NFL against-the-spread picks: Ravens and Steelers looking for answers

The Baltimore Ravens at least won last week. The Pittsburgh Steelers did not. Not even close.

Both teams come into their traditional rivalry game in a bit of a rut. The Ravens are 8-3 and chasing the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but haven't looked like contenders in weeks. The Steelers started 5-3, but haven't won since.

The Ravens are 4.5-point favorites over the Steelers at BetMGM. It's a pivotal game for both teams, in different ways.

Let’s start with the Steelers because their season seems to be on the brink. They got themselves into playoff contention with some tough wins, but then tied the Detroit Lions, lost a heartbreaker to the Los Angeles Chargers and were blown out 41-10 by the Cincinnati Bengals. Maybe they’ve just run out of gas. If they don’t find a win soon, their shriveling playoff chances will vanish.

The Ravens aren’t in danger of missing the playoffs, but a team that should have hopes of getting the AFC’s No. 1 seed hasn’t looked like a contender lately. Baltimore was dealt a shocking loss at the Miami Dolphins, needed a last-minute touchdown to beat the Chicago Bears (Baltimore didn’t have Lamar Jackson in the lineup) and then looked unimpressive in a 16-10 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Jackson threw four interceptions and didn’t hold back when talking about how he played.

"Bad passes, inaccurate, underthrown passes. That's all I seen. Bad reads," Jackson said. "I looked like a rookie."

There have been times Ravens-Steelers games decided who was the best team in the AFC and maybe the entire NFL. That’s not the case this week. Both teams seem to be in survival mode, which could bring out the best in both of them. Before last week the Steelers had been battling hard and finding ways to win. The blowout to the Bengals was really bad, but I’m willing to take the points against a Ravens team that loves playing close games.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens is coming off a rough game. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Quarterback Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens is coming off a rough game. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) (Patrick Smith via Getty Images)

Here are the Week 13 picks, with the point spreads from BetMGM:

Saints (+4.5) over Cowboys

Neither of these teams inspires much confidence lately, but maybe Taysom Hill and the home crowd can give the Saints a jolt. (COWBOYS WON 27-17).

Falcons (+10.5) over Buccaneers

The Buccaneers’ best games have come at home. Not that the Falcons are a fun team to bet on right now, but they’ll be at home and they did compete for three quarters at Tampa Bay early this season.

Cardinals (-7.5) over Bears

The Cardinals should be healthy and rested after their bye. They were winning with Colt McCoy at quarterback, and it seems like the Bears will have a tough time keeping up with them if Kyler Murray is back as expected.

Bengals (-3) over Chargers

If you’d just seen the best games from these two teams, you might believe this game would determine the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Each team’s top gear is impressive, but inconsistency has been a big issue. I’ll take Cincinnati, but who knows which Bengals or Chargers team will show up?

Vikings (-7) over Lions

The Lions are bad but have generally been competitive. This week they’ll likely be without their best offensive player, running back D’Andre Swift, and the Vikings are one of those teams that is better than its record. This feels like a game in which the Lions could get blown out, which has surprisingly been a rarity for a 0-10-1 team.

Dolphins (-4) over Giants

We don’t know if Giants quarterback Daniel Jones will be available due to injury, and I’m not sure it matters. The Dolphins are surprisingly hot, with a four-game winning streak. Tua Tagovailoa keeps the offense moving and the defense has turned a corner. Miami will keep its run going against a bad Giants team.

Jets (+6.5) over Eagles

Jalen Hurts is banged up, and if he plays he will be less than 100 percent. It’s hard to buy into the Jets, who have been outscored by a league-most 135 points this season. But this is one of those times you have to take the ugly underdog.

Colts (-8.5) over Texans

The Colts find ways to lose close games and it might cost them a playoff spot. But this shouldn’t be a close game. The Texans just lost to the Jets at home; it’s hard to see them being competitive against the Colts.

Washington (+2.5) over Raiders

Both of these teams are in the playoff race, which shows how goofy this NFL season has been. Washington has won three in a row, but it’s not like they looked great against the Seahawks on Monday night. Maybe the Raiders have done a 180 and showed it with the win over the Cowboys, but I’m not sure. I’ll just take the points.

Rams (-13) over Jaguars

The Rams are really good against bad teams, and not so great against good teams. The Jaguars are bad. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Rams threaten to score 50 in this game.

49ers (-3.5) over Seahawks

I’d like to take a desperate home team in a divisional game, but I don’t like anything I’ve seen from Russell Wilson in his return from injury. Maybe the final drive Monday night is a sign he’s progressing, but he rushed back from a serious injury and I’m not sure he’ll be right all season. The 49ers are playing better and even without Deebo Samuel I have to take them.

Broncos (+9.5) over Chiefs

The Broncos will be in first place in the AFC West in December if they win Sunday night. Crazy. I don’t believe the Broncos win, but the Chiefs still aren’t a reliable team to bet on and this number seems a bit large.

Patriots (+3) over Bills

The Patriots have been playing much better than the Bills lately. Maybe the Bills have been sleepwalking a bit through a dull part of their schedule and will turn it on in this very important AFC East game, but I feel like I’m getting three points with the better team.

Last week: 8-7

Season to date: 95-84-1