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

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

When I saw the Bengals were touchdown home underdogs in this game on the early line last week, I was strongly considering making a bet on Cincinnati +7, depending on the results of last week. Unfortunately, this line has shifted from 7 to 4.5 in the past week, due in large part to the Steelers’ underwhelming 31-28 home victory over the Brett Hundley led Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. That game wasn’t as close as the final score suggests though, as the Packers struggled to move the ball for most of the game, except for a few big plays they scored touchdowns on. The Steelers won the first down battle 28 to 15 and had a first down rate differential of +10.53%. On the season, they rank 2nd in first down rate differential at +5.51%. They are clearly still a top-5 team, despite the close call against Green Bay.

Given that, we aren’t getting much line value with the Bengals at +4.5. We are still getting some though, as I have this line calculated at 3. The Bengals have major issues on the offensive line, but they have some good playmakers around Andy Dalton and a top-10 defense supporting him. They are kind of flying under the radar a little bit in the AFC right now, but they’re 5-6 and they’ve faced a tough schedule. Their losses have come against the Ravens at home, the Texans at home week 2 when they were healthy, the Packers in Green Bay back when Aaron Rodgers was healthy, these Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars in Jacksonville, and the Titans in Tennessee. They played Houston, Green Bay, and Tennessee close and could do that here as well, especially since the Steelers enter with some key absences and potential absences.

The Steelers are missing top cornerback Joe Haden and right tackle Marcus Gilbert with injury and suspension respectively. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster returns after a one game absence with a hamstring injury, but he might have to be their #1 receiver this week, as Antonio Brown is questionable with a toe injury he suffered on practice on Thursday. Even though he hasn’t practiced since, he’s still expected to be able to suit up Monday Night, but that’s far from a guarantee and he easily could be less than 100% if he plays. If he’s ruled out I’ll revisit this pick, but the Bengals are a low confidence pick at 4.5 for now.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +4.5

Confidence: Low

Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (5-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2)

The Packers are obviously not the same team with backup quarterback Brett Hundley under center instead of Aaron Rodgers, as that’s about as big of a dropoff from starting quarterback to backup quarterback in the NFL. That’s not the only injury the Packers are dealing with though. They remain without their top-2 running backs Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is out for the year. On defense, Morgan Burnett will miss his 5th game of the season this week and stud nose tackle Kenny Clark and talented edge rusher Clay Matthews will join him on the sideline this week for the first time this season. Given their injury situation, they are one of the least talented teams in the league.

The Steelers are not at full strength either, so they won’t be able to fully take advantage of the Packers’ injury situation. Top cornerback Joe Haden remains out. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert was just suspended for the next 4 games. And talented rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will miss this game with a hamstring injury. They should still win this game pretty easily, but this line is pretty high at -14. The Steelers are still my pick because they have an easy trip to Cincinnati on deck. Big favorites tend to take care of business before being big favorites again, as favorites of 7+ are 66-42 ATS before being favorites of 7+ again the following week. This is my lowest confidence pick of the week though.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Green Bay Packers 13

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -14

Confidence: None

Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (6-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2)

Typically, in non-divisional Thursday games like this one, the smart move is to pick the better team if they are at home. Non-divisional home favorites of 4+ are 22-11 ATS on Thursday Night Football all-time. It’s understandably very tough to face a superior opponent on the road on a short week, especially if they are an unfamiliar non-divisional opponent. The Steelers are the superior team here, but the problem is this line is pretty high at 7. I have these teams about 3 points apart. Even if we give the Steelers 4 points for homefield advantage on a short week, that doesn’t leave us any line value. Given that, I’m going to take the points for a no confidence pick. If this line moves to 6.5 before game time, I’ll switch to Pittsburgh. That’s how close this one is for me.

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.

