Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Ravens at Steelers (-5, 34, Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook)
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Ravens at Steelers (-5, 34, Las Vegas Hilton SuperBook)
This game is a tough spot for the host Steelers (2-1, 1-2 ATS) who are nursing injuries to stars Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder) and Willie Parker (sprained left knee) as well as Pro Bowl DE Casey Hampton (groin sprain) and DE Brett Keisel (calf). All are expected to sit out tonight’s game which may resemble a street brawl with shoulder pads at times.
Pittsburgh’s arch-rivals in the AFC North, the Ravens (2-0, 2-0 ATS), have dominated the series of late, winning four of the last five meetings including the last one (27-21), meaning the trend player would have to take a good look at the Ravens – the gamblers certainly have as the game has moved from 7 to 5 – and maybe even consider backing them with a money line bet. In casinos in Sin City, Wynn has the highest return (+200) on the Ravens SU at this writing with all others showing a +190 for the underdog.
This battle of the two best defenses in the NFL – Baltimore is No. 1, yielding 161.5 YPG while Pittsburgh is No. 2, giving up 234 YPG – will obviously be fairly low scoring but with the total bet down to 34 as of Sunday, the number seems a bit too low with a defensive or special teams score sure to send fear through the heart of any under bettor.
But the early season data – maybe not enough yet for a true statistical reflection – seems to back the logic of the under player as the Ravens have allowed just 10 PPG and zero rushing TDs while the more-hyped Steelers defense has allowed just 12.7 PPG and only one rushing score.
What to do? Considering the Steelers are saying they will run the ball a lot – read rookie Rashard Mendenhall – to try and protect Big Ben at QB, and that Baltimore is undefeated, owns the Black and Gold recently and can set the tone in the division with a win, the pick seems pretty simple. And should Roethlisberger get hurt, the homeboys will be forced to go with Byron Leftwich – and I’ll take a rookie like Joe Flacco running a conservative offense anyday against a scared Leftwich whose best days are way behind him.
If people in the Steel City are scared of this match-up, then maybe you should fade the fear and take the points. And 5 will probably seem like a lot in this critical game where a big mistake or an injury could turn the tide and reveal to the public which one here is really is the better team. And don’t forget the money line if you’re feeling really strong. RAVENS +5.
BONUS: (MAKE-UP GAME) Tigers (Garcia) at White Sox (Floyd), 11:05 a.m. PT
SELECTION: WHITE SOX.