NFL Betting — Steelers-Ravens: Is Rudolph Ready to Rumble Again?

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Did anyone really expect the Baltimore Ravens to go limp at home against the Cleveland Browns last week? No, neither did we. So does that make them vulnerable against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that seemed to get its act together on offense when they last hit the field?

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It’s a different situation this week; at least that’s what the Ravens contend. So we’ll see if they can bounce back, and do it on the road, in a Sunday game that begins at 1 PM ET at Heinz Field.

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As you know the Steelers were put in a difficult position when Ben Roethlisberger went down with his season-ending injury, leaving the offense in the hands of Mason Rudolph. Things have been a little strange for Rudolph, because in the process of easing him into the offense, the Steelers have had him throw almost exclusively short passes. Many of these have been completed either behind, or within a yard or two, of the line of scrimmage.

But there is no disputing that the approach was effective last Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, as Rudolph hit on 24 of 28 throws for 229 yards and two touchdowns. He is letting his running backs do a lot of the work, as they accounted for 140 of his yards through the air.

The Ravens, who rolled through the Miami Dolphins in the season opener, haven’t looked all that sensational since. And it was embarrassing to lose to the Browns at M&T Bank Stadium, allowing 530 yards and 30 second-half points.

In the NFL betting odds that have been posted on this game, the Ravens are laying points on the road:

Baltimore Ravens -3 (-115)
Pittsburgh Steelers +3 (+105)

Over 44 points (-101)
Under 44 points (-109)

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The Steelers have to do as much as they can on the ground. So guys like James Conner and Jaylen Samuels will have to play their roles like they did against Cincinnati. It’s not as if the Ravens’ defense has been airtight thus far; they have allowed 4.9 yards per rush and 8.6 yards per pass attempt. They have been outgained overall.

We know that the Steelers can get after a quarterback quickly. In terms of seconds per “QB hurry” situation, only one team has been faster (did we go over this last week?). Does Lamar Jackson do enough to mitigate that kind of thing? Well, some of it. For certain, what he is able to bring to the table with his mobility brings something of a new dimension to this offense. And the Ravens are more productive this year, to put it mildly. It’s only through four games, but they’ve piled up 5.9 yards per rushing attempt, which makes it easier to convert third downs (they’re 48% in that regard). Can they continue running the ball almost 57% of the time? Maybe they can; as they are second in the NFL in 2nd Level Yards and Adjusted Line Yards. In short, the backs (including Mark Ingram at six yards a carry) are doing a very good job.

There are new key people in the passing game – like rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown (304 yards) and tight end Mark Andrews (23 receptions). And they’re both Oklahoma alums. Those two players together account for 47% of Jackson’s completions.

As you looked at Pittsburgh’s attack with Rudolph last Monday, you had to say to yourself, “A good team is going to bottle these guys up because they don’t stretch out the field.” And indeed that’s true. Is Baltimore that “good team”? Well frankly, they should be good enough. They’re not as horrible in coverage as Cincinnati and they should be able to bring at least enough pressure to force Rudolph to get rid of the ball very quickly. Except they’ll take certain things away and force Rudolph to throw over them, which will make the second-year man uncomfortable. We’re going to lay the points.

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