Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

Steelers/Ravens is one of the biggest divisional rivalries in the NFL, but the Steelers could still have one eye on next week’s game this week, as they host the New England Patriots in a game that could easily be for the one-seed in the AFC. The Ravens, meanwhile, should have completely focused for this huge divisional game, as they have one of their easiest games of the season next week in Cleveland, where they are 6.5 point favorites on the early line. The Steelers, by comparison, are 2.5 point home underdogs against the Patriots on the early line.

Underdogs tend to cover before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, going 67-41 ATS in that spot since 2014. On top of that, teams tend to cover before being big road favorites, as they tend to not have any upcoming distractions. Teams are 79-58 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 5 or more. All that being said, we are getting no line value with the Ravens at +5 in this game in Pittsburgh. This line was 7 a week ago on the early line, but has shifted significantly since.

It’s no surprise why, given the brutal season ending spine injury stud middle linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered in last week’s win over the Bengals, as well as the one-game suspension given to talented Pittsburgh rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a late hit on Vontaze Burfict, but the Ravens lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith to a torn achilles in their win over the Lions last week and he’s more important to the Ravens than Shazier or Smith-Schuster is to the Steelers. Prior to going down, Smith was one of the top cornerbacks in the entire NFL and a huge part of a Baltimore defense that ranks 2nd in first down rate allowed.

The Steelers are also missing top cornerback Joe Haden and right tackle Marcus Gilbert with suspension and injury respectively and have not played as well in recent weeks as a result. However, they are still a step up in class from the teams the Ravens usually beat, especially at home. Four of Baltimore’s seven victories this season have come against backup quarterbacks (Tom Savage, EJ Manuel, Matt Moore, Brett Hundley) and another came against the Deshone Kizer led Browns.

Their only two remotely impressive victories came against the Bengals week 1 and last week against the Lions, neither of whom compare to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, even as banged up as they are. They could still keep this within 5 points, as about 33% of games are decided by 5 points or less, but I can’t be confident in them at +5 because we aren’t getting any line value with them at all. I still have this line calculated at -7, before situational trends are factored in. I’d need at least 6 to consider placing a bet on the Ravens this week

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Baltimore Ravens 16

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +5

Confidence: Low

Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

Both of these teams are 6-5 and in the playoff race in their respective conferences, but I think both teams aren’t quite as good as their records. The Lions made the postseason last year, but they won just one game by more than a touchdown, didn’t win any games against playoff teams, and finished with a first down rate differential of -1.90%. This year, they are winning by bigger margins, but their first down rate differential is even lower at -3.27% and they are 1-5 against teams with winning records. Five of their wins have come against the Cardinals, Giants, Packers, Bears, and Browns and they lost the first down rate battle in 3 of those games. They’ve been overly dependent on getting big plays and winning the turnover margin, which are tough to consistently do every week, especially against tougher competition.

The Ravens have also faced a very easy schedule though, with their last 4 wins coming against teams starting backup quarterbacks. Their 6 wins have come against teams quarterbacked by Andy Dalton, Deshone Kizer, EJ Manuel, Matt Moore, Brett Hundley, and Tom Savage. Matt Stafford is definitely a step up in class, but he doesn’t have a good running game or defense supporting him and the Ravens are a step in in class from the caliber teams the Lions usually beat. I give the Ravens a slight talent edge and they’re at home, but I am not confident in them as 3 point home favorites.

Baltimore Ravens 23 Detroit Lions 19

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3

Confidence: None

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

After last week’s 23-0 win over the Brett Hundley led Packers in Green Bay, the Ravens have remarkably posted 3 shutouts this season in just 10 games. In fact, outside of that weird London game against the Jaguars where they didn’t have stud defensive tackle Brandon Williams, the Ravens have been statistically as good as any team in the league this season on defense. They’ve benefitted from an easy schedule of offenses, with their shutouts coming against the Bengals, Dolphins, and Packers, but that schedule doesn’t get any harder this week with the Houston Texans coming to town.

