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Ravens Can Wrap-Up AFC North Today


Ravens v Steelers

Lewis and Roethlisberger will once again be absent for today's game in Baltimore.

When compared to other professional sports leagues, the one huge difference between all of them is that the National Football League plays so many fewer regular season games than baseball, basketball and hockey and with good reason. Because of that limited number of contests, you sometimes get games like the one you’ll see today at 4:25pm when the Baltimore Ravens host the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With a win and a loss by the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens can win the AFC North title for the second straight year and in the process, will have defeated their arch-rivals four straight times. With this in mind, you’d think the Steelers were going to go ‘all-out’ in an effort to beat the Ravens right? Maybe not because the Steelers have bigger concerns at the moment. Pittsburgh is riddled with injuries and chief among them is QB Ben Roethlisberger who will not play on Sunday. This will be his third straight missed game. The Steelers will also start a rookie at right tackle and will go with Charlie Batch again at quarterback. For the Steelers, this game is about remaining healthy. With three out of their final four at home, Pittsburgh is thinking ‘Wild-Card’ right now.

The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns each make trips to California today where the Bengals visit San Diego and the Browns will visit the Black Hole in Oakland. Cincy has won three straight and plays a beleaguered Chargers’ team with a lame duck head coach. Cleveland comes off a huge win over rival Pittsburgh and has played well of late despite being 3-8 on the year.

The games this week

Sanu and Green

Green and Sanu have led a resurgent Bengals' attack.

Cincinnati (-1) at San Diego – The Bengals are hot. Winners of three straight they remain in the thick of the AFC Wild-Card race with Indianapolis and division-rival Pittsburgh. The resurgent play is due in large part to a more confident Andy Dalton who has not just A.J. Green but also Mohamed Sanu. The defense has been better as well and overall the Bengals are just playing well at the right time. 

The Chargers are coming off one of the more devastating losses in franchise history as the blew a big lead late to Baltimore by allowing a 4th and 29 conversion. They would eventually lose in overtime. QB Philip Rivers continues to struggle with turnovers and one has to wonder if the pressure to win isn’t becoming too much. This team is expected to be blown up from the top down. The Bengals are jsut playing to well right now so take them to cover and win big in San Diego. 

Cleveland (-2.5) at Oakland – The Browns collected eight turnovers last week in their six-point win over the Steelers. Just their second win over their rivals in the last several years. It didn’t come as a shock however because they’ve played well even in losing. QB Brandon Weeden suffered a concussion last week so Colt McCoy could see some time at QB. Either way, expect large doses of Trent Richardson. The Raiders are struggling and I expect it to continue even at home. I like Cleveland to cover and win by a field goal.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-8) – The Ravens are not going to feel one bit sorry for their rivals when it comes to injuries and they aren’t going to be ‘nice’ either. The Ravens’ biggest weakness is their secondary but they catch a break because Charlie Batch starts again. He struggled to throw the ball down-field in Cleveland and was picked off three times.

Do not forget the fact the Ravens have a league-best 15-game winning streak at home and I honestly expect it to continue this week. The Steelers do get Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu back but unless they can throw the ball it won’t matter. The spread is surprisingly large even without Ben Roethlisberger, but it’s appropriate. Take the Ravens to cover behind a big game from the defense and Ray Rice.

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