NFL Betting AFC Wild Card Playoff: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

2015 AFC Wild Card Playoff
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers 

Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Saturday, January 3, 2015, 8:15 pm Eastern, TV: NBC
Opening Line: Pittsburgh -3
Current Line: Pittsburgh -3 (-120)
Opening Total: 47
Current Total: 45
Opening Money Line: Steelers -180 / Ravens +155
Current Money Line: Steelers -180 / Ravens +155

Pittsburgh is a 3 point favorite against arch-rival Baltimore in the AFC Wild Card playoff Saturday night.
Pittsburgh is a 3 point favorite against arch-rival Baltimore in the AFC Wild Card playoff Saturday night.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have arguably the best rivalry in the NFL. Anytime they get together fans know it will be a hard hitting physical affair between two teams that really don’t like each other. The rivalry is renewed Saturday night as the 11-5 Steelers host the 10-6 Ravens in the AFC Wild Card playoff.

Pittsburgh beat the Cincinnati Bengals last week to clinch the AFC North title and the #3 seed in the AFC playoffs. Baltimore had to beat the Cleveland Browns and get some help from the Kansas City Chiefs in their game against the San Diego Chargers in order for the Ravens to clinch a playoff spot. If Pittsburgh beats Baltimore then the Steelers will travel to the Denver Broncos in the divisional playoffs next week. If Baltimore wins, then the Ravens will travel to the New England Patriots next week. The winner of the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals will face the other team next week.

Since 2001, Pittsburgh leads the series 17-14 against Baltimore. Each team won at home this season by 20 points. The Ravens won in Baltimore 26-6 in week #2 and the Steelers returned the favor 43-23 in Pittsburgh in week #9. Pittsburgh beat Baltimore in the playoffs in 2002, 2009 and 2011.

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Baltimore is coached by John Harbaugh. The Ravens have home wins over the Steelers 26-6, Carolina Panthers 38-10, Atlanta Falcons 29-7, Tennessee Titans 21-7, Jacksonville Jaguars 20-12 and Browns 20-10 last week,  along with road wins at the Cleveland Browns 23-21, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-17, New Orleans Saints 34-27 and Miami Dolphins 28-13. Baltimore has home losses to the Cincinnati Bengals 23-16 and San Diego Chargers 34-33, and road losses at the Colts 20-13, Bengals 27-24, Steelers 43-23 and Houston Texans 25-13. The Ravens have won 3 of the last 4 games. Baltimore is 7-8-1 ATS and the total is 7-9 this season. The Ravens were 14 point favorites against the Browns last week and the total was 40.

Pittsburgh is coached by Mike Tomlin. The Steelers have home losses to the Buccaneers 27-24, and Saints 35-32 along with road losses at the Ravens 26-6, Browns 31-10, and New York Jets 20-13. Pittsburgh has won 4 straight games. The Steelers have home wins over the Browns 30-27, Texans 30-23, Colts 51-34, Ravens 43-23, Kansas City Chiefs 20-12, and Bengals 27-17 last week, along with road wins at the Panthers 37-19, Jaguars 17-9, Titans 27-24, Bengals, and Falcons 27-20. Pittsburgh is 9-7 ATS and the total is 9-7 this season. The Steelers were 3 point favorites against the Bengals and the total was 49.

Baltimore is outscoring teams 26-19 this season. The Ravens are #8 in scoring and #6 in points allowed. Baltimore is averaging 365 yards per game on offense including 239 passing and 126 rushing yards. The Ravens are #13 or better in all three categories. On defense, Baltimore is allowing 337 total yards per game including 249 passing and 88 rushing yards. Baltimore is #23 in pass defense, #4 in rush defense and #8 in total defense. The Ravens are 93/223 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 94/235. Baltimore has forced 49 sacks and allowed 19 this season. The Ravens are +2 in turnovers. The Ravens have 2 defensive touchdowns and a special teams touchdown this season.

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has completed 62.1% of his passes for 3,986 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, along with 70 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Running back Justin Forsett has 235 carries for 1,266 yards with 8 touchdowns, along with 44 catches for 263 yards. Bernard Pierce has 93 carries for 366 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 2 catches. Lorenzo Taliaferro has 68 carries for 292 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 8 catches for 114 yards. He is out for the season with an ankle injury.

Receiver Steve Smith has 79 catches for 1,065 yards and 6 touchdowns. Torrey Smith has 49 catches for 767 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tight end Owen Daniels has 48 catches for 527 yards and 4 touchdowns. Kamar Aiken has 24 catches for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns. Thirteen defensive players and four offensive linemen are questionable or out for Baltimore.

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Pittsburgh is outscoring teams 27-23 this season. The Steelers are #7 in scoring. Pittsburgh is averaging 411 yards per game on offense including 302 passing and 110 rushing yards. The Steelers are #2 in both total offense and passing. On defense, Pittsburgh is allowing 353 yards per game including 254 passing and 100 rushing yards. The Steelers are #6 in rush defense, #27 in pass defense, and #18 in total defense. The Steelers are 98/218 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 81/203. Pittsburgh has 33 sacks and has allowed 33 this season. The Steelers are even in turnovers. Pittsburgh has 5 defensive touchdowns and a return touchdown and has allowed a special teams touchdown.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has completed 67.1% of his passes for 4,952 yards with 32 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Running back Le’Veon Bell has 290 carries for 1,361 yards and 8 touchdowns, along with 83 catches for 854 yards and 3 touchdowns. He suffered a knee injury against Cincinnati and is out for the playoff game. LeGarrette Blount has 65 carries for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 6 catches. He was released and signed with the Patriots. Roethlisberger has 33 carries but no other back on the roster has more than 10 carries. Dri Archer could be the feature back, but the Steelers signed Ben Tate this week who was released by the Browns earlier this season. Josh Harris could also get some carries.

Receiver Antonio Brown has 129 catches for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns. Brown had the second most receptions in a single season in NFL history. He even threw a touchdown pass. Tight end Heath Miller has 66 catches for 761 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Markus Wheaton has 53 catches for 664 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Martavis Bryant has 26 catches for 549 yards with 8 touchdowns. Six defensive players are questionable or out.

Baltimore is 5-0 ATS in playoff games, 4-0 in road playoff games, in January and wild card games, 12-4 against teams with winning records, 8-3-2 against teams with winning records, 3-7 in Saturday games, 1-4 after a straight up win, overall and against AFC teams, 1-6-1 after allowing less than 15 points, and 0-3-1 against AFC North teams. The over is 11-4-1 in this series in games played in Pittsburgh recently.

Pittsburgh is 8-0 ATS against teams with winning records, 6-0 in playoff home games, 4-0 in Saturday games and overall, 7-1 against teams with winning road records, 5-1 at home and after a cover, 10-2 in January, 9-3 in playoff games, 6-2 against AFC teams, 8-3 against AFC North teams, 5-2 after a straight up win, after rushing for less than 90 yards, after passing for more than  250 yards, and on grass. The Steelers are 4-1-1 ATS in the last 6 against the Ravens, and 3-1-1 ATS in Pittsburgh against the Ravens.

While the loss of Bell will obviously hurt, Pittsburgh isn’t nearly as banged up as Baltimore is. The Ravens’ secondary is in shambles and Big Ben and Antonio Brown should be able to torch them. The weather is supposed to be icy and snowy though so that could lead to an ugly game. Still I think the Steelers win this game comfortably.

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