Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Unless you've been ignoring the national sports reports lately, than you know that the really big news regarding these NFL Week 11 Sunday Night/Monday Night tilts is who's not playing as the concussion-riddled league might be missing both starting quarterbacks in the MNF tilt in San Francisco while no QB Ben Roetlisberger for the host Pittsburgh Steelers in their game this evening against rough-and-tumble AFC North rival Baltimore.
Hey, let's not kid anyone ...The NFL without its starting- and star- quarterbacks takes lots of luster off these games but that's the nature of the beast and it is why the league goes to such great lengths to protect the quarterbacks and we've always sided strongly with that stance- no matter how many tough guys proclaim that NFL quarterbacks should "wear a dress" or what have you. Dopes!
So, we venture into these back-to-back prime-time games knowing it's far different from what we all should be watching but we'll detail what to watch without the injured and sidelined signal-callers. Here goes.
Tonight, it's ...BALTIMORE (7-2) at PITTSBURGH (6-3)- 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
No doubt you've seen the stat that the Steelers are 0-4 SU (straight-up) in head-to-head games against the Ravens when Roethlisberger (dislocated rib) is out and so now you know one reason why this line went from pick 'em to Baltimore favored by 3 ½ points once it was announced "Big Ben" was a no-go.
If long-time back-up QB Byron Leftwich catches any sort of a break here it's that RB Rashard Mendenhall returns- he has missed the team's last four games with an Achilles injury- and no doubt head coach Mike Tomlin would love to get Mendenhall and fellow Steelers RBs some 35-or-so carries here ... even if Baltimore stacks eight men in the box on defense.
Look for Leftwich to try and hit a couple of early-game "home runs" here to speedy WR Mike Wallace as Baltimore's secondary could get stretched right out of the gate.
Meanwhile, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco is the only starting quarterback in either of these night-time games who's healthy and he comes off a 341-yard, three-TD game in last weekend's "speed limit" 55-20 win against the Raiders. Flacco will challenge the banged-up Steelers secondary that's expected to be missing S Troy Polamalu (calf) again and note CB Ryan Clark (second concussion suffered last week in the past month) is expected to go here but he'll be closely monitored by the Steelers medical staff.
If it comes down to one of those field-goal tries at the windy end of Heinz Field, than slight advantage to the guy that kicks there all the time and that's Pittsburgh's Shaun Suisham who is an amazing 20-of-21 on FGs so far this year.
Spread Notes - Baltimore is just 4-5 ATS (against the spread) this season but that does include a current two-game spread winning streak (back-to-back covers against Cleveland and Oakland) and did you know the Ravens are 6-2-1 versus the vig in divisional games since the start of last season? On the flip side, Pittsburgh's 4-5 against the odds this season and the Steelers enter this prime-time bash with a rock-solid 14-8 ATS mark at home dating back to the start of 2010.
On Monday Night, it's ...CHICAGO (7-2) at SAN FRANCISCO (6-2-1)- 8:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
Maybe a Jason Campbell vs. Colin Kaepernick showdown at quarterback here isn't what the ESPN folks signed on for when this game was dropped on their Week 11 laps but it may be what we get if the Niners don't green-light concussed QB Alex Smith who claims he "feels better" after getting dinged in last Sunday's wacky 24-24 draw against St. Louis.
Smith figures to be a game-time decision for this bash that has major playoff/home-field advantage implications and the $64,000 question is will the rookie Kaepernick be mostly operating the wildcat offense or will second-year boss-man Jim Harbaugh- himself off a health concern after getting treated for an irregular heartbeat this week- turn loose the whole playbook for the kid from Nevada?
On the other side of the coin, there's no doubt that Chicago QB Jay Cutler is out after getting concussed on a brutally hard hit last Sunday night against Houston and so that means journeyman Jason Campbell steps in and the Bears better turn him loose a bit more after dink-and-dunk stuff failed miserably in that rainy second-half of the 13-6 loss to the Texans.
Campbell may be asked to roll out here and give a tattered Bears O-line an extra second or so or protection so we would expect a healthy dose of screen/flare passes to RB Matt Forte who probably needs to net 150-or-so yards here for the upset-minded Bears to have a shot.
Spread Notes - San Francisco is 5-4 against the Las Vegas prices so far this 2012 season but go back to the start of the Harbaugh Era and you'll discover that the 49ers are a scintillating 17-9-1 ATS overall and that includes a 10-4-1 spread mark at "The Stick". Meanwhile, Chicago is also 5-4 against the juice this season and the Bears enter this MNF clash having covered their last three consecutive road games (at Dallas, Jacksonville and Tennessee).