*Editor’s note: This game has been moved to Sunday afternoon due to COVID-19 complications*
Welcome to the Thursday Night Football betting breakdown, where each week I’ll provide a detailed betting overview of the upcoming Thursday Night Football game utilizing moneyline, points spread and projected total odds from DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. I’ll also highlight at least one player- or game-based prop each week that I feel has profit potential.
The NFL’s Week 12 Thursday night showcase is a Thanksgiving Night AFC North showdown between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. This game marks the second meeting of the season between the two clubs. The Steelers notched a 28-24 Week 8 victory in Baltimore, one in which Ben Roethlisberger threw for two touchdowns and Lamar Jackson was picked off twice. Notably, rookie running back J.K. Dobbins, who rushed 15 times for 113 yards in that contest, will miss Thursday’s game due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
The two teams come into the contest with drastically different trajectories. The Ravens have lost three of four games, including two straight. In addition to Dobbins, they’ll also be without Mark Ingram due to his own positive COVID-19 test. Key defensive pieces Brandon Williams (ankle/COVID-19) and Calais Campbell (calf) appear to be on track to miss the game as well.
In contrast, the Steelers are undefeated and coming off a dominating 24-point road win over the Jaguars. Pittsburgh has also been blessed with relatively good health, although JuJu Smith-Schuster did get banged up late in Sunday’s win when he tripped over an official’s flag. Nevertheless, the Steelers aren’t expected to be missing any key players for this rematch.
All betting takes will be classified as a “pick”, with considerations such as relevant injuries, past betting trends and recent performances of each team leading up to the game factoring in.
For more detailed information on this week’s matchup – including further game analysis, betting trends breakdown, betting tips specific to TNF, and a synopsis of the history of the line movement for the game, please see our Thursday Night Football Betting Preview over at TheLines.
There’s plenty of notable names on offense for each of these teams. However, each squad’s identity is still heavily centered in their elite defensive units. Given how well each club knows the other and the fact Baltimore will be forced to work with a depleted backfield, defense is poised to have an outsized presence in this divisional rematch.
In that regard, the going could be the toughest for the visiting Ravens. The statistical accolades for the Steelers defense seem dauntingly never-ending to opponents — fourth-fewest total yards (306.9), third-fewest passing yards (203.5) and seventh-fewest rushing yards (103.4) allowed per game. Pittsburgh is allowing the lowest completion percentage (54.8) in the NFL as well and also boasts the league lead in both interceptions (15) and sacks (38).
The Ravens walk into that proverbial buzz saw without their top two running backs and in the wake of a significantly truncated practice schedule that may see them not take the field for even a walk-through this week, as multiple COVID infections led to them closing their facility Tuesday. Jackson is also struggling with consistency. The reigning NFL MVP has thrown for under 200 yards in six of the last eight games and completed under 60.0 percent of his throws in five of those contests.
That’s not to say the Steelers offense will have a layup on its hands, even with Williams and Campbell likely sidelined. While not quite on the Steelers level, the Ravens D certainly has an above-average resume. Baltimore is giving up the seventh-fewest passing yards per game (217.0), including a stingier 211.8 per road contest. The Ravens have also allowed just a 63.9 percent completion rate in their road contests, an impressive figure paired with a tiny 5.8 average yards per attempt surrendered. Roethlisberger has thrown just five interceptions, but he’s had several close calls on other errant throws and is averaging a modest 6.7 yards per attempt.
Therefore, this game could see a bit of a shift in plan of attack for the Steelers after going particularly pass-heavy in four of the past five games. Roethlisberger has averaged 48.5 pass attempts per contest in that four-game sample. However, the one contest in that span he fell under 40 pass attempts came against Baltimore, when he put the ball up just 32 times. With the Ravens likely sporting a depleted front seven and already allowing 116.0 rushing yards per game and 4.5 RB yards per carry, we could see a repeat. James Conner has been preserved carefully throughout the first 10 games. He hasn’t carried more than 20 times in any contest and has been at 15 or fewer rush attempts in four straight. Therefore, he should have fresher legs than expected at this stage of the campaign and may be poised for a heavy workload.
Despite some of the extenuating circumstances, this shapes up as a wire-to-wire battle as long as COVID doesn’t knock out any more prominent players for the Ravens. However, I do see the healthier team eventually prevailing in a very close battle, putting me in the direction of the Steelers moneyline.
The Lean: Steelers moneyline (-240 or better)
TNF Point Spread
The Ravens are 4-6 (40.0 percent) against the spread this season, including 2-3 (40.0 percent) as a road team and 2-1 (66.7 percent) in division games.
The Steelers are 8-2 (80.0 percent) against the spread this season, including 4-1 (80.0 percent) as a home team and 3-0 in division games
Although the optimal value scenario often involves taking the team predicted for the straight-up win to also pull off the cover, the number has expanded enough here where I lean toward the Ravens if you can get the 5.5 points or better. The second iteration of a division game, especially when the underdog is increasingly desperate, can be unpredictable and especially close. Additionally, three of Pittsburgh’s five home wins have come by single-digit margins, as have a total of six of their 10 victories overall. Then, three of the Ravens’ four losses have been by six points or fewer.
The Lean: Ravens +5.5 or better
TNF Over/Under Total
The Over is 4-6 (40.0 percent) in Baltimore’s games this season, including 2-3 (40.0 percent) in its away games and 1-2 (33.3 percent) in its games against AFC North opponents.
Then, the Over is 4-4-2 in Pittsburgh’s games this season, including 3-1-1 (75.0 percent) in its home games and 1-1-1 in its games against division opponents.
The second game each season between division rivals always stands the chance of being a lower-scoring affair. Throw in two of the league’s best defenses and an erratic passer in Lamar Jackson and the odds go up even further. Factoring in Pittsburgh also ranks in the top 10 in red-zone TD percentage allowed (56.0) and Baltimore missing multiple offensive pieces and I lean toward the Under hitting.
The Lean: Under 45.0 points or better