CHI +3 vs. DET

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +7

Confidence: None

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) at Indianapolis Colts (3-5)

The Steelers are as healthy as they’ve been all season coming out of the bye, with right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Stephon Tuitt, a pair of key lineman, now healthy after missing 5 and 4 games respectively in the first 8 games of the season. At full strength, they are one of the best teams in the NFL and they are facing an Indianapolis team that is one of the worst in the NFL. However, this line is pretty high at 10 in favor of the visiting Steelers, so we’re actually getting a little bit of line value, as I have this line calculated at -8.5.

The Steelers are coming off of a bye and big road favorites tend to fare well after a bye, as road favorites of 3.5+ are 40-16 ATS since 1989 off of a regular season bye when their opponent is not coming off of a bye. However, the Steelers historically do not do well as big road favorites in the Ben Roethlisberger era, especially in non-divisional games like this one. They are 4-14 ATS since 2004 as non-divisional road favorites of 4.5 or more. The Steelers are also in a tough spot because they have to turn around and face the 5-3 Titans on Thursday Night Football next week. Favorites are 61-93 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football and understandably so. The Steelers could easily look past the Colts a little bit with that game on deck. There isn’t enough for me to take the Colts confidently, but they should be the right side at +10.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Indianapolis Colts 16

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +10

Confidence: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Detroit Lions (3-3)

The Lions went 9-7 and made the post-season last season and are 3-3 so far this season, but 9 of their 12 wins over the past 2 seasons have come by a touchdown or less and they’ve had trouble beating top level teams. They didn’t defeat a single playoff team in 2016, in a season that culminated with a 26-6 loss in Seattle in the first round of the playoffs, and the 3 teams they’ve defeated so far this season are not that impressive, as they’ve defeated the Cardinals, Giants, and the Case Keenum led Vikings. A year after ranking just 28th in first down rate differential, they rank just 27th this season and they are arguably worse overall this season, as they are without talented left tackle Taylor Decker.

The Steelers are the type of top level team the Lions typically struggle with, but the good news for the Lions is that the Steelers come in banged up, missing right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who are among the best players on the team, as well as Vance McDonald, their starting tight end. As a result, I think we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Lions, as I have these two teams about 5 points apart in my roster rankings this week. That suggests that the Steelers should be -2. That’s not a ton of line value and I’m not that confident in the Lions, but grabbing the field goal with the home team is the smarter move for pick ‘em purposes this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers 26 Detroit Lions 24

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)

The Bengals started the season by not scoring a touchdown in two home games, but they fired their offensive coordinator and have played a lot better since. They nearly won in Green Bay, albeit against a banged up Green Bay team, then they blew out the Browns in Cleveland, and then they beat a solid Bills team. Their offense is going to be inconsistent because their offensive line isn’t good, but they have one of the better defenses in the league and they’ve moved the ball a lot better in recent weeks. Their poor start to the season isn’t irrelevant, but they were playing a pair of tough defenses (Houston and Baltimore) and the players hated ex-offensive coordinator Ken Zampese’s play calling.

The Steelers, meanwhile, are coming off of a huge win in Kansas City, but the week before that they were blown out at home by the Jaguars. Their offense hasn’t been what we’re used to from them, but they still have a dangerous pair of offensive playmakers and a strong offensive line and their young defense has come of age this season. Unfortunately, they come into this game missing a pair of important players, missing right tackle Marcus Gilbert and defensive end Stephon Tuitt. We’re not getting a ton of points with the Bengals as 6 point underdogs, but, given the Steelers’ injury situation, we are getting some line value with Cincinnati.

Cincinnati should also be completely focused on this game, given that they’re coming off of a bye and only have the Colts on deck. The Bengals will likely be 6+ point favorites at home in that game and underdogs of 6 or more, like the Bengals are here, are 73-62 ATS since 2002 before being favorites of 6 or more. There’s not quite enough here for me to bet on the Bengals, but they should be the right pick at +6. Under 6, this should be a no confidence pick.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Cincinnati Bengals 20

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +6

Confidence: Low