Steelers vs. Ravens Odds, Picks, Predictions: How To Bet This NFL Week 18 Spread, Plus A T.J. Watt Prop
Joe Sargent/Getty Images. Pictured: T.J. Watt.
- The latest Steelers vs. Ravens odds continue to list Baltimore as a 3.5-point favorite at home in this NFL Week 18 showdown.
- But with Pittsburgh playing for the chance to sneak into the playoff picture, should Ben Roethlisberger and Co. really be underdogs?
- Our analyst breaks down this matchup below, complete with his picks and predictions for Sunday's game.
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
One of the best rivalries in the NFL renews when the Pittsburgh Steelers head to Baltimore to face the Ravens in their regular-season finale, with a playoff berth possibly on the line.
Neither team can do it on its own, and there will be a lot of scoreboard watching in Baltimore since a Colts victory over the lowly Jaguars just about knocks both teams out of the playoffs. A Colts victory eliminates the Steelers entirely, while the Ravens would need a Dolphins win over the Patriots, plus a Raiders win over the Chargers to still have a chance.
If the Jags somehow spring the upset, though, this game becomes pivotal. Any Steelers win sends Pittsburgh to the playoffs in that scenario, while the Ravens would be headed to the postseason with a win, plus victories by the Pats and Raiders.
Clear as mud? Not really.
But what we do know is that this game will matter regardless of the scoreboard watching, because these teams hate each other, and these games are just about always close. Pittsburgh won 20-19 a month ago. The Steelers swept last season too, by five and four points. The five games before that included an overtime win and a one-point victory. Nine of the last 13 matchups have been one-score affairs.
When the Ravens and Steelers play, NFL fans know what to expect: good old-fashioned, black-and-blue football — and probably a close game all the way.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Steelers vs. Ravens Injury Report
- LB Buddy Johnson (foot): Out
- DE Isaiah Buggs (illness): Out
- OT Dan Moore Jr. (ankle): Doubtful
- QB Lamar Jackson (ankle): Out
- CB Anthony Averett (ribs/chest): Out
- OLB Odafe Oweh (foot): Doubtful
- G Ben Powers (foot): Questionable
- WR Devin Duvernay (ankle/knee): Questionable
Steelers vs. Ravens Matchup
|Steelers Offense||DVOA Rank||Ravens Defense|
|Steelers Defense||DVOA Rank||Ravens Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Steelers Defense Must Win Game
The Steelers are coming off an emotional Monday night victory in Ben Roethlisberger’s last home game ever at Heinz Field. Big Ben was far from perfect but did enough, and T.J. Watt had a monster four-sack game to lead Pittsburgh to victory in a throwback win.
It was Pittsburgh’s first win this season by more than one score, and it was one of the Steelers’ best defensive performances of the year. The truth is that this defense has struggled and looked nothing like the Steel Curtain at times. Teams have run all over the Steelers this season, and Pittsburgh ranks just 27th in run defense DVOA. The pass defense has been better, but the overall defensive effort has been lackluster and average at best.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you see why. T.J. Watt is likely to win Defensive Player of the Year, but he missed games in Week 3 and 11. The Steelers were blown out in both, and that Week 11 loss to the Chargers, 41-37, was the team’s worst defensive performance of the season. Star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick also missed that game, and so did the team’s top corner, Joe Haden. Haden missed Weeks 11 through 14, and the Steelers allowed 34.3 PPG without him. Star linebacker Devin Bush missed the 36-10 Chiefs loss in Week 15 on the COVID list.
Injuries and absences are part of the game, but this team was built around its defense, and its five worst defensive performances of the season came with one of those four defenders missing. In six games without at least one of Watt, Bush, Fitzpatrick or Haden, the Steelers were 1-5 with 32.8 PPG and 389 yards allowed per game. But check out the other 10 games with all four out there: 18.8 PPG and 342 yards per game. Quite a difference, huh? The Steelers went 7-2-1 in those games.
All four Steelers should be ready to go for Week 18, and that bodes well against a Baltimore team starting its backup quarterback.
Can Pittsburgh score? That’s been the bigger problem this season. Roethlisberger is playing in his last regular-season game ever and has been a check-down king this year, and he’s a statue in the pocket at this point. The Steelers did get some huge news on Friday as star WR Diontae Johnson was cleared from the COVID list.
Johnson and Chase Claypool are this team’s best offensive weapons, are able to win balls one-on-one, and they can take advantage of a bad Ravens secondary. They’ll have to as the run game continues to struggle. Rookie running back Najee Harris is a workhorse but can only do so much behind a shoddy line.