Without quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Will Fuller, the Texans offense is as bad as any offense in the league, while their defense isn’t much better without JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. The Ravens have offensive issues as well, but they are as healthy as they’ve been in weeks on offense, with passing down back Danny Woodhead and left tackle Ronnie Stanley back to 100% and wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace rounding into form on the outside after early season injuries. They don’t nearly have the problems that the Texans do with immobile Tom Savage behind the league’s worst offensive line.

I have this line calculated at -10, so we’re getting significant line value with the Ravens at -7. The Texans are also in a tough spot with another tough game in Tennessee on deck after this one. Underdogs of 6+ are 56-93 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ again, which the Texans likely will be next week (they are -7 on the early line). The Ravens are worth a bet at 7 and would become a high confidence pick if this line were to move to 6.5 before game time, as about 10% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown. They should win this game by double digits.

Baltimore Ravens 17 Houston Texans 6

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -7

Confidence: Medium

Baltimore Ravens at Green Bay Packers: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (4-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-4)

This line was Green Bay +3 a week ago, but the Packers’ upset victory in Chicago caused this line to move to +2. That’s unfortunate because I would have had some interest in the Packers at +3. The Packers are obviously banged up, losing their top-2 running backs last week after already being without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, and defensive back Morgan Burnett for an extended period of time. However, they still have a strong receiving corps and are above average on both the offensive and defensive lines and new quarterback Brett Hundley is coming off of his best start of the season.

The Ravens, meanwhile, are a mediocre team with major offensive issues, especially with talented left tackle Ronnie Stanley injured. In fact, I have the Ravens just a couple spots ahead of the Packers in my roster rankings and I have this line calculated at -3. Unfortunately, the Packers are in a tough spot with a much tougher game in Pittsburgh on deck. Teams are 48-78 ATS since 2002 before being 10+ point underdogs, as Tough upcoming games tend to present a distraction for teams. Given that, I’d need the full field goal to bet the Packers confidently. This is a low confidence pick, although the money line makes some sense at +110.

Green Bay Packers 19 Baltimore Ravens 17 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +2

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 9 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (4-4) at Tennessee Titans (4-3)

The Titans are 4-3 coming out of their bye and lead the AFC South, but I’ve been a little bit disappointed with them. Coming into the season, I had them at 11-5 and as one of the more talented and complete teams in the league. They were a year removed from a solid 9-7 season and did a good job addressing needs this off-season, but they’ve been underwhelming in their 4-3 start. The good news is they haven’t suffered any major long-term injuries and they come out of the bye about as healthy as any team in the league.

Free agent acquisition safety Johnathan Cyprien is expected to return for the first time since week 1, #5 overall pick wide receiver Corey Davis expected to return for the first time since week 2, and quarterback Marcus Mariota is likely healthier now 5 weeks removed from the hamstring injury that caused him to miss a game and a half and limited him in 2 games after his return. Guard Quinton Spain and tight end Delanie Walker could be out for this one, so they’re not at 100%, but those are short-term injuries and no team is completely healthy right now. Their best football should still be ahead of them and they could easily go on a run in what is overall a weak league right now.

The Ravens, meanwhile, are 4-4, but have major issues on offense, with just 12 offensive touchdowns in 8 games, thanks in large part to injuries to guys like Marshal Yanda and Danny Woodhead. Their defense has played well, but they’ve faced a pretty easy schedule, with their wins coming against the Bengals, Browns, EJ Manuel led Raiders, and Matt Moore led Dolphins. Even the teams they’ve lost to have had offensive issues, including the Jaguars, the Bears, and the Case Keenum led Vikings. They’re not a terrible team, but I think the difference between these two teams talent wise is more than this line suggests at Tennessee -3.5, given that the Titans are at home. I have this line calculated at -6.5, so we’re getting some line value with the Titans. They should be a smart play this week.

