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NFL Betting: Steelers vs. Ravens Thursday Night Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 9/11/2014 3:16:26 PM

The Baltimore Ravens know that since they’re hosting divisional opponents in the first two weeks of the season, they can’t really afford to fall to 0-2. This is a must-have game.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens - Thursday, September 11

These teams figure to play a close game on Thursday, partly because they hate each other and are not likely to give ground, but also because they are so closely matched in general and have a history of playing close games. This is an AFC North grudge match, one in which the level of hitting should be extremely fierce. Some of the harder hits of the 2013 NFL season came from the Ravens’ win over the Steelers on Thanksgiving night.

In the first week of the NFL season, neither the Steelers nor the Ravens played consistently well, but the difference between the teams was that Pittsburgh managed to win, while Baltimore couldn’t. The Steelers blew a 24-point halftime lead to the Cleveland Browns, allowing a 27-3 advantage to turn into a 27-27 tie late in the game. However, the Steelers didn’t panic once Cleveland caught them. They drove downfield for a field goal in the final minutes and pulled out a 30-27 victory. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball well, which was an encouraging sign for a Steeler team whose offensive line was racked by injuries a year ago and could not give Big Ben the pass protection he wanted. If the Steelers can continue to throw the ball consistently, the running game, which was decent on Sunday against the Browns (127 yards), should be able to develop even more as the season continues. The defense’s collapse in the second half against Cleveland is a definite concern, though. The Steelers can’t expect to play one good half and one bad half and steal a win two straight weeks.

For the Ravens, it was a very different opening day compared to what the Steelers experienced. The Ravens played a bad first half and a good second half, while the Steelers were great in the first half and lousy in the second. Baltimore fell behind the Cincinnati Bengals, 15-0, as Cincinnati kicked five field goals before halftime. The Ravens responded with two touchdowns and a field goal in the first 25 minutes of the second half to take a 16-15 lead, but just after the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Baltimore secondary gave way, as Cincinnati star receiver A.J. Green smoked his man for a 77-yard touchdown, giving the Bengals a 23-16 lead. Baltimore’s passing game, with quarterback Joe Flacco, was not able to get a tying touchdown in the final minutes, and the Ravens suffered a tough loss. This game is one the Ravens have to win. Losing to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh is bad enough, but losing to both teams at home would be even more damaging. It’s true that Pittsburgh won and Baltimore lost in week one, but Pittsburgh played a much easier opponent. Expect Baltimore to be more responsive in this game and limit Pittsburgh’s effectiveness on offense.

Pick: Ravens -3

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