Imperfect Ravens face perfect scenario: In control of AFC No. 1 seed - Jamison Hensley
“We’re in control of our own destiny, which is a beautiful thing,” Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. “We’ve got to get better in every aspect, but we’ve got a bunch of fighters on this team. Like I said, we believe, we trust each other, and we’re going to come each and every day to work, to get better, just trying to be the best team we can be. I think if we do that throughout these weeks — especially these divisional games — we’re going to reap the benefits of that.”
Baltimore has won six straight one-score games (within eight points), which matches the longest win streak in these close games in franchise history. The Ravens also did so in 2012, the year of their last Super Bowl title.
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the No. 1 seed (which is the only team in the conference to get a bye) is up for grabs. The best chances to capture the top spot are: the Titans (24.1%), Ravens (22.3%), Patriots (19.8%) and Bills (17.9%).
“We’re determined. We know we want to win,” Jackson said. “We fight adversity, and we do it all. There’s been a lot going on throughout this whole season, and [Sunday] was another part of it. We just have to keep on doing what we’re doing, and we’re going to click.”
Defenses Have Found Their Attack for Lamar Jackson - John Eisenberg
Every week is a new realm, with changing matchups producing different strategies, but I think we’re seeing, in a general sense, how opposing defenses are going to attack Jackson and his offense for the rest of the 2021 season.
Until Jackson and the offense start producing more points and yards against ultra-heavy pressure, opponents are going to keep bringing it. The reeling Steelers surely will Sunday at Heinz Field.
It’s all part of the great chess match that unfolds during an NFL season as coaches and players constantly adjust to evolving scenarios.
Bottom line, the Ravens are having to work a lot harder to move the ball and score, and you know their upcoming opponents are watching carefully and taking notes.
The good news, for the Ravens, is they still have six regular-season games to play, basically an eternity. The chess match is anything but over, and with Jackson at quarterback, the Ravens have a range of possible solutions.
After a tense home win Sunday night over the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens (8-3) are favored by 3 ½ points over Pittsburgh, which is coming off its worst loss ever under longtime coach Mike Tomlin. The Bengals routed the Steelers, 41-10, in Cincinnati on Sunday, the second straight game in which Pittsburgh has allowed over 40 points.
Roethlisberger is expected to start Sunday, but he’s coming off a poor outing. He finished 24-for-41 for 263 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions Sunday in Cincinnati, and his QBR (28.3) was the second lowest of his season.
The Ravens, who lead the AFC North and have yet to play Pittsburgh this season, have fared well against division opponents recently. They’re 9-2 against the spread against the Steelers, Browns and Bengals over their past 11 meetings. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is 1-6 against the spread in its past seven home games overall, according to CBS Sports.
NFL Week 13 picks: Steelers shock Ravens to stay alive in AFC North race, Patriots upset Bills on Monday night - John Breech
Baltimore (8-3) at Pittsburgh (5-5-1)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Over their past three games, the Ravens have averaged just 14 points per game. The Ravens offense has progressively been getting worse since Week 10 when Baltimore got blown out by the Dolphins, who decided to blitz Lamar on nearly every play. That doesn’t mean the Steelers are going to do that, but it does mean that Mike Tomlin will probably implement some of that into his defensive game plan.
At 5-5-1, the Steelers season basically hangs in the balance this week. If they lose, they’re definitely not winning the AFC North and they’re likely not making the playoffs. I do not like to pick against desperate teams, especially when they’re playing at home against a division rival. The Steelers are one of only two teams in the NFL that Lamar Jackson doesn’t have a winning record against — he’s 2-2 — and I don’t think that’s going to change after this week.
The pick: Steelers 19-16 over Ravens.
The Bengals shut the run game out entirely for Pittsburgh, who really struggled to get anything going for Najee Harris. Harris has had to fight for every inch he’s gathered all season long. He had only 8 carries for a total of 23 yards last Sunday.
The receiving corps is doing good work, and both Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool had good numbers again. But the Steelers couldn’t find the end zone last week. Ben Roethlisberger threw 2 interceptions, and I can’t help but wonder how healthy he is these days.
The Steelers have a real issue in sustaining offensive drives. They hit some chunk plays every game, and Claypool comes up with a long catch seemingly every weekend. Yet, keeping the offense on the field, running the ball effectively, and piecing together extended drives is difficult for them.
Neither team is forcing turnovers defensively, although the Ravens’ defense might be playing better than the Steelers. They’re both bottom-five teams in the league in total defensive turnovers (10). So, how does this one play out?
Baltimore kept both Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb to 36 total yards on 15 carries between them. They averaged 2.45 yards per carry, and that’s pivotal in a matchup against Pittsburgh. When the Steelers can’t run with Harris or diversify the offense, they make mistakes.
I’ll take the under for the game, but the Ravens to win and cover.