Week 12 of the NFL season finally comes to an end today as the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens in a game that was rescheduled from Thanksgiving night (3.40pm ET Wednesday; TV: Live on NBC).
It was only a matter of time before the pandemic affected the NFL. Prior to the season beginning, the idea that the NFL would make it through the entire season without an outbreak seemed farfetched, especially given the manner in which the league opted to play.
Unlike the NBA and NHL, the NFL decided not to play in a bubble. Unlike MLB, the NFL decided not to play a shortened season. Everything remained status quo. Naturally that house of cards was bound to come crumbling down. Entering week 12, the NFL had seen countless positive tests that spanned the entire league. In fact, as of last week, only one team hasn’t had a player test positive for the virus.
The rest of the league wasn’t so lucky but the NFL still managed to go on. There were a few games that were postponed early on, making use of the traditional bye weeks built into schedules. Other teams, most notably the Denver Broncos, had to play through their outbreak despite it meaning they had no quarterback on their roster able to play. To some, this was seen as the league making an example of the Broncos as no effort was made to reschedule their game in the way things were for the Steelers/Ravens. In fact, the league all but bent over backwards to ensure this AFC North rivalry game would still be played, even altering some of the week 13 schedule as a result.
Originally scheduled as the primetime offering on Thanksgiving, a COVID outbreak in Baltimore led to the NFL moving the game until Sunday. As additional positive tests came in the ensuing days, Sunday turned into Monday, which turned into Tuesday, which became Wednesday. Due to a scheduling conflict with NBC, the network retaining rights to air the game, it will be a Wednesday mid-afternoon affair. If this were any other year, a Wednesday afternoon game would seem crazy. As much as people joke the NFL would love to play a game every day of the week, doing so would be a logistical nightmare. Having to reschedule this game so many times is proof of that.
Unlike teams earlier in the year, who received the benefit of using their bye week to postpone games, that wasn’t an option here. Any further postponement, likely would have meant canceling the game or trying to somehow squeeze it in before the end of the season, which is fast-approaching. As a result, the Ravens find themselves having to face not just the rival Steelers, but also COVID-19 itself, which may be an even bigger enemy to Baltimore this week.
As of today’s final injury report, the Ravens needed to place 16 players, including seven of whom have been to the Pro Bowl in the past, to the COVID ineligible to play list. Among these players? Fullback Patrick Ricard, tight end Mark Andrews (the last active tight end on Baltimore’s roster), wide receiver Willie Snead, top defensive end Calais Campbell, linebacker Matthew Judon, two offensive linemen, and of course, the biggest name unavailable to play, quarterback Lamar Jackson. It was Jackson’s case that led many, including former Super Bowl winning QB Steve Young to say there is no way the NFL should be playing this game. So how will this affect the Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers predictions for this preview?
The NFL is very much a next man up league and while the star power of Jackson will be missing, that is why teams have backup quarterbacks. Always having a role to play on NFL teams, Nick Foles’ stunning Super Bowl run with the Philadelphia Eagles a few years ago, really elevated the role of the backup and made teams rethink the importance of the number two guy. In 2020, more than any other year, backups at all positions have had their role to play. Take the NFC East for example. While not directly related to COVID (though an argument can be made for more injuries than ever before due to the COVID cancelled preseason), the division finds itself with only one team still starting the QB who entered the season as number one on the depth chart. Teddy Bridgewater missed time for the Carolina Panthers, Drew Brees is currently out for the New Orleans Saints and as mentioned above, the Broncos had to play a game without a quarterback at all.
Backing up Jackson is long-time NFL veteran, Robert Griffin III. Griffin hasn’t played in over a year. At one point, he was thought of as the next great running QB but Griffin’s career on top faded fast. That said, he is still a capable backup and he’ll be aided by having both of his running backs as well as what could end up being the surprise of the night in the return of wide receiver Dez Bryant. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the Ravens activated Bryant off the practice squad and onto the 53-man roster. Bryant played in two other games this year but was largely unused, catching just four passes on only five targets. Bryant should be expected to play a much bigger role this game and should see an expanded snap count in order to make up for Snead’s absence.
Our Betting Preview’s Ravens vs Steelers Predictions & Picks Recommendations
It’s a man-up league but on Wednesday, the Ravens will be playing with many a man down. Beating Pittsburgh was going to be hard enough given how well the Steelers are playing this year, but with all of the players unable to play, that task has gotten even harder. The chief offshore bookies have responded as a result. The Steelers are now 10-point favorites and while Pittsburgh vs Baltimore games are normally hard fought, closely contested affairs, don’t expect this one to be the same. These ae our predictions and picks for this clash:
- Take Pittsburgh -10pts on the spread @ best odds of -110 with Bovada or Bookmaker.
- Go under 42.5 total points @ -110 with BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.