Ravens versus Steelers. It's one of the most storied rivalries in all of sports, let alone football. In just twenty short years, these teams have built up such a strong mutual hate and respect for each other. It's quite impressive, and it shows when these two teams square off twice a year. The games are always intense, physical, and have fans on the edges of their seats.
But this week's battle just doesn't feel like one of those classic games.
While on paper, these teams are normally stride-for-stride with each other, that simply isn't the case now. The Ravens are vastly outmatched on offense, and look pitiful without their starting quarterback, wide receiver, or running back. On defense, the secondary just hasn't been on the same page all year, and it's lead to a middle-of-the-road defensive attack that hasn't been able to elevate the offense.
For Pittsburgh, well, I'm about to tell you why they are going to blow out the Ravens and certainly cover the spread.
The Steelers just dismantled the league's best secondary. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are a lethal combo who imposed their will on the elite corners of the Broncos. Considering that the Steelers have scored over 30 points in each of their last 6 contests, and that their quarterback is averaging over 330 passing yards per game, there's no reason to believe that the average Ravens' defense will be able to stop the league's hottest offense.
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In the first matchup between these two rivals this season, Baltimore won, but just barely. The mostly-healthy Ravens squad benefited greatly from the incompetence of then Steelers' kicker Josh Scobee, who shanked two key field goals that would've almost certainly gave the Steelers the game. If Scobee's leg didn't help the Ravens enough, then Michael Vick and the conservative passing attack put in place around him certainly did. Vick's one touchdown and 124 passing yards pale in comparison to whatever numbers Ben Roethlisberger is going to put up this Sunday.
Win, and they're (almost) in
This isn't a meaningless game for the Steelers. In addition to playing for a split with the Ravens, a win greatly helps the team's playoff hopes. With a win over Baltimore and a New York Jets loss, the Steelers clinch a postseason berth. It'd be a lot harder for them to make it to the promised land should they lose this contest. Besides, what better way to slide into the playoffs then to beat the team that destroyed you in the postseason last year?
It is for these reasons that I think the Steelers covering the 9.5 point spread is a safe bet.