Majority of Pundits Are Predicting Pittsburgh to Prevail
You’ve surely heard the cliche about games between bitter rivals: “You can throw out the records when these two teams play.” It’s often been used to describe meetings between AFC North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and rightfully so.
With the Steelers hosting the Ravens this Sunday, the phrase is again applicable — only this time there’s a twist: The last-place Steelers (5-7) are actually favored over the first-place Ravens (8-4) by 2.5 points.
The majority of pundits we looked at (29 of 42) are predicting a Steelers victory.
The main reason the pundits are bullish on Pittsburgh is because Lamar Jackson (knee) is unlikely to play, but it’s not the only reason.
After starting the season 2-6, Pittsburgh has played much better over the past month. The Steelers have won three of their past four, with their only loss being a 37-30 shootout against the red-hot Cincinnati Bengals.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have been scuffling on offense in the three games since their bye week. This past Sunday, they needed a late rally to escape M&T Bank Stadium with a 10-9 win over the three-win Denver Broncos.
Here’s what the pundits are saying about this Sunday’s game:
No Lamar Jackson means no Ravens victory.
The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec: “[Tyler] Huntley is plenty capable, but he’s still a young quarterback prone to mistakes and he just doesn’t possess the dynamic play-making ability that Jackson has. The Ravens’ offense is riding the struggle bus and it’s a lot to ask of Huntley to steady things on the road against a heated and motivated rival in December.”
FanSided’s Matt Verderame: “The Steelers are the better team with Lamar Jackson on the shelf. Baltimore has been struggling badly over the past month.”
Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith: “Without Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are going to struggle to put points on the board, and the Steelers are playing hard every week.”
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio: “These two teams always keep it close. With Lamar Jackson out, Pittsburgh has an even better chance to further complicate the AFC playoff picture.”
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: “The Ravens have had offensive issues with Lamar Jackson, and now he’s out. That means it’s Tyler Huntley’s time at quarterback. The Steelers defense is playing better, so that’s not a good thing for the Ravens.”
USA Today’s Lorenzo Reyes: “With Lamar Jackson banged up and likely out, and Baltimore’s inconsistency, I feel quite comfortable riding the Steelers here.”
The Ravens will get the job done with Huntley.
Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: “The Ravens are facing another late-season fade out of the AFC playoffs with their North lead being very precarious again. Tyler Huntley, however, is one of the league’s best backup QBs and the Ravens should like their chances to get the running game going here to support having this matchup’s more dominant defense.”
CBS Sports’ John Breech: “Huntley is basically a mini-me version of Lamar Jackson and based on what he did in four starts last year, he might actually be able to provide a spark for a Ravens offense that’s been in a rut over the past few weeks. I think we’ll see a minor drop-off from the Ravens offense without Jackson, but I also think that Huntley plays well enough to lead Baltimore to a win.”
The Athletic’s Vic Tafur: “Huntley, like Jackson, can make plays with his legs, and that should deter Alex Highsmith and the Steelers pass rush from being too aggressive. The Ravens defense has to step up and should be able to contain Steelers RB Najee Harris and put the game in rookie QB Kenny Pickett’s hands. He has been average thus far, but I might take Huntley over him. In fact, I am.”
USA Today’s Richard Morin: “The Ravens are 4-2 on the road this season and showed plenty of competitive spirit with Tyler Huntley under center last season. It’ll be a low-scoring game, but the Ravens find a way to pull this one out.”
The Ravens’ edge on special teams and defense will be the difference.
The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia: “The Steelers are a mediocre team at best, and the Ravens pretty much always have an edge on special teams. Their defense should be able to get to Kenny Pickett. I think Huntley is capable of doing enough for the upset here.”
The Ravens need to get their running game back on track.
Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich: “The key for the Ravens is to get the running game revved up after dealing with some recent struggles. That could also be tough against the Steelers, who are allowing 107.5 yards per game, ranked seventh in the NFL. Gus Edwards had just six carries last week against Denver and Kenyan Drake had seven. The Ravens need to get them more involved.”
A Steelers victory is dependent upon opening up the passing game.
Pro Football Network’s Kyle Yates: “Baltimore is allowing the second-fewest rushing yards per game, but the eighth-most passing yards this season. If Pickett can get the ball into the hands of his playmakers and trust them to make some big catches downfield to take advantage of the favorable matchup, Pittsburgh could advance to 6-7 on the season and be right back in the hunt.”