Betting the Total: Steelers vs. Ravens Thursday Night NFL Picks

Jason Lake

Thursday, September 11, 2014 6:33 PM UTC

Thursday, Sep. 11, 2014 6:33 PM UTC

History says we should pound the OVER in Thursday night’s tilt between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. One problem: History rarely puts up a total this high on the NFL odds board.

Jason’s record after Week 1: 1-4 ATS, 0-1 Totals
Profit: minus-6.6 units

Everyone wants to bet the OVER these days. The NFL betting public has a longstanding love affair with offense; casual fans tend to bet on the results they want to see happen, and what they want to see is scoring, preferably in the form of touchdowns. But even the sharps have been on the OVER like white on rice the past couple of years. As soon as those football totals hit the board, there they are, brandishing giant wads of cash money.

Not this time. We’ve got what promises to be another bruising AFC North matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens coming up on Thursday Night Football (8:25 p.m. ET, CBS). And for a change, the early action was on the UNDER, to the tune of 63 percent according to our consensus reports. That was enough action to move the NFL odds total from 43.5 points at the open to 44.5 points as we go to press. Yes, 44.5.


Are your eyeballs still in your head? Good. In most instances, seeing a total of 44.5 points nestled amongst the football betting lines wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. But these are the Steelers and Ravens we’re talking about here. They haven’t seen a total this high since way back in 1997. That’s 35 games, regular season and playoffs. Even casual fans know they’re in for some smashmouth football when these guys lock helmets.

Low-scoring games don’t always cash in the UNDER, though. In fact, the OVER went 20-14-1 during that 17-year span, taking advantage of those low, low NFL totals. That was then. This is now, and with Thursday night’s total soaring into the stratosphere (okay, maybe the lower troposphere), sharp bettors are switching allegiances for at least one night.


Four on the Floor
Did we mention it’s the Steelers and the Ravens? They’ve earned those low totals; each of their past six games, and 13 of their past 14, has finished with a combined score of 43 points or fewer. But there’s a floor to go along with that ceiling. Only four of those games produced fewer than 37 points combined. That’s how the OVER got paid – it’s not easy for two teams to keep each other out of the end zone all day, not even these guys.

So why is Thursday’s total so damn high? Market expectations, mostly. This is the new NFL, somewhat kinder, somewhat gentler. Scoring has gone up the past five years, and so have totals in general – although not quickly enough to bridge the gap. Mind you, the UNDER went 9-7 in Week 1 this season. However, that could be a result of NFL offenses getting off to their traditional slow start.

Free NFL pick Steelers-Ravens ATS 


Zuttah Saints
There certainly wasn’t much to like about Baltimore’s offense in Week 1. The ground game is in shambles, as it was last year when the Ravens finished dead last in rushing efficiency. While eliminating Ray Rice (3.1 yards per carry) from the equation should help, the problems go deeper than that. Try the offensive line, which has made some necessary changes since last year, but the healing process might take some time. New starting center Jeremy Zuttah and rookie RT Ricky Wagner aren’t exactly A-plus material out there.

 In the meantime, the Ravens defense should have CB Lardarius Webb back in uniform Thursday night, although he’s officially listed as questionable for Week 2. And just for good measure, there’s a 40-percent chance of rain over Baltimore at kick-off. Pennies from heaven.

Note: All NFL total bets in this column will be for one unit only.

Free NFL Pick: Put one unit on UNDER 44.5 (-107) at 5Dimes

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