Week 9 Free NFL Picks: Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday Night NFL Week 9 Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on NBC 11/6/11: Way back in Week 1, the Baltimore Ravens (5-2) annihilated their AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) by a score of 35-7. A lot has changed since that game, and while the Steelers enter Sunday’s rematch in Pittsburgh with a four-game winning streak, the Ravens are coming off a narrow victory against the Arizona Cardinals last weekend and a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars two weeks ago. The top spot in the division is up for grabs, and with momentum is on Pittsburgh’s side, the Steelers are 3 ½-point favorites.
Defense has been the calling card for both teams this season. The Ravens and Steelers rank first and second in terms of yards allowed per game, and they rank second and third in terms of points allowed. Pittsburgh boasts the top passing defense in the NFL, along with the eighth-best rushing defense. Meanwhile, Baltimore ranks third against both the run and pass. While the units are more or less even, the Ravens do hold a significant edge when it comes to forcing turnovers. Baltimore has seven interceptions and 14 forced fumbles on the year compared to just two interceptions and three forced fumbles for the Steelers.
The biggest difference between this weekend’s game and the season opener is the play of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. After struggling early in the year, Roethlisberger has found his rhythm in recent weeks as the Steelers have transitioned from a power running team to a pass-first team. He has thrown 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions during the four-game winning streak, topping 350 yards in his last two starts. Baltimore feasted on turnovers in the Week 1 win, but with the way Roethlisberger is playing, the chances of a repeat are slim.
While Roethlisberger is riding a hot streak, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco has been regressing. In his last four games, he has just a single touchdown pass compared to four interceptions. He has thrown one interception in every game during the stretch. Flacco’s life isn’t like to get any easier this weekend against a Steelers’ defense that just shut down Tom Brady and the New England Patriots’ second-ranked passing attack.
With Flacco likely having little impact, the Ravens’ chances will hinge on the play of running back Ray Rice. However, Rice hasn’t exactly been living up to his reputation either. His best game of the season came in the opener against the Steelers, and he has just two 100-yard games all year. He does have five rushing scores, but three came last weekend against a porous Arizona defense. Unless he can match his performance from the Week 1 win, the Ravens could have trouble scoring points Sunday.
Despite the one-sided result the first time these teams met, Sunday’s game should be much more of an even-matched, defensive battle. In the end, the Roethlisberger and his trio of big play receivers give the Steelers a scoring punch that the Ravens simply don’t have, especially when Flacco is struggling. Not to mention the fact that the Steelers will be out to exact some revenge on a heated rival that embarrassed them earlier in the year. Pittsburgh may not be able to return the favor in such a dominating fashion, but they should be able to come away with the victory and cover the small spread.
Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers (-3 ½) Cover the Spread
|Week 9 NFL Football: Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Time: 8:30 PM EST on NBC
Vegas Odds – Favorite: Pittsburgh -3.5 Total: Over/Under 42
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