The Baltimore Ravens have lost three of their last four games and dropped behind Cleveland in the AFC North standings. All the questions surrounding their slumbering offense and vulnerable defense can be laid to rest with a win over division rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night. But if things weren’t bad enough, the Ravens shut down practice earlier in the week after COVID came calling. That’s not how you want to prepare for an undefeated opponent in a short week. Baltimore’s current slide began with a Week 8 loss to the Steelers, 28-24, with Lamar Jackson turning the ball over four times. Pittsburgh opened as a 5.5-point favorite on the NFL betting line for this rematch. Bookmaker.eu is offering a generous welcome bonus (max bonus $1600).
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Date and Time: Thursday, November 26, 2020, 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
NFL Odds: Pittsburgh -5.5, O/U 45
Ravens at Steelers TV Coverage: FOX/NFL Network
Assuming we even have a game oddsmakers are siding with the Steelers, positioning them as a 3-point favorite on the opening line. News out of Baltimore earlier in the week was grim with a COVID outbreak forcing a number or players out of action and shutting down the team’s facility. As a result the line was wagered to -5.5 in favor of the home team. Times sure have changed over the last few weeks. When the teams met in Week 8 the Ravens closed as a 4-point home favorite. They lost that game outright 28-24 helping the road team in the series improve to 6-1-1 ATS over the last eight game. The Ravens have dropped two straight and three of their last four games moving to 6-4 SU and 4-6 ATS. Pittsburgh has payouts in its last two games and is 8-2 ATS overall.
After posting 14 wins and the NFL’s top playoff seed a season ago, the Ravens are hoping just to stay in the postseason hunt. They are one of nine AFC teams heading into Week 12 with at least six victories. Even with the addition of one extra team, the playoffs are no guarantee. The schedule does ease up considerably after Thursday with games against Dallas, Cleveland, Jacksonville, the Giants and Bengals. But the Ravens better hope it’s not too late.
One of the issues facing the Ravens is their offense, or lack of it. The unit led the NFL in scoring last season and started off well enough. However, in four games since their bye they haven’t scored more than 24 points. Jackson has thrown for more than 200 yards just twice in the last eight outings and will likely have to put it up with running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins on the shelf due to COVID. Baltimore’s NFL-best ground attack is down to Gus Edwards and Justice Hill for Thursday. Edwards has compiled 376 rushing yards while justice, primarily a special-teamer, has no carries.
Defensively the Ravens were gouged on the ground giving up 173 yards in each of the last two games. The absence of run stoppers Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams was a big reason why. Williams hit the COVID/reserve list and Campbell is questionable. Despite giving up 53 points total in the last two games, the Ravens are third in scoring defense allowing 19.5 points.
Now that the Steelers have reached double-figure wins without a defeat I guess we can start bringing up the 1972 Miami Dolphins comparison. There’s still a long way to go, but winning 10 straight to open a season is quite an accomplishment. A lot of things have to fall your way and that’s been the case. The earlier win over Baltimore is an example. The Steelers were outgained 457-221 in total yards, converted 3 of 9 on third down and possessed the football for less than 25 minutes yet they still won 28-24.
Creating turnovers and turning them into points is a big reason why. Pittsburgh forced Jackson to cough it up four times with Robert Spillane’s interception being returned for a touchdown. Last week the Steelers got a pair of interceptions each from Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds while holding the Jags to 206 total yards. The Steelers lead the NFL with 21 takeaways and a plus-12 turnover margin.
While the defense is tearing it up Ben Roethlisberger has remained healthy, vying for comeback player of the year while also entering the MVP conversation. Big Ben’s fourth quarter touchdown pass to Chase Claypool was the eventual game-winner in Week 8. The aerial attack could be hampered with JuJu Smith-Schuster sustaining a foot injury in last week’s game.
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At some point the Steelers luck is going to run out. There’s no doubt they’re a good team, but nobody saw this coming. And the Ravens have to get things straightened out which has me leaning toward the visitors and the points. Recent trends also favor Baltimore with the road teams success and the underdog covering nine of the last 10 meetings.
NFL Score Prediction: Ravens 27, Pittsburgh 24
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– Phil Simon, Gambling911.com