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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 2:00 PM

It seems like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are always playing important late season games against each other. Even THIS year, when both teams are below the .500 mark, a “made for TV” matchup on Thanksgiving Night still has important playoff ramifications because both teams are battling for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.

You can expect some serious smash mouth football to finish off your football feast. Let’s run the numbers to see which team is most likely to get the best of it…

 

Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

Pittsburgh: 5-6 (#31 schedule in USA Today)

Baltimore: 5-6 (#28 schedule in USA today)

At this point, we’re looking at dead even teams. Neither has been playoff caliber, failing to reach the .500 mark against easy schedules. Remember, there are only 32 teams in the NFL. Pittsburgh has a losing record against the second easiest schedule (only Kansas City’s has been easier). Baltimore has played the fifth easiest schedule. So…both teams are in the playoff hunt. But, they probably wouldn’t be had they faced league average schedules.

 

Yards-Per Play

Pittsburgh: 5.2 on offense, 5.3 on defense

Baltimore: 4.5 on offense, 5.1 on defense

Here we get some differences. Pittsburgh’s yards-per-pay differential is consistent with their record. Baltimore’s is NOT. The Ravens are a bit lucky to be sitting at 5-6 given how unimpressive their offense has been. That 4.5 is a horrible number considering how easy it is for most teams to coast past 5.0. Pittsburgh’s 5.2 isn’t very good! Both defenses are solid. Baltimore’s offense has been a big negative.

 

Turnover Differential

Pittsburgh: -4

Baltimore: -3

Another dead heat here. And, in a very disappointing way. We have two veteran quarterbacks facing soft schedules, yet both teams are on the wrong side of net zero in the risk/reward equation. Pittsburgh’s defense has been surprisingly soft for YEARS now in terms of forcing miscues. Baltimore can’t be happy with their performance as defending World Champions.

 

Market Performance

Pittsburgh: 5-6 ATS

Baltimore: 6-5 ATS

Fitting that two relatively even teams add up to 11-11 ATS. The market recognized potential woes early on, and has largely adjusted properly. These teams are so close to break even against the pointspread that they’re neither underrated nor overrated.

 

Current Line: Baltimore by 3, total 40.5

 

Home field by itself is worth three points in the NFL. So, the market has rated these teams as dead even on a neutral field. The only evidence we can put forward to disagree with that would be the yards-per-play differentials above. Sharps have been betting the Under, as that 40.5 is down from an opener or 42. That makes sense given the YPP data that showed strong defense and struggling offense. Weather may be an issue as well…along with the tendency for “playoff” style football games between these franchises to be physical wars where points are scarce.

How should YOU bet the final NFL game on Thanksgiving? Is there something that the numbers aren’t accounting for? Is there an angle in the series history with these quarterbacks that’s likely to prove meaningful? JIM HURLEY’S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach here at NETWORK makes sure that no stone is left unturned in the analytical process. If there’s a big edge to be found in this game, you’ll get it as part of the TURKEY SHOOT!

Purchase the full holiday package right here at the website with your credit card. Representatives will be available to take your call Thursday morning before kickoff of the Green Bay/Detroit game if you prefer talking to a live person. That number is 1-888-777-4155.

Be sure you make the most of the Thanksgiving holiday at the table and on the field! Our big game football previews continue Friday with an early look at Alabama/Auburn in Saturday’s Iron Bowl that is looming very large in the SEC and BCS races. Saturday we’ll cover Texas A&M/Missouri to see if the Tigers can complete a stunning run at the SEC East title (to play the winner of Alabama/Auburn in the SEC title tilt). Then it’s back to the NFL Sunday and Monday for prime time affairs.

Have a great Thanksgiving! And be sure to stuff your CORNUCOPIA WITH CASH! JIM HURLEY’S ANNUAL TURKEY SHOOT is here!

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