Already in the midst of the worst start in franchise history, the 0-3 Baltimore Ravens seek their first victory of the season against the AFC North foe Pittsburgh Steelers and new starting quarterback Michael Vick on “Thursday Night Football” at Heinz Field.
In a rematch of last season’s AFC Wild Card playoff, the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco stand as 2.5-point road favorites, but not because of their play in the first three weeks of the season. While improving to 2-1 on the season, the Steelers lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a sprained MCL and he’s expected to miss the next four to six weeks.
Instead, Pittsburgh will send out the veteran Vick, who came in for Roethlisberger and managed the Steelers to a 12-6 victory over St. Louis. Signed just before the end of training camp, Vick owns a 59-50-1 career mark as a starter, but hasn’t posted a winning record in any season since 2011 with Philadelphia.
Last year with the New York Jets, Vick went 1-2 in three starts with three touchdowns and an interception, and his lone victory came against the Steelers when he went 10-for-18 for 132 yards and two scores with another 39 yards rushing.
But the 35-year-old faces a difficult challenge living up to Roethlisberger’s prolific work under center. Roethlisberger racked up 912 passing yards and four touchdowns with a 75.3 percent completion rate before he went down, and he only figured to get stronger after running back Le’Veon Bell returned from his two-game suspension.
Bell amassed 62 yards rushing on 19 carries and scored Pittsburgh’s only touchdown of Week 3, and was the Steelers second-leading receiver with seven receptions for 70 yards behind Antonio Brown’s 11 catches for 108 yards. Brown’s currently the NFL’s second-leading receiver and averaging 145.3 yards per game.
Now with his third team in three years, Vick does have the benefit of facing a Ravens secondary ranked No. 29 in the league after allowing more than 300 yards passing and six touchdowns in the last two games.
Baltimore held a narrow 17-14 lead over Cincinnati with 6:49 minutes remaining after Flacco hit receiver Steve Smith for a 16-yard touchdown strike, but the Ravens allowed the Bengals to notch 160 yards and two touchdowns over seven plays on their next two possessions and lost 28-24 for the worst start in team history.
Still, Flacco posted his second-straight 300-yard, two-touchdown game, Smith reached pay dirt for the first time this season, and the Ravens are putting up 23.3 points per game this season.
They’ll face a Steelers defense that’s allowed six passing touchdowns and opposing quarterbacks to net a 108.8 passer rating.
Betting Odds: Ravens -2.5 points
Over/Under: 44 points
Prediction: Baltimore over Pittsburgh, 27-17