Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3 SU, 4-3 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (3-4 SU, 2-5 ATS)
Week 9 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, November 6, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: MT&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: PIT +2.5/BAL -2.5
Over/Under Total: 43.5
In AFC North action on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers come to MT&T Bank Stadium to face the Baltimore Ravens. Both teams are in dire need of a positive development. Baltimore has squandered a 3-0 start with four straight losses. After back-to-back road losses, they are back at home looking to get back to the .500 mark—a bitter pill to swallow for a team that started so well. But the Steelers are also in trouble, now without Ben Roethlisberger and on the heels of two straight losses. The onetime top conference contender now looks to just keep their season together. Both teams are coming off a bye week and look to get the remainder of the season on the right track on Sunday.
With Big Ben out for a big stretch of last season, we know more or less what the Steelers are capable of without him. Let's just say it's a lot less than when Roethlisberger is behind center. Big Ben is adept at putting the entire offense to use, from his top back in Le'Veon Bell to his stacked cast of ball-catchers. With Landry Jones in there behind center, it's like having a bus driver behind the wheel of a Formula One Ferrari. And that's not to take shots at Jones, a capable player who did some good things last season in Roethlisberger's absence. But as evidenced by last season and this year, the Steelers' offense is a shadow of its best without Roethlisberger in there.
The Steelers have scored a combined 31 points in their last two games and we're taking about an offense that could put that up in one half when they're at their best. They will be relying a lot on Le'Veon Bell. And when you have the best back in the game, not everything is a lost cause. He is also a valued target in the passing game. Jones has some talented pieces with which to work, including one of the best in Antonio Brown, along with surging Sammie Coates, and a slew of other ball-catchers that can make an impact. But without Big Ben, this offense has become anything but bankable. That doesn't mean they will never be good. And maybe the bye came at the right time for extra preparation for Jones to bring the most out of this offense. I'd expect this offense to look better than they did in their 27-16 home loss to the Pats in their last game.
The Steelers defense also looks to be heading in the wrong direction, especially against the run. In their last two losses, opposing running backs like Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount have been feasting on this defense. With a pass-defense that has been shaky all season, that's a big problem. Last season, the defense looked to be shaping up into one of those vintage hard-edged Pittsburgh defenses. Injuries haven't helped, but inconsistent play has also been a major issue
The Ravens were looking good at 3-0, which is now a distant memory in lieu of four straight losses. On one hand, they've all been one-score games, so they're not that far off, but the drop-off in play has been palpable. No one is really shining on this squad, least of which QB Joe Flacco, who has been largely ineffective. He has just two TD throws in his last five games. He hasn't been terribly accurate. And with a pretty thin cast of playmakers, injuries have done just enough to put them into a funk. Leading rusher Terrance West is banged up, as is top aerial threat Steve Smith, Sr. (questionable). The line is banged up, as well, which hasn't helped keep Flacco out of trouble.
There are some weapons if Flacco, the line, and the run-game can keep moving forward. Mike Wallace has been reborn to some extent in this offense working with the big arm of Flacco. Dennis Pitta has reestablished his worth as a playmaking tight end. But the play of Kamar Aiken hasn't matched his form of last season. Breshad Periman shows signs, but has not come all that close to fulfilling his first-round status of two years ago. We see a lot of underachieving on this offense and that can't be good.
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The Baltimore defense has kept it together decently despite massive personnel issues across all phases. They have been missing key pieces like Shareece Wright, Terrell Suggs, and CJ Mosley, with Ladrarius Webb questionable. And that was after losing pieces like Elvis Dumervil, Matt Elam, and others. And still, they are giving up under 20 points a game, while being 4th against the run and 6th against the pass.
This is a tough game to gauge with both teams really needing a positive development. Though Pittsburgh has the most visible injury with Big Ben out of action, the Steelers might be more intact overall than the Ravens. The Ravens, even with Flacco healthy, are a tricky team to figure out, as their wide-ranging results attest. But the one certain thing in this equation is the diminished state of the Steelers' offense. Combined with a home Baltimore defense and their growing urgency, I see Baltimore getting it done at home.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Baltimore Ravens minus 2.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!