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NFL Lines 2014, Week 2, Thursday Night

September 11, 2014

Pittsburgh +2.5 at Baltimore

At first glance, this might seem like a bad pick for a few reasons:

  • You have a team giving less than a field goal at home
  • After opening a huge lead against Cleveland in week 1, Pittsburgh barely escaped against the Browns
  • Baltimore no longer has to worry about the uncertainty regarding Ray Rice’s fate, although it’s still dealing with the stigma of the situation

You should also know that I have a personal bias and animus against the Ravens. As a Browns far, I am still bitter over the traitor Art Modell moving the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996. I will remain bitter about this until I die, no matter how many championships the Browns may win between now and then.

I’m also bitter about a gambling situation involving these two teams a few years ago. In 2011, I was in Las Vegas for a conference. After the conference, I stayed the weekend to play in some poker tournaments, which went horribly. On Sunday afternoon, I was down to my last $50 I allotted for the weekend. I placed a $15 wager on each of three numbers at a roulette table, which corresponded to the birthdays of my friend’s daughters. One of the numbers hit, and I suddenly had $500. Only one NFL game was left: the night game with Pittsburgh hosting Baltimore. The Steelers were favored by 3.5 points. I called my friend with the daughters, and asked him to write “Pittsburgh” on one piece of paper, and “Baltimore” on the other, and have the daughter whose birthday hit on the roulette wheel to pick one of them, with the intention of betting my new-found windfall on whichever team she picked. She picked Baltimore. I really, really didn’t want to bet on Baltimore. I’m no Pittsburgh fan either, but the Ravens are the worst. I couldn’t do it. I bet the whole lot on the Steelers and watched the game in my room.

With 2:34 left in the game, and Pittsburgh finally in the lead by 4 after trailing for most of the game, the Steelers had the ball on the Raven’s 31 facing a 4th and 5 situation. Confusion ensued, as the Steeler’s Mike Tomlin seemed uncertain as to whether to go for it, or kick a field goal. Finally, the field goal unit went on the field (even though Heinz Field is the most difficult place to kick a field goal in the NFL), but they were too late. The play clock expired and the Steelers were pushed back five yards. You could feel the momentum shifting. Now the Steelers were forced to punt, which left Baltimore pinned deep on their own eight yard line.

OK, 2:24 left in the game. Steelers are up 4. All they have to do is hold on for two minutes and 24 seconds. The Ravens can’t go for a field goal and ruin the spread, because they need a touchdown to win. First down, incomplete pass by Joe Flacco. Beautiful. Three downs to go. Second down, 21-yard completion to Anquan Boldin. Disaster! Next play, another 13-yard completion. The Ravens are almost at midfield! Next play, incompletion. Whew. Then, Boldin catches a nine-yard pass. They’re in Steelers’ territory. 1:09 left! Next play, incomplete pass. Then, another completion to Boldin for 10 yards. Why won’t someone defend him!!?!? Next play, just a two-yard completion, a wasted down. 48 seconds to victory! Incomplete pass deep to Torrey Smith. Close one. Exactly the kind of play the Steelers can’t have go against them. Now Boldin catches another 11-yard pass. Doesn’t matter, it’s not in the end zone and only 28 seconds are left in the game. Pittsburgh takes a timeout to help the ulcer grow in my stomach. I’m pacing in the room. Next play, throw to the end zone. Incomplete! Next play, incomplete again! Here we go!! Two downs to go, two downs to play defense, and this game is over. I’m on the bed, pounding the mattress with my fist to keep the Ravens from scoring. And then, boom. A 26-yard touchdown strike to Torrey Smith. Game over. A stomach punch to go with the ulcer.

So, take this story into consideration when evaluating this pick.

That said, I do think the Steelers have more going for them in this game and if they don’t win outright, it will probably be a one-point loss. Antonio Brown is a dangerous weapon, and both Le’Veon Bell and Legarrette Blount are dangerous weapons on the ground. Weather should not be a factor.

From → NFL 2014

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