The Week 4 NFL Sunday action concludes with an AFC North showdown as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens. Pittsburgh enter this one off of a gutsy road win over the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Conversely, the Ravens come into this matchup off of a comfortable home win over the Broncos. The holdout of star Running Back Le’Veon Bell continues to be a talking point for the Steelers. They’ll need to overcome his absence against a strong Ravens defensive front to avoid falling too far behind in the AFC North race.
Where to Watch: ESPN, 7 Mate or NFL Game Pass Monday at 10:20am
While the Steelers have been underwhelming so far this season, QB Ben Roethlisberger has been at his brilliant best. Roethlisberger has thrown for 1140 yards and 7 touchdowns so far this season, completing 66% of his passes in the process. Fill-in Running Back James Conner has been hit or miss so far this season and will look to get back to his impressive Week 1 form. Star receiving duo Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster have gotten off to an impressive start, combining for 566 yards and 3 scores so far this season.
Defensively, the Steelers have struggled so far this season. They held the Browns offense in check in Week 1 but have been carved apart by Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick these past two weeks. The rushing defence has admittedly approved, holding the Bucs to only 63 yards and under 4 yards per carry last week. A unit led by T.J. Watt, Jon Bostic and Vince Williams will need to be at their best this week against the upstart Ravens offense.
With first round draft pick Lamar Jackson waiting in the wings, Joe Flacco has stepped up big time this season. He’s averaging just under 300 yards per game and completing over 63% of his passes en route to a 3-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Starting Running Back Alex Collins hasn’t been as effective, averaging only 3.4 yards per carry so far this season. Expect Baltimore to rely on Flacco to connect with new Receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree against a vulnerable Steelers secondary.
The Ravens defence looked dominant in two comfortable home wins this season but struggled in a road loss against the Bengals. They successfully shut down the Broncos passing offense last week, allowing only 173 yards to complement the interception by LB Patrick Onwuasor. This holds them in good stead against a dominant Steelers passing offense that has looked the goods so far this season. Led by the ageless Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle, I expect the Ravens defence to hold the Steelers offence in check this week.
After a solid primetime win in front of a national audience, I believe the general public is starting to overrate the Steelers. The Ravens put in just as good of a performance last week and are emerging as a deep and balanced team on both ends. Their front seven is very capable of applying consistent pressure to the Quarterback, whilst their opportunistic secondary makes opponents pay on the back end. Offensively, QB Joe Flacco is starting to find form at the right time as he leads his team into the raucous Heinz Field environment.
In a matchup that has so often been decided by 3 points, I believe there’s some strong value in taking the Ravens with the 3.5 points. There’s a strong case to be made that they are the more talented team and the Steelers are coming off of a short week. With a strong defence behind them and some extra time to prepare, I feel as though the Ravens are a very live underdog here that can win this outright.
Given the strong offensive starts these two teams have gotten off to, this total is a little bit too low in my opinion. The Steelers passing offense has been on a tear this season. Whilst I do think that the Ravens passing defence can slow them down, I still expect Big Ben to put up some numbers and put up at least 24 points. Where I really see the Ravens staking their claim here is with their rapidly improving passing offense.
Joe Flacco has accepted the challenge from Rookie Lamar Jackson and is poised for a bounce back season. In front of a national audience against his most bitter rival, I’m expecting a vintage Flacco performance that gives the Ravens sole position of top spot in the AFC North. This will also open up opportunities for Running Back Alex Collins, who I expect to have his best game of the season so far.
Ravens Moneyline $2.35
When you like an underdog against the spread in the NFL, it goes without saying that you should sprinkle some money on the moneyline. Despite their road loss to the Bengals, I’ve been impressed by the Ravens start to the season. They have real difference makers on both sides of the ball that can single handedly win games like this. Their ideal mix of veteran experience and youthful exuberance also means they won’t be intimidated by playing in one of the most difficult environments in the league.
On defence, I expect their strong front seven to match up well with a mediocre Steelers offensive line. They can put some pressure on big Ben Roethlisberger and force him into making some uncomfortable throws. Offensively, I’m expecting a standout performance from QB Joe Flacco against this underperforming Steelers secondary. Buoyed by protection from a strong offensive line, expect the Ravens to look for the deep ball early and often.
Best Bet: Ravens +3.5
Whilst I’m confident that the Ravens can steal this one outright, getting the handicap through the key number of 3 represents immense value. These two teams have played some very close football games over the years, often decided by 3 points or less. This also opens up the opportunity for a backdoor cover if the Ravens are trailing late.
Score Prediction: Ravens 30-27 Steelers