RAVENS WINLESS, BUT STEELERS MUST START MICHAEL VICK WITH BIG BEN ON THE SHELF!
Until the moment Ben Roethlisberger went down with a knee injury Sunday in St. Louis, the Pittsburgh Steelers had been one of the most impressive teams in the NFL in 2015. They hung tough in a loss at New England…a team clearly head and shoulders above the field right now. They crushed San Francisco. And, they had jumped to an early lead in St. Louis…on the same field where the Rams had recently defeated the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks.
Many sharp investors had jumped on St. Louis last Sunday…driving that line past pick-em after Pittsburgh had been an early favorite. Pittsburgh had grabbed early game action by the throat. The Steelers weren’t exactly a Super Bowl caliber team out of the gate…but they were playing at a level that was arguably top five or six.
Now they have to try to win with Michael Vick for the next several weeks!
Vick held on to defeat the Rams 12-6. He threw conservative passes…and mostly tried to stay out of the way as the Pittsburgh defense (post-Big Ben injury) shut Nick Foles and company down outside of a second half field goal. Can he beat Baltimore…who comes to town in must-win mode after a disastrous 0-3 start? Let’s jump to JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats for some guidance.
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Baltimore: 0-3 (lost on the road at Denver and Oakland, then home to Cincy)
Pittsburgh: 2-1 (lost at N. England, beat SF, won at St. Louis)
Definitely a tough schedule for the Ravens. But, they were favored to beat Oakland and Cincinnati…and were relatively short dogs in Denver to start the season. Many were expecting at least a 2-1 start to the new season. Instead, the Ravens are staring 0-4 in the face…and nobody gets to the playoffs from 0-4!
Baltimore: 5.5 on offense, 5.6 on defense
Pittsburgh: 6.7 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Considering the schedule, that’s not a disaster for the Ravens. They’re close to break-even against two good teams in three…while playing two road games in three. But, look at what Pittsburgh was doing! Remember that +1.3 per play differential includes a road game at New England…and features more than a half with Vick. You have to assume the best Vick is going to do is lead his team to net zero in this stat given his long layoff.
We’ve talked often in recent seasons about how Pittsburgh’s defense stopped forcing turnovers as the guy doing all the shampoo commercials got old. They’ve only forced TWO this season. If Joe Flacco isn’t pressured…he could have a big night. Vick will either play so conservative that the team can’t move the ball…or will be forced to open it up in a way that will make the Steelers turnover prone. Thursday, this category will either favor Baltimore, or be a wash in a way that allows Flacco to out-pass Vick.
Baltimore: 0-3 ATS
Pittsburgh: 2-0-1 ATS
The Ravens have definitely been overrated…even if they’re not nearly as bad as “0-3” might make it seem. Pittsburgh caught oddsmakers flat-footed the past two weeks after a push on opening night in Foxboro. Is where the regression starts? League history is pretty clear that the market catches up (or down) eventually. Let’s see where the number went up once it was clear Roethlisberger was on the shelf…
Current Line: Baltimore by 2.5, total of 44
The market is VERY skeptical of Vick as a current-day starter. Pittsburgh obviously would have been favored by about a field goal with Big Ben. Possible a touch higher based on 2015 form. So, this is a move of almost a TD. And, it’s a line that suggests Baltimore would be favored by 5.5 on a neutral field over Vick…or -8 to -8.5 on their home field.
JIM HURLEY is focused right now on his computer simulations. Only his state-of-the-art software can paint a realistic picture of what the Steelers are most likely to do with Vick. Maybe that’s a close win. Maybe that’s a debacle where Baltimore runs away and hides. You’ll have to sign up for service to find out!
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Our TV previews will continue later in the week. Coming up soon in the NOTEBOOK…
*College Football TV Preview…Alabama at Georgia
*NFL Sunday Night TV Preview…Dallas at New Orleans
*NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Detroit at Seattle
*NFL Thursday Night TV Preview…Indianapolis at Houston
Michael Vick used to be a major force in the NFL. He’s just a shadow of his former self these days. But, scary things can lurk in the shadows if you don’t give them enough respect! Will the Baltimore Ravens make that mistake Thursday? Have the oddsmakers made a mistake with this line? The man with the answers is JIM HURLEY…and the place to get BIG, JUICY WINNERS is NETWORK!
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