The Steelers are scoring only 20.4 PPG, just 21st in the NFL. This team isn’t built to win a shootout. If they’re going to get one last win for Ben, it will have to be because of the defense.
Ravens Limp To Final Game
The Ravens’ season was doomed from the start. The team lost four starters to torn ACLs in the preseason, and they’ve never really gotten healthy.
The Baltimore secondary has been in shambles all season. Marcus Peters missed the whole year, and Marlon Humphrey is out now too. The depth has also been compromised. The Ravens rank bottom five in the NFL in defensive DVOA. Over the last seven weeks, Baltimore is dead last in EPA per play defensively, and they’re dead last in passing EPA allowed too. It’s been ugly, and nothing like the Ravens of old. Baltimore has been great against the run, but opponents need not bother running when they can pass all game.
The offense has struggled too.
Over the past eight games, the Ravens have only cleared 22 points once. Baltimore is 2-6 during that stretch, starting with a memorably tepid performance in Miami in a Thursday night loss in early November. Since then, the team has eked out one-score victories over Andy Dalton and Baker Mayfield and lost the rest.
Really, it’s remarkable that the team is alive for the playoffs at all. The Ravens have lost five in a row, four of them in heartbreaking fashion. They have a trio of one-point losses since Dec. 5, plus a two-point loss to boot. John Harbaugh has his guys fighting hard all the way, but they just can’t get over the finish line.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Lamar Jackson remains out. Jackson was a one-man show for this offense, but he’ll miss his fourth consecutive game. Tyler Huntley has been good in relief, but he’s a backup for a reason, and Jackson is a former MVP.
Baltimore hasn’t run the ball well with its ancient collection of running backs, and star receiver Marquise Brown has gone missing over the second half of the season. Mark Andrews has been old faithful at tight end, but he isn’t enough. The offensive line has been banged up all season too and has become a serious problem. The Ravens are averaging only 19.1 PPG over these last eight. It’s just not enough.
Steelers vs. Ravens Predictions
Early in the week, it looked like the Steelers might face a COVID scare, but now that the key names are getting cleared, the bets are coming in on Pittsburgh. Baltimore was as much as a six-point favorite early this week, but the line has been cut nearly in half after the news that Lamar Jackson is officially out.
Pittsburgh is still an underdog, though, and bettors should know by now that Mike Tomlin is very dangerous as a dog. After Week 5, Tomlin’s Steelers are 35-14-1 against the spread (ATS) as underdogs, covering an incredible 71% of the time. They’re also 29-21 straight up in those games, giving moneyline bettors a robust 46% return on investment in that spot.
For whatever reason, Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger are pure magic as underdogs, and that includes 5-3 ATS this season and 4-4 outright in those games. Roethlisberger is also 5-2 ATS in regular-season finales since 2010. When he’s out there because there’s something to play for, he’s been one of the most profitable QBs in the league.
This line has dropped, but it’s still just barely above the key number. And in this rivalry, that’s really all we need to know. Since 2005, when either team is more than a field-goal favorite in this rivalry, the underdog is 17-2 ATS. Seventeen and two!! Pittsburgh is 5-0 itself in that spot, with three wins outright. These teams just almost always play close games.
We have to back Big Ben and the Steelers here one last time in an underdog spot. The history in this rivalry means we have to love Steelers +3.5, even after losing a couple points of value. And it means we should play the moneyline too.
But we might be able to do better than just the moneyline. At BetMGM, we can bet on Pittsburgh to win by 1-6 points at +375. Seven of the Steelers’ eight wins have been by one score, and the Ravens have five losses by 1-6 points, plus 11 of their 16 games overall. The total for this game is 41, so books are expecting a low-scoring game. It makes total sense for the Steelers to win a close one.
There’s a prop angle worth playing too. T.J. Watt is at 21.5 sacks after Monday night’s outburst, and that puts him one away from tying the all-time sack record. You can bet on Watt to break the record at +165 at BetMGM. Watt only needs 1.5 sacks to set the record, and with 21.5 sacks in 14 games, he’s averaging 1.54 per game. He also had 3.5 sacks the first game against Baltimore, plus three in two games against the Ravens last season. With no Ronnie Stanley for Baltimore, there’s no stopping Watt from this record.
I’ll bet on another big Watt performance, and I’ll bank on the Steelers’ healthy defense to come through for Big Ben in his final regular-season game. I love the Steelers on the road here, and I’ll bet them to cover the spread and win outright. With a little help from Jacksonville, maybe we’ll get one more Big Ben game yet.
Pick: Steelers +3.5 | Bet to: +3
Bonus Pick: T.J. Watt to Set Single-Season Sack Record (+165) at BetMGM
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