Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to November 23 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
The holiday season is upon us. No, not that holiday season, no matter how early they’re showing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer this year. We’re talking Thanksgiving, or as they call it in Canada, “Thursday.” The NFL is trotting out a Turkey Day tripleheader with all the trimmings; your nightcap features the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (5-6 SU, 6-5 ATS) against one of their most bitter archrivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6 SU and ATS). The early NFL odds list Baltimore as a three point favorite with a total of 40.5
This hasn’t been a particularly good season for either of these teams, as you may have gathered by their win-loss records. But the Steelers have had it a little bit better. They were No. 18 on the efficiency charts through Week 11 (No. 15 offense, No. 23 defense, No. 14 special teams), playing well enough to earn 5.2 Estimated Wins from the statheads at Football Outsiders. The Ravens were good for 4.6 Estimated Wins at No. 22 overall (No. 29 offense, No. 8 defense, No. 12 special teams).
Things have been especially tough for the Ravens offense. They’ve been without TE Dennis Pitta for the whole season; giant RT Michael Oher has been playing on a bad ankle since Opening Night, and LG Kelechi Osemele went on injured reserve in Week 9 to have back surgery. So much for bringing protection. The Ravens are No. 31 in the league in rushing efficiency this year, and QB Joe Flacco has already been sacked 33 times, two shy of last season’s mark.
With the Ravens offense sputtering, and the defense playing at a very high level (No. 10 pass, No. 5 rush), the UNDER is 7-4 for Baltimore this year. Makes sense. But the UNDER is also 7-4 for Pittsburgh. And that’s with a whole lotta low totals up on the NFL odds board. Like in Week 7, when the Steelers beat the Ravens 19-16 (UNDER 41). Seven field goals were kicked in that game.
Pittsburgh’s offense has had many of the same problems as Baltimore’s. Losing center Maurkice Pouncey in Week 1 was a huge blow to the offensive line. The Steelers traded for Arizona Cardinals LT Levi Brown in Week 5, but he tore his triceps (again) while warming up for Week 6 and was put on IR. Then LG Ramon Foster sprained his ankle in Week 10. Tough gig. Pittsburgh’s rushing offense has fallen to No. 27 in the league in efficiency.
Now take all those problems, and stick them outside in freezing temperatures for three hours or so. Thursday’s weather report for Baltimore calls for clear skies at kick-off with temperatures in the high 20s. That doesn’t seem terribly conducive to high scoring. Indeed, the UNDER got paid in each of Baltimore’s last three late November games at M&T Bank Stadium.
Let’s rethink that. Richard Borghesi wrote an academic paper in 2007 on adverse weather conditions and NFL totals, and there was an inverse relationship between game-time temperatures and the success rate of the OVER. It’s the wind and rain that turns November offenses into mush, not the cold.
Later in the week, I’ll be writing more about the pointspread and the total for this matchup, but I’ll say right now that I’m more inclined to take the OVER in this situation. The Steelers might be a decent ATS bet, given that they were ahead of the Ravens on the efficiency charts while getting three points on the road. We’ll see how things look after the Week 12 numbers come in.NFL Pick: Take OVER 40.5 (–105) at Pinnacle