The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally found some consistency, winning three games in a row, as they enter their contest on Thanksgiving with the Baltimore Ravens. They just hope it isn’t too late.
It took the Steelers six weeks to get their first victory of 2013. The team has won five of its last seven, but remains under .500 because of their slow start. However, their latest run has them in the thick of the playoff race.
"That team is hot," Ravens running back Ray Rice said of the Steelers. "They're playing good football right now. They have (a) group, they have their stable of how they want to play football and they're doing a good job of it right now."
The Ravens aren't playing as well as the Steelers, having lost four of their last six, but both teams are in the same position. Six AFC clubs, including the two AFC North rivals, are tied at 5-6 and fighting for two wild card spots. They each have an outside shot of winning the division, trailing the Cincinnati Bengals by two games, though the loser would almost certainly be out of the race.
A loss for the defending Super bowl champs could be devastating to their postseason hopes, considering they lost the first matchup with the Steelers. Pittsburgh won 19-16 in a contest that has been reflective of their head-to-head matchups in recent seasons. Since 2008, the two teams have played each other incredibly close, with only two games being decided by more than three points, including a four-point contest.
This time around, the Ravens have the advantage by playing in Baltimore. Even with their struggles this season, Baltimore has been very good at home. At M&T Bank Stadium, they have just one loss, and they still managed to cover the point spread in that contest. On Thursday, the betting line at most Las Vegas casinos has the Ravens favored by three points.
Joe Flacco hasn’t looked like the quarterback that won a Super Bowl less than a year ago, but he’s performed much better in front of the Ravens’ fans. At home, he’s completed over 62 percent of his passes for an 89.7 passer rating. On the road, his passer rating is down to 68.8 and he’s thrown three more interceptions than touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger has played better as the season has progressed, but the winner of the game may not come down to the two signal callers. In their Week Seven matchup, the running game largely decided the outcome. Le’Veon Bell led a Steeler rushing attack that finished the day with 141 yards. The Ravens were limited to just 82 yards on 26 carries. Both offenses have had trouble establishing a ground attack, and the one that can do it successfully may come out on top.
"Defensively, it was simple. We were able to stop the run, and that put us in position to apply pressure to the quarterback," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said of their win against Baltimore. "In doing so, we were able to create some turnovers and some big plays, and to actually score."
Betting Odds: Baltimore -3, 40.5
Prediction: Baltimore 23, Pittsburgh 20