Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5,
Preparing to play your fiercest rival on a short week is a
daunting enough task, but the Baltimore Ravens are also dealing
with the fallout from the Ray Rice saga as they get set to host
the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night. Baltimore lost at
Cincinnati in its season opener and faces the prospect of
falling two games behind the Steelers in the AFC North. Tight
games are the norm in the rivalry, with nine of the last 10
regular-season meetings decided by three points or fewer.
Rice’s contract was terminated Monday after videotape from TMZ
surfaced showing the running back knocking out his then-fiancee
with a punch to the head, which had led to a two-game
suspension by the league. “We knew we were going to be without
him anyway for the first two games, so our focus is on the
Steelers and nothing else,” Ravens wideout Torrey Smith said.
“It’s way worse for him than it is for us. We just have to get
ready for the next one.” Pittsburgh blew a 24-point halftime
lead before beating Cleveland on a last-second field goal in
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS, NFL Network.
LINE HISTORY: Most shops opened the Ravens as 3-point
home faves and are now dealing -2.5. The total opened around 42
or 43.5 and is now up to 44 or 44.5 (depending on where you
INJURY REPORT: Steelers – WR Lance Moore
(Questionable, groin), RB Dri Archers (Questionable, ankle).
Ravens – CB Ladarius Webb (Questionable, back).
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Steelers (+1.0) –
Ravens (+2.0) + home field advantage (-3.0) = Ravens -2.0
WEATHER REPORT: Weather forecasts are calling
for 61 percent chance of thunderstorms. Wind will blow to the
east endzone at 6 mph.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “While the game sets up well for
Baltimore with Ravens off the loss and Pittsburgh off the win,
the off-field incident involving Ray Rice is a heavy
distraction.The Black Birds’ 14-1 SU mark at home in games off
a loss is intriguing. The Steelers’ 10-2 ATS record as a dog
with revenge off a win is a strong counter.” Covers
Expert Marc Lawrence.
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “The early Pittsburgh action
is justified. I was preaching ‘sell’ on the Ravens prior to the
preseason getting underway. The Ray Rice saga has nothing to do
with it either, he’s a declining player. Joe Flacco is a
mediocre quarterback leading a mediocre offense. Baltimore’s
defense could create some problems for Pitt’s O-line but the
Ravens will likely start this season 0-2. This spread should
continue to push downward.” Oddsmaker for Bookmaker.eu
CHEERLEADER WAR: The Steelers don’t have
cheerleaders, so here’s a random Steelers fan:
ABOUT THE STEELERS (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS, 0-1 O/U):
Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell also was involved in a
notable off-field transgression when he was arrested on
marijuana possession and DUI charges last month, but he
sparkled in the opener by rushing for 109 yards and a TD and
catching six passes for 88 yards. Bell wasn’t the only
second-year player with a strong debut. Markus Wheaton, who did
next to nothing as a rookie, had six receptions for 97 yards
and provides another favorable option for Ben Roethlisberger
(365 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) with a pair of huge catches on the
winning drive. An aging defense was a major issue last season
for the Steelers and it remains a concern after the unit was
gouged repeatedly by Cleveland’s no-huddle offense.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS, 0-1 O/U):
An already unsettled running back situation became further
muddled when Bernard Pierce – Rice’s replacement – was benched
after a costly fumble and replaced by scat back Justin Forsett,
who acquitted himself well with 70 yards and a TD on 11
carries. With rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro the only other option
in the backfield, Pierce will likely remain the starter but
Baltimore needs a more balanced attack. Quarterback Joe Flacco
was forced to attempt 62 passes last week, finishing with 345
yards with one TD and one pick. Veteran Steve Smith had an
80-yard scoring pass in his Ravens debut while a
bend-but-not-break defense allowed five first-half field goals
before surrendering a 77-yard winning touchdown pass.
* Over is 5-2 in the last seven meetings.
* Steelers are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four meetings.
* Ravens are 1-6 ATS in their last seven Thursday games.
* Steelers are 0-6 ATS in their last six games in September.
COVERS CONSENSUS: According to Covers
Consensus, 60 percent of wagers are backing the Steelers.