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Steelers and Ravens clash on Thursday night
By: Brian Graham - StatFox
Published: 11/28/2013  at  5:40:00 AM
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Kickoff: Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Line: Baltimore -3, Total: 46.5

A bitter rivalry resumes Thanksgiving night when the Ravens host the red-hot Steelers.

Pittsburgh has won three straight games by double-digits (13.0 PPG margin), producing a +7 turnover margin during the surge. Baltimore has won three straight games ATS (2-1 SU), holding the Jets to 220 total yards in last week’s impressive 19-3 victory. The Steelers kicked a last-second field goal to win 19-16 in their Week 7 meeting in this rivalry, making this series an even 9-9 SU (8-8-2 ATS) in the past 18 matchups. This is despite superior quarterbacking play since 2009, as Ravens QB Joe Flacco has 12 TD passes and just 4 INT in this span, while Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger has only 7 TD and 6 INT. The Steelers are 34-18 ATS (65%) after a game with a turnover margin of +3 or better since 1992, but Baltimore is 62-41 ATS (60%) as a home favorite since 1992. While the Ravens are virtually injury-free for this crucial matchup, Pittsburgh has plenty of important players that are considered questionable to suit up, including DE Brett Keisel (foot), LB LaMarr Woodley (calf) and S Shamarko Thomas (ankle).

Which AFC North team will move to .500 on the season with a win? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts are surging in NFL Best Bets, combining for a 59% ATS record (37-26-6) over the past five weeks. StatFox Brian has a 63% ATS (15-9-2) mark over the past six weeks, and StatFox Gary had his fifth perfect week in NFL Best Bets with a 3-0 ATS mark in Week 12. StatFox Scott went 3-1 ATS in Week 12 and is 60% ATS (18-12-1) in NFL Best Bets since Week 4.

The Steelers are averaging only 22.1 PPG (21st in NFL) on 339.5 total YPG (15th in league), but they have piled up 29.5 PPG and 369.8 total YPG over the past four contests. QB Ben Roethlisberger has been tremendous during this offensive surge, throwing for 1,188 yards (7.6 YPA), 11 TD and just 3 INT. This includes six touchdowns and zero picks in the past two victories. Although the Steelers now rank 8th in the NFL in passing offense (262.2 YPG), they have the third-fewest rushing yards in the league at 77.3 YPG, and are also third-worst in yards per carry with a 3.3 YPC clip. However, in the Week 7 victory over the Ravens, Pittsburgh gained 141 yards on 29 carries (4.9 YPC), led by rookie RB Le'Veon Bell's 93 yards on 19 carries (4.9 YPC). Pittsburgh's defense has also improved greatly during the winning streak, allowing only 16.0 PPG while forcing eight turnovers. The Steelers now rank 13th in the league in both total defense (343.2 YPG) and scoring defense (23.3 PPG), as they have been right at league average in both red-zone defense (54%, T-16th in NFL) and third-down defense (38%, 16th in league). The run defense has been weak, allowing 118.8 rushing YPG (T-23rd in NFL) on 4.2 YPC (21st in league), but luckily for them, the Ravens have had a terrible time running the football this year.

Baltimore was a very good rushing team during its Super Bowl campaign in 2012, rushing for 118.8 YPG on 4.3 YPC. But this year, the team has managed just 81.7 rushing YPG (27th in NFL) on 2.9 YPC (31st in league). After tearing up the Bears for 174 rushing yards two weeks ago, the Ravens managed just 67 yards on 31 carries (2.2 YPC) on Sunday. RB Ray Rice has a pitiful 2.9 YPC, which is well below his 4.4 YPC for his career, but Rice has usually enjoyed great success in this series. In 12 career games versus the Steelers, he has gained 981 total yards, but since 2010, he has run for a mere 3.5 YPC in this series. If Rice can't find running room on Thursday, the Ravens will let QB Joe Flacco take to the air, but the reigning Super Bowl MVP already has a career-high 14 interceptions to go along with 14 touchdowns. His 76.8 passer rating ranks 29th among qualified quarterbacks. Luckily for this struggling offense, the Baltimore defense continues to keep this team in games, allowing just 19.5 PPG (7th in NFL) and 329.0 total YPG (10th in league). The Ravens have the league's top red-zone defense (31%) and also rank second in the NFL in stopping third downs (31%). They are also starting to create more big plays, generating 10 takeaways over the past six weeks.

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