With Michael Vick taking over for Ben Roethlisberger, people are more than happy to put the UNDER, at fair odds, in their NFL picks for Thursday's Ravens vs. Steelers matchup.
Jason's 2015 record as of Sept. 30: 12-7 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 6-9 Total
What do you think of when you think Ravens-Steelers? Smashmouth defense? Three yards and a cloud of dust? Totals in the 30s? We might not see any of those things when Baltimore makes the short trip to Heinz Field this Thursday night (8:25 p.m. ET, CBS/NLFN). Neither team is playing very good defense at the moment. The Ravens are having trouble with their running game. And at press time, there's a 43.5-point total on our NFL odds board.
People are still betting the UNDER for this game, of course. The Steelers will be going with Michael Vick at quarterback in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger, which could put a serious dent in the league's No. 4-ranked offense according to DVOA. Our consensus reports show considerable early action on the UNDER at 44.5 points, with 58 percent of bettors hanging around at 43.5 points. Unless we talk ourselves out of it, we'll be jumping in, too.
It's simple math, really. Last year, these two AFC North rivals played three times, the last two games featuring the highest totals they've seen since Art Modell backed up the moving trucks in Cleveland:
Week 2: Steelers 6, Ravens 26 (UNDER 44)
Week 9: Ravens 23, Steelers 43 (OVER 47.5)
Wild Card: Ravens 30, Steelers 17 (PUSH 47)
These may seem like fairly pedestrian totals, but they're gigantic compared to what we used to see whenever the Ravens and Steelers clashed. As a “thought experiment,” let's use 47 points as a baseline for Thursday's game. Let's also make the Steelers 3-point home favorites, which is a fairly common line in this series. Ah, but Pittsburgh is now a 2.5-point puppy with Vick replacing Roethlisberger. That's 5.5 points difference. Surely there's plenty of room to go UNDER 43.5 then.
Nice try, thought experiment. The 5.5 points in question carry more “value” than they would if the spread were moving from, say, Pittsburgh –13 to Pittsburgh –7.5. And they hold less “value” than moving from Pittsburgh –7.5 to Pittsburgh –2 would generate. We're working with fuzzy concepts here as it is, so maybe the math is still good enough for our NFL picks. But we need to tread carefully.
We also need to look at the weather report. There's a 15-percent chance of rain over Heinz Field at kick-off, building up to 50 percent later in the evening. The skies aren't expected to really open up until the weekend hits, but if there's a chance of rain Thursday night, that should make the UNDER even more likely to cash in. And let's recall once again the time Byron Leftwich replaced Roethlisberger three years ago, and the Ravens won 13-10 (UNDER 41) in Pittsburgh. More of that, please.
Free NFL Pick: Take UNDER 44 at Bet365