On Sunday Night Football, the Baltimore Ravens (7-5) will travel to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to take on the Steelers in this AFC North showdown. This Sunday Night Football matchup will kick off at 8:30 PM/ET.
The Steelers are coming off a tumultuous week 13. Pittsburgh battled back against a strong Bengals effort. Cincinnati took a commanding early lead before the Steelers chipped away to take the lead in the fourth for good. The victory, however, didn’t come without a huge loss. The Steelers dynamic linebacker, Ryan Shazir went down with a spinal cord injury. His loss to the defense is transformative. With Shazir out, expect the Steelers’ defense to take a step back. Facing a familiar divisional foe in the Ravens, expect a close physical battle between two fierce rivals.
The Ravens are coming off a dominant performance against the Detroit Lions. Baltimore’s offense came alive as the Ravens scored 44 points. Currently, the Ravens are in the last wildcard spot. A win against Pittsburgh would greatly increase their odds of making the playoffs this season. After a very slow start to this season, the Ravens have rattled off three straight victories and won four of their last five.
On Sunday Night Football, the Steelers will need to overcome the loss of two key players.
Against the Bengals, the Steelers not only lost their best linebacker but also a top offensive weapon in Juju Smith-Schuster. The loss of Smith-Schuster due to a suspension will certainly hurt quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Smith-Schuster has become a big playmaker for this Steelers’ team and his absence will certainly hurt the offense.
Last week against the Bengals, Roethlisberger completed 24 of 40 pass attempts for a total of 290 yards. Big Ben’s top target, Antonio Brown had 8 catches on 16 receptions for a total of 101 yards. Brown’s production will make the loss of Smith-Schuster only a minor setback, however, the Steelers are at their best when Roethlisberger has all his weapons to spread the ball around.
Running back, Le’Veon Bell is having another strong campaign. Last week against the Bengals, Bell rushed for 76 yards as well as having over a hundred receiving yards. On the season, Bell leads the NFL in rushing. The one thing that’s unusual, however, is Bell’s yards per carry. Bell is averaging 3.9 yards per carry this season. Last season through 12 games, Bell averaged 4.9 yards per season. If Bell’s current production remains at this pace, then Bell will have averaged his lowest yards per attempt since his 2013 campaign.
What to expect from the Ravens?
Baltimore has rebounded from their early season struggles. This strong turnaround is the result of their consistent effort on defense. Baltimore’s defense has kept them in games all season. The Ravens’ defense ranks third in the league in terms of points allowed. By comparison, the Steelers’ rank 5th, according to NFL Stats.
The Ravens’ defense is their identity, but it’s the play of their offense that’s allowed them to make a run at a wild-card spot. Last week against the Lions, Joe Flacco completed 23 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Wide-receiver Mike Williams caught five of his eight targets for 116 yards.
Not only did the passing attack wake up, but the ground game came alive for over 110 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon. Against a Steelers’ defense that got gashed by the Bengals for 130 yards on 22 carries, expect the Ravens to run the ball with Alex Collins leading the attack.
Steelers vs Ravens Betting Lines
Despite their injuries, the Steelers remain the better team in this matchup. The AFC North is a brutal division. As demonstrated by the Bengals in last weeks’ contest, familiarity creates a more balanced playing field. When Baltimore and Pittsburgh face off team records mean nothing. Expect a brutal back and forth game. The Steelers are the better team and will get the victory, but the Ravens will keep this game close. Expect field goals to decide this game. Give Pittsburgh the edge, but Baltimore will cover the spread.
Play: Ravens +4.5 @ BetOnline.ag