The Baltimore Ravens are a team in need of a win in Week 9 as they look to complete the series sweep against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The fun gets underway at 1:00 EST on Sunday, November 4, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Fans in certain markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
Baltimore is holding steady is a 3-point favorite at home. The over/under for the game is set at 47.5 points. Be sure to check out a full list of game previews and NFL betting odds for Week 9.
The Ravens enter November in a rut. They went 1-3 in October after finishing a strong September with a road win over the Steelers. To be fair, the Ravens have been away from home for four of their last five games. They’ve also lost the last two weeks to the Saints and the Panthers, two teams that are a combined 11-3 on the season.
Nevertheless, their record says that the Ravens are a 4-4 team at the midway point in the season. Even with a manageable schedule the second half of the season, Baltimore can’t afford to lose their third game in a row and fall below .500. With the Steelers coming to town, this is a bad time for a must-win game, but that’s exactly what the Ravens are facing this week.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has shaken off a slow start and is riding a three-game winning streak. In fact, that loss to the Ravens in Week 4 is the only blemish on Pittsburgh’s schedule since Week 2. The Steelers are now 4-2-1 on the season and have climbed back to the top of the AFC North standings.
Of course, the Steelers don’t have a ton of breathing room at the top of the division. In addition to the 4-4 Ravens, the 5-3 Bengals are also nipping at their heels. With a tough November ahead of them, one loss could easily turn into two or three losses, so the Steelers have to keep up the momentum they’ve built in recent weeks.
As mentioned, the Ravens won in Pittsburgh back in Week 4. That game was tied 14-14 at halftime before the Ravens notched four 2nd half field goals to win comfortably 26-14 while out-gaining the Steelers by over 100 yards.
I’ll be honest, I could go either way with this game. However, the Ravens are at home and they’re clearly the more desperate team. In a game this close, that’s enough to make me eat a few points and lean toward Baltimore to cover the spread.
The biggest edge the Steelers could have in this game is running back James Conner. He had just 19 yards on nine carries when these teams met in Week 4. However, he’s rushed for over 100 yards in his last three games while also becoming a bigger part of the passing game. The Steelers are also more comfortable with Conner as the full-time running back. His presence has also been important in making the Pittsburgh offense a little more balanced, which helps their dynamic passing attack.
However, there’s no guarantee Conner will be more productive in his second chance against the Baltimore defense. The Ravens got hurt on the ground last week against Carolina. But that was due largely to Cam Newton running from the quarterback position. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t young enough to do a ton of damage with his legs like he used to. The Ravens are still giving up less than four yards per carry on the ground, so they should be able to keep Conner contained.
Unless Conner can find sustained success against the Baltimore defense, a lot will be resting on Roethlisberger’s shoulders. Given his seven interceptions and five fumbles this season, that is potentially a problem. No one will argue with the numbers he’s posted in recent weeks or the weapons at his disposal. But Roethlisberger has still thrown a pick in four of his last five games. The Ravens forced two turnovers against the Steelers in Week 4, and they’re good enough to do it again if the Steelers are careless with the ball.
On the other side of the ball, the Pittsburgh defense will have to defend Joe Flacco better than they did a few weeks ago. The Ravens don’t have a particularly effective rushing game. The Steelers have also been solid defending the run most of the season. However, they still allowed Flacco to pass for 363 yards and two touchdowns against them in Week 4.
Since then, Flacco has had some ups and downs, especially last week against the Panthers. However, the Ravens have faced some tough defenses during that stretch. The Ravens have also scored at least 21 points in all but one game this year, so they’ve been consistent and reliable when it comes to putting points on the board. That makes me think Flacco will bounce back and be fine this week.
In the end, I have a little more faith in Flacco and the Baltimore offense than I do Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense. At home, I think the Ravens will get back to looking like the best defensive team in the NFL. That should take some of the pressure of Flacco and company and eventually allow the Ravens to create the separation they need to cover the spread.