Can Pittsburgh overcome the loss of their quarterback to beat the winless Ravens? Thursday night´s NFL clash is up for grabs according to Neil Harvey, who predicts lots of points in the process...
"Baltimore´s passing offense ranks sixth in the league and can do damage to a Pittsburgh secondary that´s already allowed six touchdowns and almost seven yards per pass, despite facing only one potent QB (Sorry Foles and Kaepernick fans)"
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
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What a difference an injury makes. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger is out with a bad knee. And the moment at which Big Ben had his bell rung by the St. Louis defense, single-handedly turned expectations for this game on their head. Of all the body parts being mentioned though, perhaps the most important is Michael Vick´s arm, which could have a major say in who wins here.
Pittsburgh should have been the hot favourites for this fixture. The (2-1) Steelers have been impressive on offense, even without their substance abusing stars Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. The latter has one more week of punishment to endure and misses out here, but Bell returned in Week Three in solid style, posting 67 yards and a touchdown against a stout St. Louis defense.
Roethlisberger's mighty arm was the supply line that fed Antonio Brown. Brown is hailed as one of the best receivers in the NFL right now. And he is great. But how great will he be without his regular QB? All questions and all roads lead to Michael Vick. In Vick we have a classic Jekyll and Hyde performer. One capable of producing the most dazzling displays or the most dire disasters. And just how fit and how in-form the former Philly star will be is impossible to know.
What we can be sure of is that Pittsburgh will lean heavily on their Bell-cow. Leveon Bell usually shoulders the weight of the Steelers attack, with his effectiveness opening up the opportunities for Pittsburgh´s passing game. It's likely though that the Ravens will stack the box against Bell, who is a proven threat, and take their chances against Vick's passing game.
That could offer up some opportunities for the back-up QB to look downfield. And while he has a habit of producing interceptions, Vick's equally capable of making some big plays. He could well surprise a few people, especially against a Ravens secondary that´s given up an almost unfathomable 734 yards and six touchdowns though the air in just the last two weeks. Stand-in quarterbacks tend to be of surprisingly poor quality in the NFL. But Vick is as good as they get and will be highly motivated to prove he can still be a franchise QB.
Baltimore's traditional ability to stop the run has endured, with Oakland RB Latavius Murray´s modest 65 yards the most they've conceded this season. The pass defense has been gouged though. If Derek Carr could punish them for 351 yards and three TDs, then surely Michael Vick, once much feared in the NFL, must have a chance. Indeed, if Vick gets within spitting distance of the endzone, I fancy the price of 5.004/1 on him using that famous burst of speed and making a dash for personal glory.
Baltimore are (0-3) because of a porous secondary and a running game that´s been stuttering. Justin Forsett is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and now comes up against a Steelers defensive line that´s allowed a mere 3.6 per rush and forced a couple of fumbles. Forsett´s chances of igniting his season here don´t look good.
The one place Baltimore have had success is through the air. Joe Flacco is for me perhaps the most under-rated quarterback in the NFL, consistently squeezing potency out of a string of mediocre passing units. This year, the Ravens receiving corp has been reduced to pretty much just Steve Smith Senior. And yet we see the veteran enjoying a stellar start to the season, with 349 yards and two TDs to his name despite being in a losing team. Thank Flacco for that.
Baltimore's passing offense ranks sixth in the league and can do damage to a Pittsburgh secondary that has already allowed six touchdowns and almost seven yards per pass, despite facing only one potent QB (Sorry Foles and Kaepernick fans). Smith Senior will be Flacco's go-to man. But watch out for tight end Crocket Gilmore in the endzone. With two TDs this season, his size makes him a more obvious target than Smith in the redzone. Forgive the lack of a big name and instead focus on the big price of 15.0014/1 for him to score first.
Neither defense is much to shout about. And both sides have enough offensive weapons and experience on the field to exploit those frailties. A lot of people are expecting a low score, based on defensive reputations and the insertion of Vick. Those reputations are undeserved though. And writing-off Vick, who completed five passes from six following his unexpected arrival last week, may prove to be slightly premature. So whichever side wins, there could be more points than expected.
2pts Total Points Over 44.0 @ 1.9720/21
1st Half Points Over 21.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better
Michael Vick to score anytime touchdown @ 5.004/1 or better
Crocket Gilmore anytime/first touchdown scorer @ 15.0014/1
Neil Harvey's 2015 NFL P&L
Staked - 27pts
Returned - 25.34pts
P/L - +1.66Pts