Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks
Monday December 10, 01:30 GMT
TV - Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Emotional home game will motivate Steelers
Ryan Shazier's injury on Monday Night Football will have had all with an interest in football taking a deep breath. While initial reports have trended towards the positive, what's clear is Shazier has a challenging path back to the football field, and his general well-being outside of football is the more immediate concern for him, the Steelers organisation and those who enjoy this brutal sport in general.
The injury occurred against a divisional rival, the Bengals. Six days later, a wounded but victorious Pittsburgh team returns to western Pennsylvania for another bruising encounter in the AFC North against the ascendant Baltimore Ravens.
The trip to Cincinnati will be remembered as one of the nastiest games in recent memory. Familiarity has bred contempt between these two sides, as is evident from the suspensions and controversies that have followed Monday's game. The Steelers will be without the emerging wideout Juju Smith-Schuster, as his hit on Vontaze Burfict, a player many others would've liked to deliver a late hit or two on, earned him a game off from the league's disciplinary arm.
There are also more mundane ailments than Shazier's to be considered. In particular, Antonio Brown has missed practive this week, but is expected to play once again despite being hurt.
The toll of Monday night on the Steelers will have been both emotional and physical. The effect will be difficult to gauge, but the expectation would be that Pittsburgh will want to win this one for Shazier, and that could be bad news for Baltimore.
Ravens can land on playoff perch
The AFC in general has been lacking in quality offence this year, and the Ravens likely playoff appearance is emblematic of that dearth.
Quarterbacks will always get credit when things are going well, and bear the brunt of criticism when they aren't. Joe Flacco ranks dead last in the league with 5.54 yards per play. That's behind DeShone Kizer, a rookie who's been benched repeatedly, Brian Hoyer, who has been traded by the Niners, and Jay Cutler, who should've stayed in the commentary box.
Injuries have impacted Flacco's talent. Ligament damage two seasons ago have seen him play more cautiously since, fearing any pass-rush and getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible. A preseason back injury has hindered him further, the deep ball threat that carried the Ravens to a Superbowl win looks to have disappeared.
Flacco is not helped by the surrounding talent. Alex Collins, cut by Seattle this year, is their most productive weapon on offence. Jeremy Maclin is their best receiver, their main outside threat is an aged Mike Wallace. Breshad Perriman is a draft bust. Danny Woodhead is useful, but has been injured.
Despite these difficulties, the Ravens will likely make it to the postseason because the AFC is so bad, their defence is so good, and they've faced several backup QBs, making their schedule easier.
Terrell Suggs, at 35, is still sacking quarterbacks, with 10.5 so far this season. They'll be without Jimmy Smith now, but they've a lot of talent in the secondary, with Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson veterans signed from elsewhere who've made them very tough to pass on. Their line isn't as explosive as the best in the league Jaguars', but it can stop running games and bring pressure.
Their run against hampered passing games has helped their record as well. In their last five games they've faced Matt Moore, Brett Hundley, Tom Savage and Jake Ruddock for extended periods or whole games.
The Steelers are strong at home, and, though they have the Shazier emotional weight to contend with as well as his loss on the field, they can use that as motivation against a Ravens team that has had an easier run than others and who will likely be making up the numbers in January. The line has shortened in this game throughout the week, moving from an opening of Pittsburgh -7 to -4.5. I like the -4.5 Handicap on the Steelers at 1.9620/21, and it might be worth waiting to see if the line moves any lower before kick-off.
The Total Points line at 43.5 looks steep on first glance given the defences, but the injuries on both sides should mean play-makers have space to work with and I can see this going over. Baltimore have managed to put some points on teams in recent weeks, and the Steelers have a powerful offence, so Over looks tempting at 1.981/1.
For a Touchdown scorer punt, I think Pittsburgh D/ST at 7/2 Anytime is worth a look, given the events of the week and Joe Flacco's flakiness. It's one to consider to juice up a multiple TD accumulator on the Sportsbook.
1pt on the Pittsburgh Steelers -4.5 or less in the Handicap market @ 1.9620/21 on the Exchange
1pt on the Over 43.5 Points in the Total Points market @ 1.981/1 on the Exchange
.5pt on Pittsburgh D/ST in the Anytime Touchdown Scorer market @ 7/2 on the Sportsbook