2012 NFL Picks and Odds: Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers Odds and Predictions – Week 11 Sunday Night Football Picks

2012 Week 11 NFL Picks: Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers Vegas Odds and Predictions – Free NFL Picks 11/18/2012: When the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) and Baltimore Ravens (7-2) get together, there is usually a lot on the line and there is never any love lost. Sunday night’s meeting is no exception as the winner will take a big step toward winning the AFC North title. A victory by Baltimore would put them two games up on Pittsburgh, but a Steelers’ win would move them into a tie atop the division with the Ravens. Throw in the fact that this is the first of two meetings between these teams in the next three weeks, and both sides will be plenty motivated to draw first blood. Although Pittsburgh is the home team Sunday, a rash of injuries has the Steelers 3 ½-point underdogs.

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Injuries bit the Steelers early this year as both the offensive line and backfield were decimated right from the start. It has only gotten worse for Pittsburgh on both sides of the ball, culminating with an injury top quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that will keep him out for the next several weeks. Roethlisberger’s absence leaves a huge void for an already inconsistent offense. The Steelers will also be without star defender Troy Polamalu for Sunday’s game, along with speedy wide receiver Antonio Brown. Still, Pittsburgh has managed to field a stout defense despite all the injury issues, and the Steelers enter this matchup with the top-ranked pass defense and a top-five rush defense.

Baltimore on the other hand has suffered its major injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Star linebacker Ray Lewis is out for the year, shutdown corner Lardarius Webb is out for the year, sack master Terrell Suggs is just getting into game shape after missing the start of the year safety, and safety Ed Reed and nose tackle Haloti Ngata have both been banged up. Needless to say, the once dominant unit has struggled this year. However, an improved offense has helped mask the issue. Running back Ray Rice continues to be a solid, steady workhorse. Meanwhile, quarterback Joe Flacco has enjoyed a strong season with receiver Torrey Smith emerging as one of the top deep threats in the league.

The Ravens Win If:

All season long, the Ravens have transitioned from a defensive-minded team to more of an offensive-minded, pass-first team. However, Baltimore needs to alter its strategy against a Pittsburgh team with a banged up offensive line, backfield and quarterback. The last thing the Ravens want to do is turn the ball over and give the short-handed Steelers’ offense short fields to work with and easy points. A healthy dose of Rice and the ground game will go a long way to ensuring that Baltimore controls the game and wears down the Steelers’ tough defense. If Baltimore makes sure that Pittsburgh has to earn all of its points, the Steelers won’t have the weapons to keep pace with the Ravens for four quarters.

The Steelers Win If:

With Leftwich under center, the Steelers are going to have to rely on their defense to have a shot in this one. Pittsburgh needs to establish a slow tempo and ugly style as soon as possible to make it a low-scoring game. Establishing a ground game and controlling the clock to give the defense a chance to rest is a must if Pittsburgh is going to win the game. Meanwhile, the defense has to either put points on the board itself with big plays or at least set up the undermanned offense with a short field. The Steelers have too many injuries on the offensive end to win a shootout, but if this is the type of game where neither team tops 20, Pittsburgh’s defense can deliver a win.

Bottom Line:

Although both of these teams are in the thick of the playoff hunt and battling for the AFC North title, both have been hit hard by injuries. However, the Steelers are missing their best players on both sides of the ball, and they are 0-4 against the Ravens when Roethlisberger has been out. As compromised as the Baltimore defense has become this season, the decimated Pittsburgh offense doesn’t have the weapons to take advantage of the situation. Meanwhile, the Ravens still have their offensive stars intact, including the best player in this game in Rice. On the road in a rivalry game, Baltimore isn’t going to blow out the Steelers, but they are going to be able to outlast Pittsburgh’s MASH unit and pick up a big win.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens (-3 ½) Cover the Spread

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Line: Pittsburgh -3.5
Total: Over/Under 40.5
Time: 8:30 PM EST on NBC

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