Overwhelming Majority of Pundits Pick Ravens to Prevail at Pittsburgh
This Sunday in Pittsburgh the Ravens look to become the first team since the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs to play their first three divisional games on the road and win all three.
The vast majority of pundits we looked at (49 of 55) predict the Ravens, who are four-point favorites, will accomplish the feat.
Except for a hiccup against the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago, the Ravens (3-1) have played well. They're coming off a dominant 28-3 win in Cleveland last week to seize sole possession of first place in the AFC North despite dealing with a number of injuries.
Several starters, including wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and safety Marcus Williams could return from injury for this game.
The Steelers (2-2) are coming off a 30-6 rout at the hands of the Houston Texans and are struggling on both sides of the ball — they have the 29th-ranked offense and 30th-ranked defense.
But this is Ravens-Steelers and the games between the archrivals are almost always close. More than two-thirds of the 33 pundits who predicted the score have the game being decided by one score.
There's a possibility the Ravens could face a backup quarterback for the third week in a row, but Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett, who suffered a bone bruise in his knee last week, said Wednesday that he'll "be ready to go by Sunday."
Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:
Lamar Jackson will lead the Ravens to victory.
Bleacher Report’s Ian Hanford: "The Steelers had a chance to build positive momentum last week and failed in spectacular fashion against Houston. Now they're in dire straits with injuries to key players piling up and have a QB coming to town in Lamar Jackson who is in the NFL MVP conversation after four weeks of play. The Steelers have beaten Baltimore in five of the last six meetings, but the Steelers haven't faced Jackson in Baltimore's revamped offense, and I expect Pittsburgh's defense to struggle to contain Jackson both through the air and on the ground."
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "Bold prediction: Ravens QB Lamar Jackson will toss four touchdown passes for the first time since September 2022. The Steelers are the only team that Jackson has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdown passes (four) against in his six-year career. But Pittsburgh has allowed eight touchdown passes this season, which is the fourth most in the league."
The Ravens' pass defense has a decided advantage over the Steelers' passing offense.
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones: "According to Sharp Football, the Ravens are allowing a league-low 3.7 yards per pass play while Pittsburgh's pass plays have resulted in a first down or touchdown an NFL-worst 22.5% of the time. That's bad news for an offense with a banged-up quarterback trying to find his way."
The Ravens will earn a hard-fought win in a low-scoring contest.
USA Today’s Jordan Mendoza: "As is the case with this rivalry, this game will be a war. Expect it to be low-scoring, as in the past five meetings, the winner of the game only reached 20 points once. The Steelers have had Baltimore's number recently, but the offense is still a mess and Lamar Jackson is finding his rhythm after last week."
The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker: "The Ravens seem to play their best on the road against division foes. Still, the Steelers are in a different category here, having won six of their past 10 against Baltimore. They've also battered Lamar Jackson, sacking him 16 times in five career meetings. He has a passer rating of 67.4 with 634 passing yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions against them. But with a revamped Ravens offense, the Steelers' offense struggling and quarterback Kenny Pickett battling a bone bruise in his left knee, the Ravens win a close one."
The Ravens will win with their usual formula.
The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon: "It could be a very familiar script for the Ravens this week: Stop the run, overwhelm an overmatched quarterback, lean on the running game and ride a few big plays from Lamar Jackson to victory. It would take a minor miracle for the Steelers to score a touchdown against this Ravens defense, as only the Raiders and Giants rank worse in offensive efficiency. Stranger things have happened in this rivalry, but it's hard to envision the Ravens losing this one."
Ravens WR Zay Flowers could have a big day.
The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer: "With Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken looking for more explosiveness from the Ravens' passing attack, Flowers could be in line for another impactful game. The Steelers' primary outside cornerbacks, Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson, have both struggled in coverage this season. Peterson, who was expected to play primarily in the slot, had an interception in Week 3 against the Las Vegas Raiders but allowed 88 yards and a touchdown, and last week gave up 94 yards and two touchdowns against the Houston Texans. Wallace had two interceptions against the Raiders but gave up 63 yards and a touchdown, according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, and another 72 yards against Houston."
The Steelers will bounce back from last week's loss to the Texans and edge the Ravens.
The Athletic's Mark Kaboly: "There is no reason the Steelers should beat the Ravens. Saying that, give me the Steelers in a close one. When you get embarrassed like Pittsburgh did against Houston, it makes it a dangerous team the following week. Plus, the Steelers seem to have Jackson's number over the years."