Tennessee Titans 24 Baltimore Ravens 17

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3.5

Confidence: High

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (3-4) at Miami Dolphins (4-2)

The Dolphins are 4-2 and went 10-6 last year, but both of those records were the result of close wins and an easy schedule. Last season, 8 of their 10 wins came by a touchdown or less and 5 of them came against the Jets, 49ers, Browns, and Rams, who were among the worst teams in the league last year. Of those 5 wins, just one came by more than a touchdown. They did defeat the Steelers by double digits in week 6 of last season, but that was their only win over a playoff team and it came in a game in which Ben Roethlisberger got hurt. With a healthy Roethlisberger, the Steelers defeated them 30-12 in the first round of the post-season. They also lost by double digits to the Patriots, Titans, Bengals, and Ravens in the regular season.

This season, their 4 wins have come against the Chargers, the Titans, the Jets, and the Falcons, by a combined 14 points. The Falcons were a tough opponent, but they got caught looking forward to New England the following week. The Chargers missed 2 makeable field goals in a 2-point loss. The Titans were without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota and the deciding score was a return touchdown. The Jets, meanwhile, are one of the worst teams in the league. Despite that, the Jets were still able to beat the Dolphins by 14 in their first meeting. The Dolphins’ other loss came in London against the Saints by 20, so they have a point differential of just -20, 25th in the NFL. In first down rate differential, they rank 29th at -4.10%.

In their victory last week against the Jets, the Dolphins had to come back from down two scores in the second half and likely would not have been able to if Jay Cutler had not gotten hurt. That injury allowed Matt Moore to take over at quarterback and he should have been their starter since Tannehill tore his ACL in the pre-season. Paying Jay Cutler $10 million to come out of retirement to be their starting quarterback was a questionable move, considering Moore is an experienced backup who knew the system with whom they had no drop off in offensive performance in 4 starts in 2016, and that move looks even more questionable given how much Cutler has struggled thus far this season. Moore isn’t the best quarterback in the world, but he should be an upgrade given how poorly Cutler was playing.

That being said, I still have the Ravens about a point and a half better than the Dolphins, given that the Ravens got key defensive lineman Brandon Williams back from injury last week. They should also be healthier in the receiving corps this week after being without their top-3 wide receivers in Minnesota last week. At the very least, they should be getting #1 receiver Jeremy Maclin back from a 2-game absence. The Ravens are far from a great team, but they are the better of these two teams. This line suggests they’re about even at -3, so we’re getting some line value with the hosts.

The Ravens are also in a good spot as the hosts in a non-divisional matchup on Thursday Night Football. Non-divisional home favorites are 28-15 ATS all-time on Thursday Night Football as long as both teams are on short rest, which makes sense because it’s very tough for a team to travel on a short week to face a comparable or better opponent, unless that opponent is a familiar divisional opponent. The Dolphins are relatively unfamiliar with the Ravens, so they should be at a huge disadvantage on the short week, especially since they are installing a new starting quarterback. This is worth a small bet if you can get the line at -3.

Also, by request, I’m going to be posting lines I lock in early in the week during my Thursday Night writeups this season, so readers can lock them in before they move. These are not all my picks for the week, just picks where I think the line may move in an unfavorable direction (usually underdogs). The rest of the writeups will continue to be posted over the weekend as normal.

DEN +7.5 @ KC (I would also take +7)

OAK +3 @ BUF

Baltimore Ravens 19 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3

Confidence: Medium

Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (3-3) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2)

I wish I had locked the Vikings in at -3 last week on the early line. After the Ravens’ embarrassing home loss to the Bears last week (in which they failed to score on offensive touchdown), this line shifted from -3 to -5.5. That’s too many points to confidently lay with a team quarterbacked by Case Keenum, even against a Baltimore team that I’ve thought all season is overrated. I have this line right at -5.5, given that the Vikings will be without top wide receiver Stefon Diggs and that the Ravens will get defensive lineman Brandon Williams back from injury, so we’re not getting any line value either way.

The Vikings are in a tough spot with their London game on deck, as teams are understandably 14-24 ATS before going to London, but the Ravens have to face the Dolphins on a short week after this one, so it kind of evens out. On top of that, the Vikings are going to London to face the Browns, so it’s not like they have a tough upcoming game. Given that, I’m going to take the Vikings here, but this is a no confidence pick as we’ve lost all line value after Baltimore’s terrible performance last week.

Minnesota Vikings 19 Baltimore Ravens 13

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -5.5

Confidence: None