NFL Picks: Steelers vs. Ravens Thursday Night Football

Kevin Stott

Thursday, September 11, 2014 12:38 PM UTC

Thursday, Sep. 11, 2014 12:38 PM UTC

It's time to stop watching Thursday night talk shows and "reality" acts as CBS presents Thursday Night Football! That's right take your wallets out and read our recommendations for Week 2's Steelers vs. Ravens NFL Picks.

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland (USA)

Weather: The Weather Channel Forecast, Baltimore

Forecast: PM Thunderstorms High 90°- Low 63° - 60% chance of rain; Wind: S at 10 mph

Point Spread Odds: Ravens -2½ -110

Total: 42

Moneyline Odds: Ravens -133, Steelers +114

Get to steppin, Julie Chen and Big Brother 14, there’s a New King in Town on CBS on Thursday nights and his name is the National Football League, so please take Derrick, Caleb, your Power of Veto and your little ‘reality’ act to Tuesday nights and make way for a bunch of massive human beings yoked up to the gills throwing and kicking a piece of inflated cowhide around a large manufactured “grass” field in front of tens of thousands of drunk and screaming fans hoping "Their Boys" can outscore "The Other Team’s Boys" by at least one point. American football, sister. And kudos to CBS for bringing the NFL to Thursday nights on a premium channel in The Age of The Bitcoin-Paid Google Glass and anti-anxiety meds as the league reminds us it now does regular business from Thursday nights to Monday nights—stay hidden while you still can, Tuesday and Wednesday. And take no incoming calls from the 212 area code.

The weather could definitely be a factor in this AFC North showdown between the visiting Steelers (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) and the host Ravens (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS), with precipitation heavy in the air in the region—as it now often seems to be in much of the lower 48 United States—and rain and thunderstorms in the forecast from a distance. Of course, the absence of Baltimore RB Ray Rice from this game now has been all over the overly-sensational news—he was justifiably cut by the team and suspended indefinitely by the NFL on Monday—but his contribution to the Ravens ground attack wasn’t enough to affect the line by his absence. Enough Rice talk.

A pretty strong statistic we’ll get to, the slight edge Pittsburgh has at the QB position (Ben Roethlisberger over Joe Flacco), as well as the 2½ to 3 points one can get in what will likely be a tight and relatively low-scoring game in possibly sloppy conditions on the Sportexe Turf in Charm City is enough to make this game a potential source of some sports gambling profits. But this is a fairly tough handicap and there is nothing wrong with staying away from virtual toss-ups like this which can be determined by a mistake or a bad call by a referee. But John Q. Public likes betting on the lone evening TV games on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays and who are we to deprive John Q. Public of his three-leg Mercury/Steelers/Liverpool-Aston Villa Over 2½ parlay? If a man or a woman can buy a soda he or she can basically swim in these days, then betting a responsible amount on football games or whatever seems like a potentially better endeavor in the end, although winning in the long run is extremely difficult in sports betting for those who know and have done this for decades. It’s a constant learning process.


Examining the Very Rare Highest Scoring Half Marketplace
With the rare Thursday and night start for both these teams, the potential inclement weather and the possibility of some early-game QB rust and a low-scoring opening quarter, the Highest Scoring Half proposition wager for the Second Half (+110, bet365) makes sense to me here, and the bet comes with a small plus. And if either team is down by double digits at halftime, expect the other to come out throwing in the second half, which is good for this particular prop as well as the game’s Total going over (42). But these teams are known for their defense and points will be relatively hard to come by in my mind. Read: field goals.

The Ravens lost to the Bengals as 1-point favorites at home in their opener last Sunday while the Steelers held on against the Browns (30-27) in Pittsburgh—and blew the cover as 5½-point favorites—as all four danced the AFC North dance on Opening Day thanks to the NFL schedule maker. And there are no real dire injury situations for either team although losing a RB like Rice after Week 1 does create some kind of a small ground attack void for a team like Baltimore and Ravens CB Lardarius Webb (back) is listed as questionable for this contest while a number of Pittsburgh backups were all suffering from a variety of knocks and dings for its opener against Cleveland.


Best Betting Approaches In This CBS Thursday Night Football Debut
One of the interesting trends which stood out when looking at the many ones surrounding this game comes from Las Vegas handicapper and two-time Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate) Super Contest winner Steve Fezzik. He wrote that playing the “under” 43½ in the last 38 AFC North games involving the Ravens would have resulted in a mind-bending 33-5 record, with this trend holding form in Week 1 when the Ravens-Bengals Total went under (43½), but conflicting trends like the Steelers 5-1 'Over' L6 overall and the Steelers-Ravens 'Over' going 5-2 in the L7 and 4-1 of the L5 in Baltimore make it hard to pull the trigger on the 'Under' in this one in this high-profile series although with the weather and all, I’d lean 'Under' before 'Over' and might even take a chance on it come game time.

The Steelers as the small but live underdog on the NFL odds (+114, BetVictor) seems interesting, but finding a way to get that key +3 with Pittsburgh (Bovada had a +3 with -135  juice on Monday night) would be the wisest route to go, be it shopping around or possibly buying that ½ point. The Steelers are 4-1 L5 SU but just 3-6 SU L9 away from The Steel City, 2-4 SU L6 against the Ravens and 3-8 SU L11 at M&T Bank Stadium. But Baltimore is just 1-5 ATS L6 and 1-4 ATS in its L5 at home. So, a lot of conflicting trends my friends. One thing the numbers do sort of point at is that no matter how good Baltimore is at just simply beating Pittsburgh at home, they have trouble covering the oddsmakers numbers (0-3 ATS L3 vs. Steelers and 1-5 ATS L6 at home against the Black and Gold). Look for Big Ben (23-34, 365 passing yards, TD against Browns), RB Le’Veon Bell (109 rushing yards, TD) and WR Antonio Brown (5 receptions, 116 receiving yards, TD) to shine again on Thursday night and Brown is a smart NFL pick in the Anytime TD Scorer market when it opens up later this week.

In the end, I think the Steelers will find a way to win this one as the Ravens looked extremely flat in their opener, although a loss to Pittsburgh in Week 2 at home to put them at 0-2 would be bad news for the the Flying Edgar Allen Poes. So take a peek at the Money Line with the underdog Steelers here and remember that daunting trend about AFC North unders and Baltimore. Pittsburgh appears ready to fight for its perceived rightful place atop the division again while the Ravens could be at the beginning of a mini-NFL hibernation of sorts. It will probably all depend on the durability, the performance and the ultimate talent of QB Flacco this season. This game will actually reveal much about that future.

NFL Prediction: Steelers 23 Ravens 16

Free NFL Pick: Steelers +3 at the Greek

Free NFL Prop Pick:  Antonio Brown Anytime Scorer 

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