Thursday Night Football:
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Preview and Prediction

 

Thursday Night Football
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) at Baltimore Ravens (0-1)
8:25 pm ET, September 11, 2014
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Airs on CBS and NFL Network
Ravens favored by 2½

Last week Pittsburgh seemed to be cruising to an easy blowout win, leading Cleveland 27-3 at halftime. In the second half the Browns utilized an uptempo no-huddle offense which the Steelers were unable to stop, and the game appeared to be headed to overtime before Ben Roethlisberger looked like his old vintage self, leading the Steelers to a game-winning fourth quarter drive.

Baltimore lost 23-16 at home to Cincinnati last week in a game that had far more negatives than positives for the Ravens. Baltimore’s poor clock management at the end of the half cost them a field goal, their receivers dropped six passes, Bernard Pierce averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and was benched after losing a fumble, and Joe Flacco threw 27 incomplete passes. The Ravens called 65 pass plays compared to just 20 running plays, an imbalance that is going to allow opponent pass rushers to tee off on Flacco and create unfavorable down and distance situations. While he Baltimore defense did Cincinnati to settle for six field goal attempts, they created zero turnovers, zero sacks, allowed Andy Dalton to pass for over 300 yards, and with less than five minutes to play the secondary broke down for a game-winning 77-yard touchdown pass reception.

Neither team’s defense distinguished themselves last week, but Pittsburgh did look better on offense. Running Back Le’Veon Bell had a whopping 197 yards from scrimmage, Roethlisberger completed 68% of his passes and threw for 365 yards, and wide receiver Antonio Brown had 116 yards and a touchdown.

I just don’t see how Baltimore can be properly and focused on this game in a short week, with the ongoing Ray Rice distraction. It doesn’t get any easier for the Ravens either, as they play five of their next seven games on the road. Nine of the last ten regular season games games between these two rivals have been decided by three points or less, but I’m not expecting that trend to continue; a blowout victory by the Steelers would not be shocking at all.

Pick • Steelers 27, Ravens 20
Steelers +2½ (two units)
Over 43½

 

 

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