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AFC Championship Ravens vs. Steelers NFL Predictions

AFC Championship Game – Battle for the ages

BetUS NFL betting odds: PITTSBURGH -6, Total 34
NOTABLE STAT: Steelers gave up 237 yards per game (best in NFL)

KEY NFL FOOTBALL BETTING TREND: Baltimore is 7-1 SU & ATS in last eight road games

In the BetUS NFL football betting odds, the Steelers are listed as a six-point favorite, with a posted total of 34 points.  

Here are some NFL football betting trends as they relate to this matchup:

* BALT has won and covered seven of its last eight games
* BALT has played five of its last six games UNDER the total
* BALT has won and covered seven of its last eight road games
* PITT has covered six of its last seven games
* PITT has won seven of its last eight games SU
* PITT has covered four of its last five home games
* PITT has won its last five home games SU

Also…

* BALT has covered six of the last eight meetings
* Four of the last five meetings have gone OVER the total
* PITT has covered 14 of the last 21 meetings as the home team
* PITT has won seven of the last eight meetings SU as the home team
* Seven of the last eight meetings in Pittsburgh have gone OVER the total

Yes, the Baltimore Ravens, who seemed so hopeless last season in playing with one rookie quarterback, a Heisman Trophy winner no less (Troy Smith), can advance to the Super Bowl this season with a rookie head coach who had never been a coordinator (John Harbaugh) and a rookie quarterback who was not even playing Division I schools last season (Joe Flacco). To make the story even more unlikely, can you imagine the vindication for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after last year’s disaster in Miami, when he was run out of town after a 1-15 season, which would have been winless if not for – you guessed it – the Baltimore Ravens?

It would seem like a real uphill climb for this Ravens team in this game. After all, they had only nine first downs against Tennessee in the divisional playoff round, and Flacco has gone just 20 for 45 in the two playoff games. Now the rookie will have to win a third straight post-season contest on the road, against a Pittsburgh team that ranks first in defense, having given up 300 yards to just one team on its entire schedule.

Let’s admit that Baltimore got a little lucky against Tennessee – lucky that the obvious delay of game penalty was not called, which would have stalled a drive that led to the winning field goal. Baltimore has not only reaped the benefit of eight turnovers on the part of its opponents, but surely came away fortunate that rookie phenom running back Chris Johnson was bounced out early for the Titans. When you get only nine first downs, something extraordinary certainly has to go your way. In two games against Pittsburgh this season, both Baltimore losses, Flacco was nothing sensational, completing just 27 of 59 passes with a TD and two interceptions. There has been no 100-yard rusher against Pittsburgh all season, which would seem to thwart Baltimore’s bread and butter; meanwhile, a healthier Willie Parker got it going against San Diego last week with 146 rushing yards.

On the surface, this matchup looks bad for Harbaugh’s Ravens.

However, one thing that has been consistent all season is that this Baltimore squad’s end product has always been greater than the sum of its parts. The running game does not produce huge numbers, averaging just four yards a carry, a full yard less than the Giants, yet the Ravens are able to chew clock, shorten games, and otherwise control matters more often than not. Flacco plays ugly, but seems to make a lot of clutch throws, and he has less of a burden because opponents must account for the run on almost every play. 

AFC Championship

Pittsburgh’s avoidance of 100-yard rushers would hardly seem a factor here, since the Ravens come with not one, not two, but THREE fresh running backs – LeRon McClain (902 yards), Willis McGahee (671) and Ray Rice (454 yards, and ready to play after a leg injury).

Also, it is hardly an accident that the Ravens have gotten all these takeaways; Baltimore’s turnover ratio is +20 (Pittsburgh is +6). The Ravens have figured out a way to take things right down to the wire on both occasions they have played the Steelers, losing by three points in overtime at M&T Bank Stadium on September 29, then by a 13-9 margin on December 14, when Pittsburgh scored on that controversial TD by Santonio Holmes at the end. A very legitimate argument can be made that the Ravens could have won both those games. Maybe they match up well after all.

Pittsburgh’s defense is awesome, but Baltimore’s stop unit is comparable. It has shown a capacity to slow down the Pittsburgh running game, which had only 161 yards in the two meetings. Sure, Flacco is probably the guy more likely to make mistakes, but Cameron and Harbaugh have been industrious enough to work around his inexperience all year. Baltimore’s defense, though, is perfectly capable of taking advantage of the Steeler offensive front, which has allowed Ben Roethlisberger to get sacked 47 times. With an opportunistic secondary (how many nightmares is Ed Reed a part of?), how many mistakes can that bring about?

With a defense that has allowed only 83 points in the last eight games, and fresh running backs in the game at all times, Pittsburgh will have difficulty gaining separation here. Baltimore has become a tough traveler (7-1 SU & ATS in last eight on road). There is no reason the Ravens can’t keep this very close, or even come out with a win. Needless to say, we’ll grab the six points in the BetUS Sportsbook AFC championship sports betting odds.

Our PLAY: BALTIMORE +6 ***

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