A game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers is typically a must-see game in the NFL, with both teams being AFC North rivals as well as perennial contenders. This season sees each of them on very different trajectories than they have been in the past, which makes this game an interesting one, but for reasons you might not expect. The point spread is currently favoring the Ravens at -2.5. You can check out the rest of the best bets against the spread in week 4 right here.
Thursday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Point Spread: Ravens -2.5 Over/under: 44 Date: Thursday, Oct 1, 8:25pm ET Location:Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Just two years removed from winning the Super Bowl, no one expected the Ravens to begin the season 0-3 in 2015, but that’s exactly where they are. Baltimore has long been identified as a defensive power house, but gave up 448 yards of total offense last week in their loss to the Oakland Raiders. This is odd given that the Ravens all but shut down the Broncos in Week 1. Against the Steelers, they’ll catch a bit of a break, as Ben Roethlisberger will be out of the line up due to a knee injury and will be replaced by Michael Vick. While Vick reduces the threat of the deep strike, the Ravens will still need to tackle better this week if they’re going to stop Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams from big yardage.
The offense has struggled to be consistent as well. Joe Flacco has thrown just four touchdown passes, one for each interception he’s thrown. Flacco should have better luck against Pittsburgh, as the Steelers defense has not looked great, especially the play of the secondary. Expect Baltimore to test the Steelers deep early, targeting Steve Smith who has already caught 25 balls for 349 yards this season. Regardless of their issues, the point spread is favoring Baltimore for this matchup.
Without Big Ben, the Steelers, who are the 2.5 underdogs, are going to need to scale back a lot of what they do on offense. While Vick has proven he’s a capable starter, he lacks the accuracy and pocket awareness that Roethlisberger affords Pittsburgh’s offense. The game plan will be ground heavy, hoping they can take advantage of the soft run defense that the Ravens have displayed so far this season. If the Steelers can find success with Bell and Williams, that will open up a few options for Vick to get more involved, and possibly take some shots downfield to Antonio Brown.
The toughest challenge for Pittsburgh will be in covering Smith, who was a one-man wrecking ball against a very good Cincinnati defense last week. Giving him too much attention, should he get hot, would open up space for Justin Forsett and the rest of the Raven’s stable of running backs to run wild. Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers will rely heavily on this defense to come up big in an important game. If they can get a win without their starting quarterback, it should translate into the coming weeks while they wait for Ben to return.
Thursday Night Football Prediction
Both teams head into this game banged up, which means it’s hard to determine if this will be a typical match up for them. Defense has always won games for both Baltimore and the Steelers, but that hasn’t been the case this season. I expect this one to be a high scoring affair that the Ravens will narrowly escape to earn their first win.