Baltimore @ Pittsburgh: Wounded Ravens can't keep up with unbeaten Steelers

Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have been struck by a Covid-19 outbreak that makes their match-up with the Steelers even tougher

The league has had to change the date for this game three times in a week, and Mark Kirwan isn't sure it will be worth the wait...

"But the Ravens' star QB hasn't been able to recreate that form this season, hampered by losses along the offensive line and NFL defences wising up to the offence's scheme, and he's now absent for this game due to Covid 19."

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Wednesday, 20:40
Live on Sky Sports NFL

Ravens rocked

Finally, this game might actually get played.

Originally scheduled for Thanksgiving last week, then moved to Sunday, this game was then shifted on to Tuesday night before moving to Wednesday because of a rampant Covid-19 outbreak among Baltimore players and staff. It means the Ravens' Thursday game for Week 13 against the Cowboys now takes place on Monday at 10pm.

Schedule makers are working overtime this season.

It's difficult to know where to start assessing this game beyond looking at the chaos that's engulfed Baltimore in the last week.

The Covid outbreak within their facility will only amplify the issues they were already facing ahead of what should've been one of the stand-out match-ups of the regular season.

This time last season they were rolling their way to a league-best 14-2 record, the best in the NFL in 2019, thanks to the most lethal offensive weapon in the league, Lamar Jackson.

But the Ravens' star QB hasn't been able to recreate that form this season, hampered by losses along the offensive line and NFL defences wising up to the offence's scheme, and he's now absent for this game due to Covid 19.

Others ruled out include Calais Campbell, Patrick Mekari, Matt Skura, Mark Andrews, Matthew Judon, Willie Snead, Terrell Bonds and Brandon Williams for this game, and more could follow. Mark Ingram and JK Dobbins will, apparently, be available to play having followed the Covid protocols this week.

This slew of absences is the latest blow in an already disappointing season.

The loss to the Titans dropped them to 6-4, meaning they're at risk of missing the newly-expanded playoffs in a very competitive AFC. This game was already shaping up like a game the Ravens needed to win to remind the rest of the league they're still a threat.

Now they have to do that without half their roster.

Steelers shining through

The Steelers are the team on a hot streak through the AFC this season.

They're the last remaining undefeated side, though they haven't been the most powerful offence in the league this year. Their offensive averages are solely middle-of-the-pack and Ben Roethlisberger isn't figuring in much talk around the major season awards.

Their primary offensive strength is their depth. They already had strong receiving options in Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson last season, but the revelation of rookie Chase Claypool has been the story of their season.

He has eight receiving touchdowns and two rushing in his debut season and has made a huge impression with highlight plays, including their last game against the Jaguars.

It set-up a very comfortable win for a team that looks to have another gear or two to move into if required.

Their offence has had to be mindblowing because their defence is one of the toughest in the league, and that should have them well-positioned for a deep playoff run come Janaury.

They haven't entirely escaped the Covid curse this week, but the losses of RB James Conner and lineman Stephon Tuitt pale in comparison to those of their opponents.

The Picks

I'd have taken the Ravens on the handicap and moneyline if it went ahead last Thursday as planned, but they're impossible to back now.

Not only have they lost too many players, but their entire preparation for this game has also been disrupted. The one risk with the Steelers is complacency when they get ahead, though the fact that they're expected to win by 14+ points according to the Winning Margin market tells you everything you need to know about this game.

If you want to bet on the result, that looks like the best option for me because Robert Griffin III, previously known as RGIII, is the starter for Baltimore in Jackson's absence and there's not much hope of him replacing the MVP adequately with so many other players out.

For that reason the total has dropped to 42 as well, as the Ravens will struggle to move the ball. I'd lean to the under still.

For scoring interests, you can only look at Steelers.

Anthony McFarland is a rookie who has seen some time in the Pittsburgh backfield this season and should be in line for more now Conner is missing. He's yet to score, but this is the perfect opportunity to break that duck. Benny Snell will lead the ground game, but McFarland is more generous odds at 7/2 as an anytime scorer.

The Steelers D and Special Teams carries value too at 9/2 because the Ravens are going to be in such disarray and because Griffin will likely turn the ball over under pressure.

While Claypool has had the spectacular plays, Diontae Johnson has had a higher volume of passes and looks to have stepped ahead of JuJu Smith-Schuster as the top receiving option for Big Ben with 227 yards and a touchdown on 18 receptions in his last two games. I'd look at him for the first TD in this game as value shot at 7/1.

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