Ravens vs. Steelers betting preview and pick – Record total expected in rugged old rivalry

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As November approaches, every club in the AFC North has a legitimate shot at the division title.

However, the Ravens and Steelers both enter Sunday night’s matchup at Pittsburgh (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC) in somewhat-compromised positions.

The Ravens (5-3 SU and ATS) have been swept by division-leader Cincinnati (4-2-1), which gives the Bengals the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Ravens also have a subpar AFC record (2-3), which could also come into play in the tiebreakers.

On the other hand, if the Ravens knock off Pittsburgh, they will sweep the season series with the Steelers (5-3 SU and 4-4 ATS), who can only split after losing at Baltimore in Week 2. Pittsburgh has already split with Cleveland (4-3) – a disappointing result for the Steelers, given their usual dominance of the Browns.

But Cleveland has stepped up its game this season, which has added to the contentiousness for the division crown. And with the Bengals and Browns favored to win earlier on Sunday afternoon, it’s quite possible the loser of Ravens-Steelers will be in last place by night’s end. 

So it’s certain, then, that Baltimore and Pittsburgh have a good deal at stake in Week 9, especially for a game played two days after Halloween. And it’s fitting the point spread is narrow – either pick ‘em or Baltimore -1.  

And take a look at that total for Ravens-Steelers – 48 points! AFC North observers can certainly recall when totals in the 30s were commonplace when these clubs met.

Times change. And teams change. Ravens-Steelers could be a high-scoring game. Both defenses have a few holes. It might be a little much to expect these teams to engage in an old school, grind-it-out battle.

But enough about playing style and style points and whether the defensive-minded will grumble about the way things were in this series. The Steelers and the Ravens are set to meet, and both of them, so help them, intend on getting this “W.”

And what could be more old school than that?

The Line: Ravens -1,  Total: 48

Line movement: Multiple books opened the Steelers as 1.5-point favorites versus Baltimore, but the pendulum has swung toward the Ravens. For updated lines from around Las Vegas, visit our live odds page .

Note: Line movement is cited from VegasInsider.com and Pregame.com. 

Trends that matter:  If the total holds, this will be the highest OVER-UNDER in a Ravens-Steelers game. In fact, it would be the first-ever total between the clubs to close higher than 45 points.

Since 2004, including postseason games, these clubs have combined to score less than 48 points in 21-of-23 matchups.

The Steelers are 9-6-2 against the spread versus Baltimore in Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach.

The Ravens are 15-9-3 against the spread (.625) and 20-7 straight-up (.741) in November in John Harbaugh’s time as head coach. The Ravens have won at a higher percentage in November than in any other regular season month in Harbaugh's tenure. 

Note: Historical point spread trends are cited from the Spreadapedia database .

Big pass plays could be coming: These proud, tradition-rich defenses are having problems against the pass. The Steelers have surrendered 33 pass plays of 20-plus yards, while the Ravens have allowed 31. Only Jacksonville (36) has given up more through eight games.

The Ravens and Steelers both have injury issues at cornerback. The Ravens have lost key starter Jimmy Smith to a foot injury for the time being. Meanwhile, the Steelers have been without Ike Taylor (forearm) since Week 3, and their other starting corner, Cortez Allen, has struggled.

Both teams can stress the opposition’s secondary. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shredded the Colts for 522 yards and six touchdowns in Week 8, completing 40-of-49 passes in victory. The emergence of rookie wideout Martavis Bryant (6-4, 211) has given Pittsburgh a little needed jolt on the outside, which helps go-to target Antonio Brown.

The Ravens can counter with receivers Steve Smith and Torrey Smith, who can get deep. In addition, quarterback Joe Flacco has one of the NFL’s strongest arms.

Steelers’ run defense on the spot: It was once folly to run against Pittsburgh. Now, it’s a sound strategy. The Steelers are surrendering 4.5 yards per carry, ninth-worst in the league. The Ravens gashed Pittsburgh for 157 yards on 36 carries in the first meeting, with Bernard Pierce (22-96-0) getting the lion’s share of the work. Justin Forsett (7-56-0 versus Pittsburgh in Week 2) has since become the primary back, with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro also earning a role. Quickness is Forsett’s game; the Steelers have to clutter the run lanes and force him east-to-west. (Note that Forsett missed the first practice of the week with an ankle injury.)

The Ravens are stronger versus the run than Pittsburgh, surrendering just 3.7 yards per carry. However, second-year tailback Le’Veon Bell is one of the game’s emerging three-down stars at his position. Bell has a well-rounded game, possessing a wonderful package of size, athleticism, power, toughness, vision and patience. He racked up 107 yards on 16 touches in the first meeting between the teams.

Injuries that matter: In addition to Smith and Forsett, the Ravens began their week with defensive lineman Haloti Ngata (shin), outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck) and right guard Marshal Yanda (knee) sidelined.

The Steelers have fewer injury concerns. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert (concussion) returned to practice early this week.

Visit here for all Week 9 NFL injuries. 

Weather: It’s going to be a cold night in Pittsburgh, with temperatures in the mid-30s around kickoff. However, clear skies and light winds are expected. Visit Weather Underground for the latest forecast.

Handicapping help: Matchup analysis | Power Ratings | BAL team page | PIT team page

The Linemakers’ lean: Pittsburgh getting points at home in this series? Come on. The Steelers are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight as home dogs, and they have gone OVER in their last five against winning teams. The plays are on Pittsburgh and OVER.

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