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As the NFL enters Week 13, push is coming to shove. The margin for error is thin for teams hanging by a thread to their playoff hopes. Two of those teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6, 2-4 away) and the Baltimore Ravens (5-6, 4-1 home), will meet at 8:30 ET on Thanksgiving. The Steelers enter this game having won 5 of their last 7. The Ravens have won two of their last three and have lost just once at home. These divisional rivals will fight tooth and nail for the win. The loser will take a big hit to their chances of visiting the playoffs. Pittsburgh won the first meeting in Week 6 by a score of 19-16.
The Ravens are currently -3 even at 5 dimes sportsbook with a total of 40.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (64.5 CMP%, 3,118 YDs, 19 TDs, 10 INTs, 92.2 RAT) got off to a slow start in 2013, but has been solid since. He leads the NFL's 8th ranked passing attack. He produced his best effort of the year just two weeks ago when he scorched Detroit for 367 YDs and 4 TDs. Coincidentally, the 37 points the Steelers scored that day are the most they have had all season. The two-time Super Bowl winning QB dispelled rumors about wanting a trade to leave Pittsburgh and suddenly the offense is meshing.
Pittsburgh runs into a stout defense this week as the Ravens rank 11th against both the pass and run. They give up just 12.8 PPG at home. The Steelers could only manage 287 total yards in the first meeting between these two teams.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco (59.1 CMP%, 2,742 YDs, 14 TDs, 14 INTs, 76.8 RAT) is having a frustrating year after inking a six-year, $120.6 million contract in the offseason. Last year's Super Bowl MVP is ranked 20th in the NFL by Businessinsider.com compared to 16th for Roethlisberger. Stud RB Ray Rice hasn't been much help this year. He averages just 2.9 YDs per carry and has reached the end zone just 4 times this year. However, he had a great game two weeks ago against Chicago (131 YDs, 5.2 AVG, 1 TD). Last week was a huge regression in numbers, but he faced the Jets #1 NFL run defense which means we can forgive that.
Pittsburgh is bad against the run, ranking 23rd in the NFL. The secondary is much better, ranking 10th. They are allowing 16 PPG in their last three games.
The Ravens and Steelers are among a half dozen teams tied for the second wild card spot right now. The winner will stay on track, while the loser is probably going to start thinking about 2014. This game should definitely make Thanksgiving a lot more exciting.
These two teams look pretty even. Using full season data our model has the Ravens on top by 5, 23-18. Of course, the Steelers looked like they were going to be the joke of the NFL one month into the season. But they turned things around and the models predictions using 4 and 7 games of data reflect that turn around, predicting scores of 23-22 with Pitt on top using just 4 games and 20-19 with Balt on top using 7 games. The Ravens certainly haven't been much of a threat to extend a margin this year as they haven't scored more than 20 points for 6 straight weeks. Steelers +3
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