NFL Week 11 odds: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have won four games in a row, but the future of the season is in major question after QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered a serious rib injury as well as a shoulder injury in Monday night’s overtime win over the Chiefs. Big Ben is likely out multiple weeks but doesn’t believe the injuries will end his season.

Backup Byron Leftwich completed 7 of 14 passes for 73 yards after replacing Roethlisberger and he will be making his first start since 2009 when he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pittsburgh is 4-1 the past two seasons without Big Ben.

The good news for Leftwich and the Steelers is that the Ravens pass defense is nothing like it was a season ago, particularly when only bringing a standard 4-man pass rush. Baltimore has really struggled to pressure opposing QBs without blitzing in 2012, compared to their performance in 2011. QBs are completing more than 10 percent more passes this season than last against four or fewer Ravens pass rushers.

This is the first of two games in just three weeks between the bitter rival Steelers and Ravens.

The Steelers’ defense is banged up – Troy Polamalu will miss yet another game — and was exploited some versus the Chiefs on Monday, yielding 142 yards rushing. The Ravens exploded for 55 points in Week 10, and most of their production was through the air. Baltimore has been built around Ray Rice and a physical ground attack, but the emergence of its passing game could keep the Steelers guessing. Look for Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to use a good mixture of high-percentage passes off play-action and a physical running attack on early downs to control tempo.

The Steelers used five or more rushers at the highest rate during the first five games of the season but have been near league average since then. The drop in aggressiveness has helped make the rush more effective, allowing one touchdown pass in the last four games after allowing six in the first five. Ravens QB Joe Flacco has completed 45.5 percent of his passes against five or more rushers when facing the Steelers in his career (including postseason) and has been sacked once every 7.5 dropbacks.

The Steelers are the only team that has yet to allow a touchdown on a throw more than 20 yards downfield this season. Flacco has four touchdowns on such throws and the most attempts (46) without an interception.

Both offenses come into the rivalry game tied for 16th in total yards. The Ravens have 10 more rushing yards than the Steelers, and Pittsburgh has 10 more passing yards than Baltimore. The big difference is in scoring. After scoring a franchise-record 55 points last Sunday against Oakland, the Ravens jumped seven spots to No. 4 in scoring (28.2 points). The Steelers have the 18th-ranked scoring offense, averaging 23 points per game.

WAGERWEB.COM ODDS: Ravens -3.5 (41)

RAVENS NOTES: Club has won 11 straight vs. AFC North. Ravens have won 7 of past 8 in Nov. Aim for 3rd straight win at Pit. … In past 6 vs. Steelers, QB Joe Flacco has 1,501 passing yards with 9 TDs vs. 2 INTs & 92.3 passer rating. Club has won 16 consecutive games when Flacco has 100 rating … RB Ray Rice (5,034) joined Jamal Lewis (7,801) last week as only players in club history to reach 5,000 rush yards. Has 2 career games with 100 rush yards vs. Pit. (141 on 12/27/09; 107 on 9/11/11)…Ravens are 9-1 when WR Torrey Smith has TD reception. Tied season-high with 2 TD catches last week. Had 5 catches for 71 yards w/TD in last game at Pit. For career, WR Anquan Boldin averages 93.2 rec. yards per game vs. Pit. (466 total in 5 games) … LB Terrell Suggs has 13.5 career sacks vs. Pit. LB Paul Kruger tied career-best with 2 sacks last week & recorded INT … KR-WR Jacoby Jones became 1st player in NFL history with 2 career 105 yard KR-TDs last week.

STEELERS NOTES: Club has won 11 of past 13 vs. AFC North. Tied for NFL-best with 49.6 pct. 3rd-down conversion rate. QB Byron Leftwich made last career start with TB on 9/27/09. Leftwich is 1-1 as starter vs. Ravens. RB Jonathan Dwyer is averaging 95 rush yards per game in past 3 (285 total) … WR Mike Wallace aims for 3rd consecutive game with TD reception. WR Antonio Brown had 5 catches for 109 yards (21.8 avg.) in last meeting vs. Ravens … TE Heath Miller has 6 TD rec. in ’12, tied for 3rd-most among NFL TEs … DE Brett Keisel tied career-best with 2 sacks last week … LB LaMarr Woodley has 9.5 sacks in 11 career games vs. Ravens (incl. postseason). LB Lawrence Timmons registered INT in OT last week, resulting in game-winning FG by K Shaun Suisham.

WAGERWEB.COM TRENDS: Over is 7-1-1 in the last 9 meetings in Pittsburgh. Over is 9-3-1 in the last 13 meetings. Underdog is 7-3-1 ATS in their last 11 meetings.

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