Perhaps one of the biggest, most aggressive rivalries in all of NFL Football kicks off Week 1 of NFL Football today, as the Baltimore Ravens host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a classic battle between two of the top defensive teams in the league. With the Steelers dominating this series with Ben Rothlisberger at the helm, winning their last 7 straight games against Baltimore, there’s no doubt that the Ravens will be looking to shake off some negative history at M&T Bank Stadium today. With a pair of outstanding defensive units, sold running games, and two veteran quarterbacks leading the charge, there’s no doubt that today’s NFL match-up between the Steelers and Ravens is a game that you won’t want to miss out on, whether it be for watching, wagering on, or both.
The last meeting between these two teams certainly ended on a high note for the Steelers, who rallied to a 31-24 victory in the AFC divisional playoffs against Baltimore last year. Ben Rothlisberger continues to be the chink in the Ravens’ armor, torching the Ravens for 12 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions during his 7-game winning streak at the Steeler helm, and it will be necessary for the Ray Lewis-led Ravens defense to put lots of pressure on Big Ben, to keep him and his solid veteran receiving corps out of sync. However, in this match-up the onus seems to be fully planted on Rothlisberger’s QB nemesis Joe Flacco, who has been simply horrible against Pittsburgh throwing 7 interceptions with just 5 TDs and a 59.2 passer rating in six straight losses when Big Ben is under center. Flacco will need to find a way to get a hold of his #1 receiver Anquan Boldin today as well as new addition Lee Evans, while mixing in the running game led by Ray Rice and backed by key pickup Vonta Leach at fullback (make note of Leach’s absence from Houston and Arian Foster’s lead this season, and what he will bring for Rice all season going forward). That task becomes all the more difficult when factoring Troy Polamalu into the equation, perhaps one of the best defensive secondary players in the game, and also taking into consideration the Pittsburgh defensive line, which allowed just 63 yards per game last season and remains relatively unchanged.
Betting Lines for Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore:
Sportsbetting.ag (read the review of Sportsbetting Sportsbook) puts the Pittsburgh Steelers at EVEN money on the money line, with Baltimore picking up -120 odds as a favorite to win at home today. Though history is against the Ravens in this match-up, their new-look offense has turned a lot of heads in the preseason, and could make the difference in this ball game. The point spread is as expected very tight, with the Ravens giving 1 point and the Steelers getting one at -110 price each, and with such a narrow margin, it almost rules out shooting for this method of wagering in today’s contest. However, with the over/under at 36.5 today, it’s tempting to take the under wager considering this is the first game of the season, both defensive units will be loathe to relinquish any points against their pride, and a few cobwebs are likely to remain before each team’s offense fully gets up to speed (especially with a lock-out shortened off-season and preseason). But, with a history of higher scoring between these two teams, a wager shooting to just cover the over bet on total points looks to be another good option for online sports betting today.
Our Pick to Win:
Baltimore is desperate to get a win today, and after finding themselves the butt of Steeler jokes over the recent years (especially after being bumped from the playoffs twice by them since 2008), the Ravens certainly have vengeance on their minds at home in the opener today. However, the Steelers have a winning streak on opening day that extends back to 2002, and won’t go quietly without a fight. Though the Ravens are a slight favorite in this match-up, I’m looking to another heartbreaking loss down the home stretch in today’s contest, as Ben Rothlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh offense clutch up to squeeze out a 3 point victory on the road, 20-17.
Players to Watch, Baltimore:
Ray Rice, RB – As mentioned before, Rice will be behind newly-acquired Vonta Leach, who was instrumental in Arian Foster’s rise to the running back elite. Pittsburgh’s defense is the toughest in the league against the run, and it will be interesting to watch what Rice can do with one of the best fullbacks in the league making blocks for him today.
Anquan Boldin, WR – With Derrick Mason out of the picture this year, Boldin is the #1 target for QB Joe Flacco, and should have an outstanding season now that he’s getting his chance to shine. Look for Boldin to nab a typical outstanding stretched-out end zone catch in today’s game, and be one of the main contributors to the Ravens offense.
Players to Watch, Pittsburgh:
Ben Rothlisberger, QB – The Steelers win these match-ups with the Ravens because Big Ben knows how to gut games out. He’s not the best passer, the best runner, or the best at anything really. He simply gets the job done, and makes clutch plays when it’s called for. He’s the key for Steeler success in today’s match-up with the Ravens.
Troy Polamalu, Safety – It’s rare, but fitting to have a safety make a PTW list, but when Polamalu is on the field, NFL fans get treated to a clinic on how to play defense. Polamalu will seek to make the passing game difficult for Joe Flacco today, and don’t be surprised to see that black mane flying in the wind as Polamalu sprints off with a Flacco INT today.