(2-1, 1-2 ATS)
(3-0, 3-0 ATS)
Arguably the two most bitter rivals in the AFC will lock horns at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon in one of the best NFL betting battles of the day. The Pittsburgh Steelers will look to take control of the AFC North against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens need a wakeup call very soon, or they are suddenly going to find themselves on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Baltimore needs better play out of QB Joe Flacco this year. He is only completing 54.6 percent of his passes this year for 664 yards and four scores against five picks. With the additions of WR TJ Houshmanzadeh and WR Anquan Boldin, there is no reason to have numbers this bad. The running abilities of RB Ray Rice and RB Willis McGahee aren’t quite being used to the fullest potential this year either. The two only have 247 yards and one TD combined on the year. The defense ranks first in the NFL, allowing 244.3 yards per game, but the big issue right now is that the team hasn’t picked off a pass on the year. The rush defense isn’t playing well, allowing 127.7 yards per game, which could ultimately end up really hurting this week against a potent ground game. Still, when push comes to shove, this team has only allowed two TDs and is conceding 13.7 points per game, the fourth best mark in the NFL.
The Steelers are amazingly 3-0 on the season in spite of the fact that QB Ben Roethlisberger is still serving the end of his four game suspension. Theoretically, this is like playing with house money, as Pittsburgh would be thrilled with a 3-1 record and a tie for first place in the AFC North through four games. The passing game understandably ranks dead last in the NFL at 139.3 yards per game, but this isn’t all that bad considering the fact that Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon have both spent time nursing injuries. The rushing game is third in the NFL at 150.0 yards per game. RB Rashard Mendenhall has been a real powerhouse this year, running the ball 64 times for 332 and two TDs on the season. It’s all about the defense, though. The silver and black have held all three foes to 13 points or less and has also only allowed two TDs on the season. SS Troy Polamalu already has two picks on the season and has proven to be a tremendous difference maker from when he was injured last year.
If the Ravens don’t win this one, they can kiss the AFC North goodbye. Baltimore needs to come forth with its best outing on the year on Sunday, and we fully expect to see just that. Still, HC Mike Tomlin knows that even with a loss, his team should still be holding its head up high.
Selection: Baltimore Ravens +1.5