Thursday Night Special

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore, MD

My Pick: Pittsburgh 24, Baltimore 20

What I See Happening: I won’t buy into the distraction factor of what’s going on in Baltimore, since I truly don’t believe most professional football players let this stuff get in the way of doing their jobs. That being said, Baltimore tripped over their own feet too often against the Bengals, yet still managed to keep it close in the end. Their lack of a sustainable running game will allow the Steelers to play a one-dimensional defensive game, while Ben Roethlisberger should find success against the Ravens in the middle of the field. That, coupled with a solid running game, will give the Steelers another big divisional win.

Sizing ‘Em Up

QB: Joe Flacco is the most overpaid player in the league, regardless of position. He’s essentially Carson Palmer, and with the protection issues Baltimore displayed in week one, he should be pressured into a bad game. Roethlisberger, on the other hand, has always been the better passer and looks more athletically fit this year than in recent seasons. His ability to stretch plays will put at least one touchdown on the board.

RB: Le’Veon Bell is quickly looking like a stud for the Steelers, while the Ravens lack a permanent fixture. Bernard Pierce is capable, and last week showed us that Justin Forsett can offer a solid change of pace, but this team is lacking punch across the offensive line. Both teams may find some success on the ground, but Bell should easily be the leading rusher.

WR: Torrey and Steve Smith are formidable, and Dennis Pitta is a threat and constant target for Flacco, but Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown is simply the superior at the position amongst both teams. Beyond him, Markus Wheaton and TE Heath Miller provide ample targets. The matchup here is close, but I’ll give the edge to the team who suits up the best WR: Pittsburgh.

Offensive line: The Steelers’ line isn’t exactly a group of worldbeaters, but compared to Baltimore, they’re more than suitable.

Defensive line: Pittsburgh keys off of their linebackers, but their defensive line performed well in week one. Baltimore has more beef up front, and more talent, so I’ll give them the nod on this one.

Linebackers: The Steelers continue to produce excellent talent at the position, and few teams can match what they’ve got at the moment. The continued growth of rookie Ryan Shazier is going to be fun to watch. Baltimore has skill here as well, but Pittsburgh is a linebacker machine that keeps going and going and going…

Secondary: I’ll take the young legs in Baltimore’s secondary over the old guard in Pittsburgh, although either of these situations could result in big plays in the passing games of each team.

Special Teams: Jacoby Jones is dangerous when he can bring down a kick, and the Ravens have the edge in kicking with Justin Tucker. Don’t discount Antonio Brown’s ability as a punt returner, though. Especially if an opposing player finds himself being jump kicked.

Fantasy Start/Sit

This matchup is always difficult for fantasy owners. On one hand, both teams have major potential at certain positions. On the other, all that can go out the window with the way these teams go at each other. That being said, I’d sweep the waver wire before I started either defense, simply because of the aforementioned uncertainty.

Owners should start Le’Veon Bell without prejudice in any matchup. Roethlisberger is worth rolling the dice on, as is Antonio Brown. For the Ravens, I’d bench Flacco (and consider dropping him altogether if it’s feasible) and give Pierce, Steve Smith and/or Dennis Pitta a moment’s consideration.

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