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: "This is a moment that the Steelers rise up and, for now, put out the fire. Going into their bye week, this is critical. This is throw everything at the wall, everything you've got at the Baltimore Ravens."
|ESPN||8 of 9 panelists pick Ravens|
|Baltimore Sun||4 of 4 panelists pick Ravens||“These teams played a 16-14 game and a 16-13 game last season, reminding us that it’s folly to pick a blowout either way in this rivalry. That said, the Ravens have the better quarterback, the better defense, better results against common opponents and a chance to build on their AFC North lead. They won’t allow Pittsburgh’s offense to get going and will turn to their running game to secure a rugged victory.” — Childs Walker|
|USA Today||7 of 8 panelists pick Ravens|
|NFL.com||5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens||“It's a good sign for the Steelers that Kenny Pickett says his knee injury won't keep him sidelined for this weekend's divisional tilt. Even with Pickett, though, the offense has yet to be the well-oiled machine we saw in the preseason, recording less than 300 total yards in three of four games. Baltimore, meanwhile, welcomed Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr. and Marlon Humphrey back to practice this week. If the WR duo joins Zay Flowers and Mark Andrews on Sunday, Lamar Jackson — who has a 124.1 passer rating in two games against division opponents this season — could eviscerate a Pittsburgh defense that's allowing the third-most yards in 2023. Give me the Ravens, who, with this win, would become the first team since the 2019 Chiefs to play each of their first three divisional games on the road and win all three.” — Brooke Cersimo|
|NFL Network||9 of 10 panelists pick Ravens|
|Sporting News||Ravens 20, Steelers 17||“The Ravens got a break in Cleveland with Deshaun Watson out. It's hard to know whether they prefer seeing Kenny Pickett, with his banged-up knee, or Mitchell Trubisky. The Steelers' offense as a whole is lost without Diontae Johnson and now Pat Freiermuth. But in a division rivalry game with Mike Tomlin fired up at home, the Steelers' defense will respond after the Houston debacle to keep it close with Lamar Jackson.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||6 of 8 panelists pick Steelers||“It's consecutive road games for the Ravens, but they played well at Cleveland. They faced a backup quarterback, and might do so here. Lamar Jackson and the offense seem to be getting it going in Todd Monken's system. But something says the Steelers regroup in this one, no matter who plays quarterback for them.” — Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||1 of 2 panelists pick Ravens||"I think the Ravens will run on the Steelers defense just like the Texans did last week, and I have no faith in the Steelers offense. I think the Ravens defense is damn good.” — Chris Simms|
|Sports Illustrated||7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens|
Jackson Surges in NFL.com's Weekly QB Rankings
Jackson's string of outstanding performances has him climbing in NFL.com’s Nick Shook’s weekly quarterback rankings.
This week, Jackson moved up three spots to No. 4, trailing only Buffalo's Josh Allen, Miami's Tua Tagovailoa, and Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes.
"Against Cleveland, Jackson pieced together his best game of 2023 in part by replicating what he'd done in the previous week's loss, to the point that one of his touchdown runs appeared as if it was plucked right from the Indianapolis tape and superimposed over the Week 4 action," Shook wrote. "That's just Lamar, operating the offense while using his greatest strengths to devastate an opposing defense.
"Jackson added the passing game to his repertoire on Sunday, connecting twice with a past favorite target, tight end Mark Andrews, for touchdowns, dropping passes into tight windows and making a number of difficult on-the-run throws look easy. The Ravens cruised to victory because of Jackson's performance, and if he can blend the run and pass this well every week, you just might be looking at your AFC North champions."
Shaffer noted that in a division in which all four teams were expected to have outstanding quarterback play, Jackson is the only AFC North quarterback who is thriving.
"An AFC North expected to carry the banner for the position has quickly turned into a one-man parade," Shaffer wrote. "There is Jackson, back to earning MVP buzz for the division-leading Ravens, and then there is the rest, mired in mediocrity and injuries, the light at the end of the 2023 tunnel barely flickering in Cincinnati and Cleveland and Pittsburgh."
Coordinators Mike Macdonald and Monken Praised for Their Respective Unit's Success
Baltimore Beatdown’s contributors each made their pick for Ravens Coach of the Year for the first quarter of the season. The overwhelming choice was Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald.
"Macdonald has coordinated a defense that ranks among the three best in the league in yards allowed per game, points allowed per game and EPA per play," Vasilis Lericos wrote. "He consistently puts his top players, Roquan Smith and Kyle Hamilton, in position to make impactful plays while simultaneously enabling lesser-pedigreed players like Brandon Stephens and Geno Stone to excel. Through his use of well-designed deceptive pressures and innovative disguised coverages, Macdonald's defense has exceeded the sum of their parts. At this rate, and with injured difference makers expected to return, the 2023 defense could rival Marvin Lewis' 2000 unit and Rex Ryan's 2006 outfit for best defense in team history."
Monken, whose offense has been efficient despite missing a number of key players, was Stephen Bopst's pick.
"While picking Mike Macdonald was tempting, I have to go with Monken here, purely over the incredible red zone success the team has seen this year," Bopst wrote. "Last season, converting touchdowns in the red zone was a massive problem area for the Ravens as they ranked 30th in the NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage. This year? Number one in the league through four weeks, converting a whopping 80% of their red-zone trips into touchdowns."