NFL Divisional OddsSports Betting Overview:

The NFL betting lines on this game are very close, and for good reason. This game is a football betting enthusiast’s nightmare because it pits two hard-nosed defenses against two completely unpredictable offenses. The NFL pick for this game should be based on the team that is best able to establish a running game and possess the ball the longest. But with these two defenses on the field, neither team stands much of a chance of running the ball.

The Ravens completely shut down the high-powered running attack of the Kansas City Chiefs last week on their way to a 30-7 win on wild card weekend. The Baltimore secondary also kept Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel in check and did not allow him to throw the ball deep. The Steelers thrive on the occasional deep ball, but that option may not be available in this game with Ed Reed patrolling the secondary for the Ravens.

Offense:

The Ravens were solid and balanced on offense against the Chiefs. The running game put up a little over 100 yards for the day, and Joe Flacco completely dismantled the Chiefs secondary for 265 passing yards and two touchdowns. The only problem for the Ravens was that the offensive line could not open up the holes to unleash running back Ray Rice. Rice only had 56 rushing yards on the game, but he was able to pick up critical first down yardage when the Ravens needed it. The Ravens offensive line has been a problem spot all season, and it may be the thing that the Steelers exploit in this game.

The Steelers on offense are hard to judge. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can either be a defensive coordinator’s nightmare by scrambling out of the pocket to create plays, or he can consistently take bad sacks because he won’t get rid of the ball when he should. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is a weapon out of the backfield, but he has yet to have a 100-yard game against the Ravens this season.

Defense:

The Ravens completely shut down the offense of the Kansas City Chiefs last week, and they did it by stopping the run. Once the Chiefs could not run the ball, Matt Cassel tried to find places to throw it. With Ed Reed out in the secondary, there was nowhere to throw the football. The way the Ravens play defense can cause serious problems for Roethlisberger. The Ravens know that the way to beat the Steelers is to get to Big Ben, and they have the personnel to do it.

The Steelers will shut down Ray Rice and the Ravens running game. That will leave safety Troy Polamalu to terrorize Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens passing game. This defensive battle has to go to the Steelers only because their linebackers are more capable of shutting down the middle of the field than Ray Lewis and the Baltimore linebackers.

The Bottom Line:

This will be a great playoff football game. The intensity will be there and the hitting will be on display. In the battle of great AFC defenses in 2010, the Steelers have to be considered the best. In this game, that is all it will take to win.

Sportsbook Odds Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers

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