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Ravens vs. Steelers: Spread Info, Line and Predictions

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 11: Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens rushes past linebacker Miles Burris #56 of the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 11, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2012

The Baltimore Ravens (7-2) head into Pittsburgh and a sea of Terrible Towels to try to wrestle the AFC North away from their division rivals. The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) are merely trying to get a game plan together without their star quarterback in the lineup, all the while fighting for their division title chances.

Like many times before, the Pittsburgh defense will have to protect home field in order for them to claim victory in this Sunday night battle.

This edition of Ravens-Steelers will have a different script than we normally see, where the rivalry may feel empty to some viewers. That’s because someone(s) will be missing in action on the field this Sunday (h/t Baltimore Ravens Official Twitter):

 

For the first time EVER, Ravens-Steelers will be without Ray Lewis, Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward: bmob.us/48w

— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 15, 2012

Have no fear, NFL fans. The Ravens-Steelers rivalry will not be devoid of bone-jarring hits, getting dirty down in the trenches and “three yards and a cloud of dust”. It’s good old-fashioned football, just like grandpa talks about. 

Check out odds, fantasy plays and predictions right below.

When: Sunday, November 18 at 8:20 p.m. ET

Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA

TV: NBC (check local listings)

Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket

 

Spread: Baltimore (-3.5)

Over/Under: 40 (both via Fox Sports Odds)

Byron Leftwich will make the start for Roethlisberger, who hasn’t made a start since the 2009 season with Tampa Bay. The news of Big Ben’s absence on Sunday night has cause a ripple effect for the odds on this game (h/t Pregame.com’s RJ Bell):

Vegas says Big Ben worth 4 points, but line has moved from #Steelers -3.5 to #Ravens -3.5; Overreaction?

RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) November 14, 2012

The oddsmakers expect a low-scoring affair, but if the Steelers' defense holds up for its quarterback deficiency, then the under is a sure bet.

Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Co. have been known to play down to opponents and beating the Steelers always seems to be a tough obstacle, no matter the talent discrepancy.

The obvious play in my opinion is the under. These two teams rarely light it up against one another, and a backup quarterback on one end assures that for this contest.

Baltimore Injury Report (via Yahoo! as of Nov. 15, 2012)

 Terrell Suggs LB

Probable

Ankle

 Ed Reed S

Probable

Shoulder, knee

 Michael Oher T

Probable

Ankle

 Marshal Yanda G

Questionable

Ankle

 Bobbie Williams G

Questionable

Ankle

 Haloti Ngata DT

Questionable

Shoulder

 Pernell McPhee DE

Out

Thigh

 

Pittsburgh Injury Report (via Yahoo! as of Nov. 15, 2012)

 Shaun Suisham K

Probable

Left ankle

 Jonathan Dwyer RB

Probable

Quadriceps

 Chris Carter LB

Questionable

Abdomen

 Rashard Mendenhall RB

Doubtful

Achilles

 Stevenson Sylvester LB

Out

Hamstring

 Troy Polamalu S

Out

Calf

 Marcus Gilbert T

Out

Ankle

 Antonio Brown WR

Out

Ankle

 Ben Roethlisberger QB

Day-to-Day

Right shoulder

 

UPDATE: Roethlisberger’s status looks to be worse than a day-to-day injury (h/t Adam Schefter):

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said he does not believe his rib injury is season ending but he is unsure when he'll play again.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 14, 2012

Fantasy Big Plays

Both Defenses

The Steelers’ defense ranks close to the top in yards per game, pass defense and run defense. They’ve been a fantasy mainstay in starting lineups all season and that shouldn’t stop due to Roethlisberger’s absence. Call them a fantasy must-start as they will be as aggressive as ever in front of a national audience for Sunday Night Football.

The Ravens' defense has fantasy value more from circumstance than talent. The Steelers game plan will change with Leftwich at quarterback, and assuredly big plays down the field will be yesterday’s news.

When Leftwich filled in for Big Ben against Kansas City, Pittsburgh OC Todd Haley focused on a combination of the running game and quick screens to move down the field. They’ll try to mix in a few pass plays down the middle with Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders, but the Steelers’ focus will be on first downs and a ball control game.

That bodes well for leagues that reward for low point totals. Ditto for sack mongers’ Terrel Suggs and Haloti Ngata, who should feast on the immobile Leftwich.

Key to Victory

The Running Game

The running game that can have the most success and control the clock will likely win this rivalry game.

I get all the talk about Joe Flacco and the no-huddle attack changing the dynamics of this matchup, but Dick LeBeau will be dialing up blitz packages all night to prevent plays down the field. So scratch that prediction.

Baltimore will have to break through Pittsburgh’s vaunted run defense to assemble some offensive balance. They certainly have the talent to do so, behind first-day draft picks on the offensive line and slippery tailback Ray Rice.

A battle is exactly what the Steelers are shooting for. They’ll have Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman primed for 20-plus carries apiece if needed, while three yards per play is embedded in their minds as a substantial goal.

Plus, one of two backs has a 100-yard day to supplement the passing game: Redman against the Giants and Dwyer versus the ‘Skins. So hope is not adrift for this Steelers' offense.

Prediction

Pittsburgh 16 Baltimore 13

Call it a gut feeling, but I see the Pittsburgh Steelers taking the “next man up” approach and defending their home turf against Baltimore. Don’t say somebody didn’t warn the masses.

 

Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. He enjoys giving fantasy advice and the NFL Redzone. Follow him on Twitter @TheRealShiek

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