Steelers vs. Ravens Odds & Picks: How To Bet Wednesday’s NFL Action
Getty Images. PIctured: Robert Griffin III, T.J. Watt
Steelers vs. Ravens Odds
Well, we’ll finally get to see the Ravens and Steelers face off for a second time this season. Originally scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, this game has since been postponed three times to almost a week later, giving us some rare Wednesday afternoon NFL.
We first have to start with who won’t be suiting up for the Ravens.
Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson is out, which means Robert Griffin III will get the nod under center. His most recent start came in last season’s finale against none other than these Steelers in an ugly win for the Ravens in Baltimore.
The losses don’t stop there for the Ravens offense: They’ll be without tight end Mark Andrews, wide receiver Willie Snead, fullback Patrick Ricard as well as starting offensive linemen Patrick Mekari, Matt Skura and Will Holden. It sounds like running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins could be activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list and eligible to play, but they would have to travel to Pittsburgh on the day of the game.
Don’t forget that the Ravens already lost All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley for the season to injury in addition to tight end Nick Boyle, who is a critical part of the running game. Offensive lineman Tyre Phillips did just come off injured reserve, so that’d be a boost if he suits up.
Regardless, this offense hadn’t been firing on all cylinders, and now it’s a decimated unit — particularly along the offensive line. Baltimore could even have a rookie starting at center in Trystan Colon-Castillo, who has never played a snap in the NFL. That would spell doom for RGIII against one of the league’s best defensive lines, especially when you consider that the Ravens practiced for the first time in longer than a week on Tuesday.
The situation is a little better on the defensive side of the ball, starting at cornerback with a healthy Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. Jimmy Smith, who has graded out as one of the better corners in the league so far this season, is questionable with an ankle injury.
However, things are a mess up front without Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams (reserve/COVID-19 list). The run defense is just not the same without that duo eating up blocks for an undersized linebacker group. Depth pieces Jihad Ward and Justin Madubuike won’t be available, either. The Ravens will also be without the services of Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee off the edge.
When healthy, Baltimore is a top-three defense. However, given the projected starters for Wednesday, it’s merely an above-average unit that will be very vulnerable against the run.
The Steelers are the NFL’s sole remaining undefeated team.
We knew coming into the season that they would have a dominant defense, starting with a ferocious line that’s No. 3 in adjusted line yards and No. 2 in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders.
However, some of their underlying defensive numbers are a bit inflated after facing one of the NFL’s easiest schedules. The Steelers have not only faced just one above-average offense (Tennessee), but they’ve also benefited from facing three backup quarterbacks in their 10 victories: Jake Luton, Jeff Driskel and Garrett Gilbert.
The Steelers will now face two more backup QBs over their next two games in RG3 and Alex Smith. That said, this is still a top-three defense — just keep that in mind as it may create some perception bias in the market.
A team can be very good and also overrated in the market. Both statements are not mutually exclusive.
On the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh’s offense has been average. The offensive line is nowhere near as good as we’ve become accustomed to seeing in recent years in the Steel City, ranking an abysmal 29th in adjusted line yards.
From the perspective of Football Outsiders’ DVOA, Pittsburgh’s offense ranks 15th overall and 27th in rush offense. The Steelers’ early-down success numbers are also a bit concerning. Ben Roethlisberger has been better over the past two weeks, but that came against two of the league’s worst defenses in Cincinnati and Jacksonville, the latter of which was without all of its starting cornerbacks.
And similar to the defense, the Steelers offense has benefited from the 32nd-ranked schedule of opposing defenses. Here are my rankings of the units they’ve faced so far this season: Third, 11th, 13th, 16th, 23rd, 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st — that means they’ve faced five of the six worst defenses in the league through 10 games.
The only top-10 defense the Steelers have faced was these same Ravens in their first meeting of the season. Despite pulling out a 28-24 victory, Baltimore held Pittsburgh to only 221 yards and out-gained the Steelers by more than 230 total yards. The yards per play differential was also in the Ravens’ favor at 5.8 to 4.4.
Bottom line: The Steelers are a legit Super Bowl contender, but the offense needs to show more progress if they’re going to compete with the upper echelon of the NFL come January. The defense is already championship caliber.
It’s worth noting that Pittsburgh will be without running back James Conner and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt due to COVID-19.
From a power ratings perspective, I started off the season with the Ravens atop the league along with the Chiefs, with both about six points better than the Steelers on a neutral field. While I have kept the Chiefs right around where they started, I have continued to drop the Ravens as their offense continued to struggle due to injuries, underperformance and the league seemingly having made adjustments on how to defend Lamar Jackson and the unique offense of coordinator Greg Roman.
Meanwhile, after getting off to a 10-0 start, the Steelers have steadily climbed my power ratings and have recently passed the Ravens. Now Pittsburgh resides in my top three. However, that doesn’t mean the Steelers still can’t be overrated in the market. Plus, the difference between these two clubs is still less than a point on a neutral field.
With my average home-field advantage rated as worth around only one point this season (and even less for division games), I initially saw value in the Ravens at +3.5 on the open.
Well, that line went to +4.5 after Dobbins and Ingram initially went on the COVID-19 list. The line then jumped to +8.5 when news broke of Jackson joining them. More names were subsequently added, and the line climbed to its current level of Steelers -10.5.
That’s basically right where I have the line now after adjusting for all of the starters being out and lack of practice time, so I don’t see any value in the spread. And who knows what we will get from the Ravens? We don’t really have any meaningful data set when it comes to these situations.
We did see the Titans blow out the Bills in a game that got pushed back due to COVID-19 issues earlier this season. Tennessee got only one practice in and had a number of key players missing, although it still had its starting quarterback.
On the other hand, Denver completed only one pass without any available quarterbacks on its roster this past Sunday against.
Given the matchup, it’s hard to see the Ravens offense doing much against this Steelers defense, so I actually sided with the under here. The Ravens defense will show up, and I still see issues with this Steelers offense, which has struggled to run the ball, which is really where you can attack this shorthanded Baltimore defense. The Ravens can certainly match up with Steelers receivers.
There’s a lot of guesswork that went into this one, but I felt comfortable placing a small bet on the under, though I wouldn’t bet it below 41. I don’t love the play given how much uncertainty there is around how this the matchup will unfold, so I would understand if anyone simply wanted to stay away from this mess or look for an in-game angle.
PICK: Under 42.5