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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Most NFL teams got to work their way into the season a bit before worrying about critical divisional games. Head-to-head matchups within your own division are HUGE because a win for you is also a loss for the other guy. The Baltimore Ravens are stringing from a home loss to Cincinnati last week in the AFC North, and must now come right back and host the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday Night in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS.

Guess what. The Ravens play a third straight divisional game next week in Cleveland! Falling to 0-2 Thursday would be a seriously bad development given how tight this race is supposed to be…and falling to 0-3 out of the gate might mean virtual elimination since those losses guarantee wins for divisional rivals.

Can Baltimore get off the schneid Thursday Night? Or, have this week’s nasty headlines been such a distraction that you can stick a fork in their season already? Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about this monster AFC North battle.


Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

Pittsburgh: 1-0 (beat Cleveland 30-27 at home)

Baltimore: 0-1 (lost to Cincinnati 23-16 at home)

Pittsburgh was supposed to beat Cleveland, and couldn’t even cover the spread after jumping out to a big lead. That at least gives Baltimore some hope that the Steelers can’t go strong for 60 minutes again…particularly amidst a short preparation week. The problem is, Baltimore was fairly unimpressive as very small home favorites against Cincinnati. They had a few good plays here and there, but were generally outclassed.



Pittsburgh: 7.3 on offense, 6.1 on defense

Baltimore: 4.9 on offense, 5.9 on defense

This is what we mean about Baltimore being outclassed. They lost yards-per-play by a full yard per play! That’s blowout territory. The defense did toughen up to force a lot of field goals. You can’t count on that happening every week, particularly when the offense is getting so little done. Great debut for Pittsburgh, though a lot of that was first half-loaded when they ran away from the ill-prepared Browns. Pittsburgh was more mortal after Cleveland made a few adjustments.


Turnover Differential

Pittsburgh: -1

Baltimore: -2

You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the equation here. Both teams were last week. And, both may be dealing with that all season. Pittsburgh STILL has a tendency to force too few miscues (something we’ve been talking about for a few years now in the NOTEBOOK). Baltimore’s pass-heavy offense under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is inviting interceptions and fumbles off sacks.


Market Performance

Pittsburgh: failed to cover after almost completely blowing their big lead

Baltimore: failed to cover after a short-term second half rally

This stat doesn’t mean much after one game. Clearly, Baltimore was least impressive of the two because they missed the spread by more than a touchdown, losing a game they were supposed to win. Also remember that the NY Giants missed the market by quite a bit while adjusting to a new offensive coordinator. Oddsmakers and sharps may be underestimating how long transition time will be in these scenarios.

Current Line: Baltimore by 2.5, total of 44.5

Home field advantage is worth three points in the NFL…so the market is saying that Pittsburgh is the better team in raw Power Ratings. You can bet Pittsburgh will be popular in two-team teasers if that number doesn’t move, as you can cross both the three and the seven to get them at +8.5 to pair up with other teaser options.

Will Baltimore bounce back? Or, will the awkward transition to a new offensive coordinator continue to drag them down at the worst possible time of the season? JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his NFL sources to find you the right side in this one. You’ll be able to purchase the final decision any time during the day Thursday before kickoff. BIG, JUICY WINNERS are always just a few clicks away! Be sure to check out your college football and baseball options too! If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

We switch to college football the next two days on these pages, focusing on the most exciting national TV matchups. Then, it’s back to the NFL for prime time action Sunday and Monday. Here’s this week’s schedule…

Friday: College Football Early Look…Georgia at South Carolina

Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Tennessee at Oklahoma

Sunday: NFL Sunday Night TV Preview…Chicago at San Francisco

Monday: NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Philadelphia at Indianapolis

Every day is clutch…every game is clutch in the sports handicapping industry. Winners thrive and survive until they reside at the top of the mountain. For more than 25 years, THE BIGGEST WINNER in the field is none other than WORLD CHAMPION JIM HURLEY!

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