as long as it wasn’t facing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but this team is not playing good football at the moment. After a loss to Tennessee, the Ravens are now 6-4 and in danger of seeing their season spiral out of control.
As of this writing, the Ravens are currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs and four games back of the Steelers for the AFC North division lead, a far cry from where this team thought it would be this season. The Ravens do have a pillow-soft end to the schedule, as Cleveland is the only team they’ll face with a winning record, but with a loss here, they’d be on track to end up as the lowest seed in the playoffs and earn a trip to the absolute last place in the world they wanted to start the postseason: Kansas City.
The Steelers, on the other hand, have their own concerns about Kansas City: they’ve got the Chiefs breathing down their necks for the top overall seed and the first-round bye that comes with it. Pittsburgh currently leads the race for home-field advantage by a single game, but the Steelers have absolutely no margin for error here. A win in this matchup would knock Baltimore out of the race for the AFC North title and put the Steelers on the doorstep of clinching the division, but Pittsburgh hasn’t exactly held serve against Baltimore in western Pennsylvania. The Ravens have won this game two years running and have left victorious on four of their past six trips to Heinz Field. Can Baltimore get back to the way it started the season, or will the Steelers officially finish off the Ravens in the AFC North race?
How the Public is Betting the Baltimore/Pittsburgh Game
The public was already jumping on Pittsburgh before the Ravens had an outbreak of COVID-19 at their facility, with 68 percent of tickets coming in on the Steelers. That pushed the spread from -2.5 to the hook of -3.5, but the game has since come off the board because nobody knows what Baltimore will look like on Thursday now. The total fell from 46 to 45, but that likewise came off the board.
Defensive tackle Brandon Williams (ankle) is questionable. Tight end Nick Boyle (knee) and cornerback Iman Marshall (knee) are on injured reserve, while quarterback Trace McSorley (illness) and cornerback Terrell Bonds (knee) are out indefinitely. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and are out unless there was a false positive.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (toe), tight end Zach Gentry (knee), running back Jaylen Samuels (quadricep), running back Trey Edmunds (foot), linebacker Jayrone Elliott (illness), and defensive end Isaiah Buggs (ankle) are all questionable. Offensive lineman Kevin Dotson (illness) and tight end Vance McDonald (illness) are out indefinitely.
When Baltimore Has the Ball
What happens to a ground-based football team when it has to play without two of its top running backs? We might be in a position to find out, as the Ravens found out that Dobbins and Ingram have both tested positive and will almost certainly not play Thursday. For the time being, the NFL says the game is still on, and that means the job falls to Gus Edwards. If nothing else, Edwards should have fresh legs for this contest, as he barely had any workload against Tennessee. Edwards got all of three carries against the Titans, scratching out a mere six yards, which obviously won’t cut it against the Steelers.
But regardless of which running backs are lined up in the backfield, this offense will continue to run through Lamar Jackson, which hasn’t been as positive a thing in recent weeks as it once was. Jackson is no longer putting up high-quality numbers with either his arm or his legs as of late, as he’s only topped 200 yards passing in two of his past eight games. Worse, over the past month, the big runs have no longer occurred, as the past four opponents have held Jackson to 65 rushing yards or less. That wouldn’t be a problem for most quarterbacks, but when a quarterback isn’t throwing the ball well, he’s got to make up for it on the ground. Jackson isn’t doing that, and it’s a big reason why Baltimore is just 1-3 in the past four weeks.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
Everything was in place for the Steelers to have a letdown game. They were facing Jacksonville in a classic look-ahead spot, with Baltimore coming up just four days after battling the Jaguars. To make matters worse, the Steelers started the game by coming up empty on their first two possessions, coming up empty on both despite having fourth down occur in Jaguars territory.
Didn’t matter. The Steelers unloaded on the Jaguars the rest of the way and coasted to a win, in large part because Pittsburgh is becoming a consistent football team. The Steelers have had no problem rising up to the level of tough opponents this year, but for much of the season, they’ve struggled to play to their standards against a lesser foe (see: Giants, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas). But the escape in Dallas seems to have woken up the Steelers, who have outscored their opponents 78-13 over the past nine quarters.
The main reason the Steelers succeed is that, for the most part, they won’t beat themselves. Pittsburgh leads the league in turnover margin at +12, mainly because the Steelers average less than one giveaway per game. It also helps that Ben Roethlisberger has no qualms about spreading the ball around to all of his targets. There’s a difference of just 24 receiving yards between leading receiver Chase Claypool and No. 3 wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, which means that Roethlisberger is comfortable going to any of his three main weapons on any play. That’s proving a nightmare for opposing defenses where it matters most, as the Steelers rank second in the AFC in points to Kansas City, despite sitting in the bottom half of the league in both passing yards and rushing yards.
If the Ravens are going to win this game, it’s going to have to be with defense. Since Heinz Field opened in 2001, the Ravens own a respectable 9-14 record in Pittsburgh — and not one of Baltimore’s nine victories has seen more than 49 points scored. Last year was the closest the Ravens came to sending the total over 50 in a winning effort (something the Steelers have done in four of their past five wins over Baltimore at Heinz Field), and it took overtime for Baltimore to do it in a 26-23 win, the highest point total in a Baltimore victory at Heinz Field.
When the Steelers rule the day in Pittsburgh, it tends to be a high-scoring game where both offenses have the upper hand. Four of the Steelers’ past five home wins over Baltimore have seen them top 30 points, something the Ravens have done only five times in Pittsburgh. Regardless of who comes out on top, these games tend to be tight affairs. Four of the past five meetings in Pittsburgh have been decided by four points or less, including two overtime games.
If this game was being played during the afternoon, the conditions would greatly favor the run-heavy Ravens. However, showers should leave Pittsburgh by kickoff, resulting in a cloudy but dry 45-degree night in western Pennsylvania. Winds will be mild and blow west-southwest at five miles an hour, conditions that should favor the Steelers.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
As of this writing, we don’t know what the spread will look like when Baltimore gets its COVID issues sorted or if a game will even be played. We can only go on what we know currently, which is a low spread and a discombobulated Ravens squad gives a large edge to Pittsburgh. The Steelers are playing excellent right now, and the Ravens are not, and Baltimore’s offense just doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with the Steelers at the moment.
I’d think twice if this number moves to something crazy, like eight or nine points, but I’m assuming this will stay under a touchdown even with Baltimore’s COVID crisis. As such, I’ll back the Steelers. With so many question marks surrounding this game, the best way to bet it is to watch for a quarter or so, then jump into the action using a live betting platform. The best in-game wagering platform on the web is at Bovada (Bar None!). They’ll give you a 50% bonus up to $250 for joining, rebates on ALL your action, win or lose, fast hassle-free payouts and a HUGE wagering menu!
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