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NFL Week 4 Thursday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pair Bet

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers +3.0 (-110) / u44.0 (-110)

Thursday, October 1, 2015, 8:25 PM EDT

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

CG Technology opened this game at Pittsburgh -2.5 back in April -- well before anyone could have known that the Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger, would sprain an MCL and bruise a bone in his left knee during Pittsburgh's week 3 campaign at St. Louis, and would miss four or five games as a result. In light of this new info, the betting line flipped to favor Baltimore by a field goal.

Just prior to his going down, Roethlisberger climbed to the top of the heap on the basis of ESPN's Total QBR stat, and to #3 by Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) (which measures quarterback productivity in yards versus replacement level players after adjusting for specific situations and opponents), so his presence will be missed. However, we conclude that a 5.5 point swing versus a down-on-their-luck Ravens squad is too extreme. We are therefore lining up with the home dogs from ths spot.

Our preferred power rankings statistic, FPI, makes the Black and Yellow 3.8 point favorites Thursday. Unlike many power rankings approaches, FPI does adjust for injury at the QB spot. Supplemental power ratings approaches we consult highlight the same result against the spread: Elo ratings give Pittsburgh a 1.7 point absolut advantage, Massey-Peabody expects the Steelers to fall by 0.7 points and a third-tier power rankings indicator we follow calls for a Steelers win by better than a touchdown. These measures do not, however, appreciate that Roethlisberger is out of the line-up Thursday, so while we are quite comfortable with the call for the home team to beat the number, we concede that this game might be more tightly contested than the Steelers -3.2 spread implied by our power rankings composite.

In addition to rankings-based considerations, the two main independent simulation models that we incorporate into our process corroborate the view that Pittsburgh should cover (these inputs do consider personnel availability issues). One model gives Baltimore a 1.7 point edge, while the other calls for the Ravens to win by 2.2 points.

Our perspective also finds support in the work of the statisticians at FiveThirtyEight, who estimate that a temporarily short-staffed Steelers team is likely only a bit less that one game worse this season than if their starting QB were available for every contest.

Pittsburgh's veteran back-up, Michael Vick, will face a relatively soft pass rushing defense Thursday evening, aiding the Steelers' effort. The Ravens ranked second-to-last in 2014 by completions allowed per game, and are #19 this season through three weeks of play. Also, Baltimore sorted #25 last year in opponents completion percentage (though the number has improved to a more respectable #12 so far this year).

To this point, partially influenced by the week 2 performance in which the Ravens D ceded 30 competions, 351 passing yards and 3 TDs to the Oakland Raiders' Derek Carr, Grantland's Robert Mays raises the possibility that the once-supreme Baltimore defense is no longer worthy of prasie in the superlative.

Also working in the Steelers favor, top-notch running back Le'Veon Bell, returned to action in week 3 after serving a suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. In his season debut, Bell contributed 62 rushing yards on 19 carries, 70 receiving yards on 7 receptions (8 attempted passes were thrown his direction) and a touchdown. Bell is likely to shoulder an increased load Thursday considering Roethlisberger's absence.

The Ravens terrible start might have ominous implications for the remainder of their season. Following losses in weeks 1 and 2, FiveThirtyEight characterized Baltimore as being "screwed". The Ravens have since collected yet another loss, earned by blowing a two touchdown lead versus the Bengals last Sunday. Andy Dalton lit Baltimore up to the tune of 383 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. The CIncinnati QB's primary target, A.J. Green, accounted for 227 receiving yards and 2 of those TDs. With this latest defeat, the probability of the Ravens making the playoffs dropped to a meager 17%, per FiveThirtyEight's Elo Rating methodology.

Our primary computer simulation routines as well as a third, auxillary computer prediction system each anticipate a total score in the 40-43 point range. More specifically, these independent factors expects the Ravens score to disappoint versus the implied team total of 23.5 -- calculated as (44-3)/2 +3. This oulook is not particularly surprising given that though the Steelers boast a defense that is no better than average, the Ravens offense is likewise average, at best. Thus, in additoin to backing the Steelers +3.0, we also find UNDER 44.0 to be a compelling opportunity.

Happy betting!!

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