NFL Picks: Thursday Night Football Steelers-Ravens Spread Pick

Jason Lake

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 1:45 PM GMT

The very early action was on the Baltimore Ravens for their Thursday Night Football matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then the Steelers started turning the tide. Which of these Rust Belt teams deserves our Week 2 NFL bet?

It’s never a dull moment when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens strap on the pads. We’ve seen some epic contests between these two AFC North neighbors – their last five games were decided by a combined total of 14 points. So it seems fair that the Ravens should open as 2.5-point home favorites for Thursday night’s contest (8:25 p.m. ET, CBS). And while we saw some early pro-Baltimore movement on the Week 2 NFL odds, it only nudged the juice by a few cents before Pittsburgh bettors started pushing back.

That push might turn to shove pretty soon. As we go to press, the Ravens have just announced they’ve terminated RB Ray Rice’s contract, following TMZ’s release of video footage that appears to show Rice knocking out his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, during the infamous Elevator Incident. The NFL followed up by suspending Rice indefinitely. He would have missed Week 2 anyway under the terms of his original suspension, but this announcement should still have an impact on Thursday’s game. How much of an impact? Good question.

 

Actually, Let the Door Hit You
Washing their hands of Rice has to be considered a very positive move by the Ravens, and certainly more important than their performance on the field. Having said that, how will they respond on Thursday? Perhaps they’ll circle the wagons like last year’s San Francisco 49ers, who went 11-2 SU and 10-3 ATS after LB Aldon Smith went into rehab. Or consider the Miami Dolphins, who went 5-4 SU and 6-3 ATS after RT Jonathan Martin left the team.

Whatever emotional lift the Ravens may get out of Rice’s departure, their rushing attack is still a mess. Bernard Pierce (six carries, 14 yards) wasn’t very good in Sunday’s 23-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals (+1 away), and while Justin Forsett (11 carries, 70 yards, one TD) nearly saved the day for Baltimore, he’s a career third-stringer on his fourth NFL team in four years. Forsett isn’t likely to keep reproducing Sunday’s results. Although it would be a tremendous story if he does.

 

The Criterion Collection
Before we get to the Five Stars for this matchup, it’s time to introduce the Kelly criterion to our bankroll management. If we’re going to have a star rating, we need to make sure we’re betting the appropriate amount to best take advantage of our perceived margin. Here’s the plan: We’ll set our probability of winning a one-star matchup at 53 percent, then add a percentage point for each star beyond that, all the way up to 57 percent for a 5-star “deadbolt lock.”

Factoring in the standard –110 vigorish, and assuming we did the math right, here’s how much of our bankroll we should risk at each level, according to the Kelly criterion (look it up on the Interwebs if you’re not familiar with it):

Zero Stars: Pool Pick Only

1 star: 1.4 percent

2 stars: 3.5 percent

3 stars: 5.5 percent

4 stars: 7.6 percent

5 stars: 9.7 percent

It’s generally recommended to divide your bankroll into betting units of 1 percent each, so it’s going to be a bit awkward placing our NFL pick on 1.4 units on a typical 1-star game. But it’s just a decimal point. It’s only wafer-thin. Our running ATS tally (coming soon!) will reflect these new NFL bet sizes starting with this matchup. May the prolate spheroid be with you.

 

The Five Stars
Injuries/Suspensions/Travel/Rest: PIT

Defense/Special Teams: BAL

Coaching: PIT

Market Bias: BAL

Betting Line Value: PIT

Verdict: 1-star pick on PIT

Free NFL Pick: Put 1.4 units on the Steelers +3 (–119) at SBOBet

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