BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-3)
at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-4)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Line: Pittsburgh -2.5, Total: 40.5
The Steelers try to carry momentum from their first win when they host the rival Ravens on Sunday.
Neither team has been able to run the football this season, with both clubs gaining less than 75 rushing YPG and ranking among the bottom three NFL teams in yards per carry. Baltimore lost 19-17 to the Packers last week, rushing for 47 yards on 22 carries, while Pittsburgh wasn’t much better (73 yards on 26 carries) in a 19-6 win at the Jets. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger did not face the Ravens last year, but is 9-4 as a starter against them. This series is an even 10-10 SU since 2004, but the road team has produced three straight SU wins. Both clubs have some positive trends for Sunday's encounter. Since 1992, Baltimore is 13-4 ATS (77%) away after being outrushed by 75 or more yards in its previous game, and all NFL road teams with poor rushing offenses (90 rush YPG or less) are 32-9 ATS (78%) in the past five seasons. But since 1992, Pittsburgh is 49-30 ATS (62%) in October games, and 57-33 ATS (63%) in weeks 5 through 9.
Who will win this AFC North rivalry? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts are heating up in NFL Best Bets, combining for a 60% ATS record (27-18-2) over the past three weeks, including 69% ATS (11-5) in Week 6. StatFox Scott was a perfect 4-0 ATS in Week 6, and is 80% ATS (8-2) in the past three weeks. StatFox Gary was also a perfect 4-0 ATS in Week 6 and is 73% ATS (8-3-1) over the past three weeks.
Baltimore's rushing offense has been dreadful, as evidenced by its 2.7 yards per carry. Top RB Ray Rice has never rushed below 4.0 YPC in his career, but this year he's gaining just 2.8 YPC on his 71 attempts. Despite Pittsburgh's usually stout run defense, Rice has rushed for 864 yards (96 YPG) and 5 TD in nine games in this series since 2009. The Ravens haven't done a great job throwing the football either with 6.7 yards per pass attempt (18th in NFL). QB Joe Flacco has tossed more picks (eight) than touchdowns (seven), and has already absorbed 19 sacks (3.2 per game). He hasn't been outstanding versus the Steelers in his career either with a 5-7 record, 54.7% completion rate, 202 passing YPG, 12 TD and 9 INT. Flacco will continue to lean on dynamic WR Torrey Smith who leads the AFC with 568 receiving yards despite having just one catch in last week's loss to Green Bay. Baltimore's defense has allowed 353 total YPG (17th in NFL) and 21.5 PPG (13th in league), which are surprisingly high numbers considering it is tied for the league lead in red-zone efficiency (25%) and ranks fourth in third down conversions (31.2%). A minus-3 turnover ratio is partially to blame for the defense not ranking better in scoring defense. OLB Terrell Suggs is having a huge season though, recording 7.5 of his team's 22 sacks, which is the second-highest total in the NFL behind only the Chiefs. Suggs' pressure has been a key with a banged-up defensive line that includes two questionable players for this week, DT Terrence Cody (knee) and DE Chris Canty (groin).
Pittsburgh's rushing offense has been stalled all season with 61.0 YPG (2nd-worst in NFL) on 3.1 YPC (3rd-worst in league), but rookie RB Le'Veon Bell is bound to improve from last week's 34 yards on 16 carries in which head coach Mike Tomlin said Bell actually ran very well, but that he had no holes to run through against a tough Jets defense. The Steelers did a solid job of rushing against the Ravens last year (230 yards on 4.3 YPC) with backs much less talented than Bell. Offensively, QB Ben Roethlisberger has been steadily improving with a passer rating above 90 in each of the past three games where he's completed 70% of his passes for 1,053 yards (351 YPG), 4 TD and 3 INT. Four Steelers have seen at least 20 targets over the five games, led by WR Antonio Brown's 41 catches for 498 yards, but WR Emmanuel Sanders (301 rec. yards), WR Jerricho Cotchery (16.5 yards per catch) and TE Heath Miller (15 catches on 20 targets) have all done a nice job getting open. The Pittsburgh defense has given up just 311 total YPG (6th in NFL) and 5.0 yards per play (9th in league), but has been unable to provide steady pressure on the quarterback with an AFC-low seven sacks this year. Before last week's two interceptions against the Jets, Pittsburgh had not forced a turnover in any of its first four games. Injuries have been a problem all season, and both DE Brett Keisel (ribs) and LB Jarvis Jones (concussion) are listed as questionable for Sunday's game.