(13-4, 9-7-1 ATS)
(12-4, 10-6 ATS)
You won’t find two teams that hate each other more than this. Once again, the AFC playoffs features an NFL betting battle that will be a real slugfest in the Steel City, as the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will meet for the third time this season.
Baltimore picked a great time to put together its best game of the season in the first round of the playoffs last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, scoring a 30-7 ‘W’ that was incredibly emphatic on both sides of the ball. Save an ill advised pitch off of an INT and a 41 yard burst for a TD by RB Jamaal Charles, the Ravens made absolutely no mistakes on defense. Of course, the offense made sure that it controlled the rock and kept KC off of the field on offense, as it possessed the ball for almost 42 minutes of the game. QB Joe Flacco was sacked four times though, which is a terrible omen for a team that has had troubles protecting its signal caller all season long. Rushing the ball sometimes looks difficult, but RB Ray Rice did have over 1,800 yards this year between rushing and receiving, and he is clearly going to be the man that Pittsburgh needs to key in on to stop both in the rushing and passing games. Rice scored the last TD of the first half that essentially took the wind out of Kansas City’s sails in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Pittsburgh has been here and done this before, and it knows that it is going to need to bring its A Game to topple the Ravens out of the postseason. The Steelers have had some real trials and tribulations at home this season, losing to all of the other three teams left standing in the postseason. The only wins against playoff teams all season long were the crucial road win against the Baltimore Ravens that essentially won the AFC North, and the ‘W’ against the Atlanta Falcons way back in Week 1. Aside from that, Pittsburgh went 0-4 both SU and ATS against postseason powerhouses. QB Ben Roethlisberger has already won two Super Bowls as a starting quarterback, and if he can win this one as well, it will be a real turnaround for a man that spent the first four games of the season suspended for off the field conduct problems. Big Ben threw for 3,200 yards and had a 17/5 TD/INT ratio, and he generated the game winning drive against this Baltimore defense in Week 13 that changed the course of the entire season.
The Steelers are great. We have no doubt about that. But are they really the better team in this game? The Ravens stayed with these guys step for step against every single opponent this season, and it felt like they had the slightly tougher schedule this year, especially with the timing of certain games. LB Ray Lewis and company won’t go down without a fight, and we feel like this could be one of these 16-14 slugfests that could go either way. We’ll take the points.
NFL Free Pick: Baltimore Ravens +3.5