SNF - Ravens at Steelers
December 7, 2017
By Micah Roberts
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The Baltimore Ravens (7-5 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) stroll into Western Pennsylvania on Sunday night with a three-game winning streak and look to keep their hold on the sixth and final AFC playoff spot. The division leading Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS) have won seven straight, but the last couple victories could have been easily been losses. In three of their past four they have won by exactly three points and they've gone 1-3 against the spread during this span.
Baltimore's defense leads the NFL in takeaways while Pittsburgh's offense has the NFL's top rusher in Le'Veon Bell (1,057 yds) and top wide receiver with Antonio Brown (1,296 yds). The Steelers opened as high as six-point favorites at Las Vegas sports books for this matchup thatis a huge game for both teams.
The Ravens are fighting for their playoff lives knowing -- three games behind Pittsburgh -- if they do make the playoffs the journey will begin on the road. So they may as well start getting it done in Pittsburgh, a place they've had some success at recently winning two of the last three visits (3-0 ATS). Plus Baltimore has a trio of 6-6 teams (Bills, Chargers, Raiders) nipping at their heels in the AFC playoff race.
Baltimore's next three on the schedule after Pittsburgh -- at Cleveland, Colts and Bengals -- are winnable games they'll be favored in. If the Ravens can sneak out of Sunday with a win and quarterback Joe Flacco doesn't lose the game, we all have to seriously start considering the Ravens and their defense as a viable candidate to come out of the AFC and dare I say, win the Super Bowl. We all know that great defenses win Super Bowls and the Baltimore unit has all the credentials to almost making it great.
Pittsburgh is fighting for home field advantage, tied with New England (10-2). An angle to think about regarding Sunday night's game is the Steelers getting the Patriots at Heinz Field next week. That stuff is worth much more to the number in college sports as professionals 'take one game at a time', but this is a big look-ahead spot that can't be ignored. However, they also hate the Ravens who they face twice a season.
The Steelers captured the Week 4 meeting in Baltimore with a 26-9 win as road favorites (-3.5).
So the question you have to ask yourself this week is whether those recent three-point Pittsburgh wins against very mediocre teams is who they are, or are they just in cruise control and not showing too much of their hand. The Steelers are No. 2 in the NFL with 40 sacks and Flacco isn't the most graceful under pressure but he's been sacked only 23 times this season. And this next statement is so cliche, but it's so true: whoever wins the turnover battle wins the game. Or at least make it a -250 favorite.
William Hill and Wynn sports books are showing Steelers -6, Caesars Palace is showing -5 and everyone else is -5.5. This is a range of numbers that gives the bookmaker an ability to move fast regardless of threshold because 5 and 5.5 are dead numbers. The question is whether or not books are forced to move past -6 to -6.5. By William Hill and Wynn being there already, they either have money now on the Steelers or they're certain they'll be heavy that way by kickoff. The other books want to see the Steelers cash first before moving knowing the public isn't feeling the Steelers right now after two straight three-point wins and two straight non-covers.
CG Technology books opened the Steelers -6 for this game back in May. The best current Steelers money-line is -230 at Station Casinos and the best Ravens money-line is +210 at CG Tech and William Hill.
The total is set at 43.5 at most books.
IS JOE FLACCO REALLY THAT BAD?
In a matter of three weeks, Joe Flacco has seen his QB rating increase up to 77.1 to take him from the No. 31 rating to the No. 28 rating. There are 27 other starting QBs in the league with at least an 80 rating. He hasn't thrown an interception in his last two games and comes off his best game of the season against the Lions where he threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns. If this were the 1970's, completing 65 percent for 2,144 yards with 11 TDs and 11 picks wouldn't be frowned upon like it is now in this fantasy football stat driven era. But to give him some credit, he's simply doing what head coach John Harbaugh wants and that's stay conservative. Flacco has fumbled five times, but hasn't turned it over yet. Roethlisberger has way better numbers, but also has more picks than Flacco with 13. Shaky at first this season, Flacco is doing his job much better lately.
Pittsburgh has the fourth ranked total defense allowing 294 yards per game and 17.8 points per game while Baltimore is seventh, allowing 311 YPG and 17.3 PPG, but the major differences between the two is the most opportunistic defense and the other not creating what a top-5 defense should, The Ravens lead the league in takeaways with 29 and their 20 interceptions is four more than the next best (Jacksonville and Philadelphia). They've only had 15 turnovers (11 picks from Flacco) themselves making their +14 turnover Margin the NFL's best. Pittsburgh has 17 turnovers and have a -1 turnover ratio, ranking 19th in the league.
-- Baltimore is 10-2 ATS in last 12 vs. AFC North.
-- Baltimore has watched the 'over' go 4-1 in its last five road games.
-- Pittsburgh is 12-4 ATS in last 16 December games.
-- Pittsburgh has watched the 'under' go 35-17-1 in its past 53 games.
The Steelers went into Baltimore in Week 4 as a 3.5-point favorite and the total stayed 'under' (42). The Steelers jumped out to a 19-0 lead and that was it, basically. They ran Le'Veon Bell 35 times for 144 yards and 2 TDs, which game them 35:29 minutes of possession edge. The Steelers cover was unusual lately in this rivalry. Baltimore is now 4-1-1 ATS in the past six meetings and the 'under' is 4-1-1 in those games.
SUNDAY NIGHT PROPS - per Las Vegas Westgate SuperBook
First Score Will Be? Touchdown -145, Any Other Score +125
Total Completions by Joe Flacco: 21.5
Total TD Passes & Interceptions Combined by Joe Flacco: 2 OV -140
Total Rushing yards by Alex Collins: 59.5
Total Gross Passing yards by Ben Roethlisberger: 264.5
Total TD passes by Ben Roethlisberger: 2 UN -135
Total Rushing Yards by LeVeon Bell: 85.5
Total QB Sacks Both Teams Combined: 4.5
WEEK 15 EARLY LINES
The Ravens will be the next team to try an avoid the Browns bullet. Some team is eventually going to take a hit by the Browns, likely at Cleveland, before the season is done. With Baltimore's offense not being so stellar, this would seem like the perfect spot for the Browns to win. On Tuesday, the Westgate SuperBook released their early lines with Baltimore being a 6.5-point favorite at Cleveland. Keep in mind that the Ravens are Cleveland's worst nightmare every year because the logo reminds all fans that two Super Bowls were won by the team that moved from Cleveland in 1995.
While the Ravens try to keep their playoff hopes alive -- and keep their dignity -- in Cleveland, the Steelers get a visit from the Patriots in what could be deemed as the Game of the Year so far. Home field throughout the playoffs is at stake. The Westgate wanted to post the Patriots -3, but instead made them -2.5 -120 to see if any bettor was willing to lay it, and there was. But then someone immediately took +3 -110. The Westgate is now at -3 EV.
With four games to go and the Steelers having a three-game lead over the Ravens, the AFC North is still not settled yet, but the Westgate thought otherwise and chose not to offer odds on it any more. The Westgate was correct about the order of finish based on odds release in last May with Pittsburgh the 5/8 favorite followed by Baltimore (11/4), Cincinnati (7/2) and Cleveland (100/1).
SUPER BOWL ODDS
The Steelers were supposed to be where they are right now and came in as one of the 10/1 co-second choices to win the Super Bowl along with the Cowboys. They have been bet down to 7/2 odds, which now has them the second favorite behind the Patriots (2/1). The Eagles and Vikings are both 6/1 as the co-third choice to win. The Westgate throught highly of the Ravens coming in to the season and posted them at 25/1 odds. But now, even at 7-5 and control of their playoff destiny, they're now 80/1 to win it all.
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