The Line and Fantasy: Ravens @ Steelers
Up to this point when trying to get a read on the spread of the Ravens games, we’ve used 2017 data on drives and points to try to estimate the score. Each week it lines up pretty closely with where Vegas sets their line. Looking at 2017 data we had to look at what has changed for the 2018 teams to see if the needle moves one way or another.
2018 hadn’t lent us a sample size yet, but we’re going try it this week. It has been over 20 years since a team started 0-3 and made the playoffs. Does that mean that after three games, you have a pretty good idea of what kind of team you are? Maybe you played one game great, one game not so great, and one game where the truth lies in the middle?
The Ravens certainly have. I’d like to think they aren’t as bad as they played in Cincinnati when they were down by 21 before your pizza delivery for the game day party arrived. As much as we’d hope, it’s a tall task to ask them to be as good as they were against Buffalo. Thank you, Bills coaches, for being the only people on planet Earth to think Nathan Peterman was better than Josh Allen. Last week against Denver might have been that middle ground. They won a game by scoring a modest amount of points, and allowing a modest amount of points, though dominated 3 quarters of that game defensively.
So far predicting the spread I’m 1-1 and 2-0 in over/under. (Took week 2 off). 3-1 overall.
For the math portion, refer to my previous article from week 1 with a healthy breakdown.
Discuss your thoughts on this article on our message board.
For the first time this year, drive data from 2018 to predict the lines.
2018 NFL average – 11.3 drives per team, per game.
Steelers – 13.6 drives per game
Ravens – 13 drives per game
Steelers – 14 DPG
Ravens – 12.7 DPG
2018 NFL average – 1.96 points per drive (PPD).
Steelers – 1.95 PPD
Ravens – 2.54 PPD
Steelers – 2.14 PPD allowed
Ravens – 1.34 PPD allowed
Predicting Drives per game
(Team offense DPG X Opposing team defense DPG) / League average DPG = Expected drives to occur in the game.
Steelers: 13.6 X 12.7 / 11.3 = 15.28 drives in this game
Ravens: 13 X 14/ 11.3 = 16.1 drives in this game
Predicting Points per drive
(Team offense PPD X Opposing Team defense PPD) / League average PPD = Expected PPD against that opponent.
Steelers: 1.95 X 1.34 / 1.96 = 1.33 PPD
Ravens: 2.54 X 2.14 / 1.96= 2.77 PPD
Estimated game score based on NFL average drives in a game:
Steelers: 1.33 X 11.3 = 15
Ravens: 2.77 X 11.3 = 31.3
Predicted spread = Ravens (-16.3)
Predicted over/under = 46.3
Estimated score based on the 15 to 16 drives predicted for this game:
15 drives: Steelers 20 – Ravens 41.6 (-21.6), 61.6
16 drives: Steelers 21.3 – Ravens 44.3 (-23), 65.6
And the line is….
Seriously? Maybe the sample size is still a little small.
We talked about the hot, cold, and truth in the middle for the Ravens. What about the Steelers? They struggled with a tie against the Browns in week 1. Also that game inflates their drive numbers a tad. A higher drive number in this exercise without the scoring in OT is going to slightly lower their points per drive. They had the unfortunate job of hosting Kansas City who looks like a Big 12 offense out there playing against an FCS school. The Steelers offense kept up though. The defense came up with some turnovers in their win over the Bucs on Monday night. They probably aren’t as bad as the team that tied Cleveland. Not going to force four turnovers a game all the time like they did to beat Tampa Bay. Not going to face the explosive offense they did with KC every week. Maybe we haven’t seen the Pittsburgh middle ground yet.
Also figure that the Ravens are finishing drives at a ridiculous pace. They have scored a TD on all 12 of their drives into the red zone this year. Regression has to be coming soon. Instead of 7s, they are going to take some 3s.
Given the lopsided baseline spread we’re predicting with the drive stats, I’m going to predict some red zone regression tonight. The Ravens get into the red zone four times a game. If they do just that, maybe they settle for field goals twice. So I’m dropping 8 points off that predicted spread and total just for that reason.
Also figure that the Steelers faced the explosive Bucs and Chiefs offenses. Chiefs are first in points per drive. Bucs rank fourth. Ravens rank seventh though. Not bad. Other good offenses had their way with Pittsburgh and it’s even more explosive for the Bucs without the turnovers last week. The Ravens defense has been gifted some easy offenses with Buffalo at 25th in points per drive, Denver 20th, but Cincy ranks sixth and Cincy had their way when they hosted the Ravens. Despite the weapons of the Steelers they rank 13th. I think the Steelers have some more success tonight, but I’m not going to say It will be success like the way Cincy had against the Ravens, early and often.
Data says around about Ravens 42 – Steelers 20.
I’m taking 8 off for red zone regression from the Ravens: Ravens 34 – Steelers 20
I’m giving the Steelers an extra score for being a better offense than what the Ravens have faced in what might be still a small sample size: Ravens 34 – Steelers 27
I also know Joe Flacco struggles on the road and Ben Roethlisberger plays better at home. I think that is worth three points on each side….
So my prediction for tonight’s game: Ravens 31 – Steelers 30.
Ravens cover and give me the over. Now, onto the fantasy plays.
Ben Roethlisberger has been prone to the INT with four through three games. But has seven TDs to go with it, more than two per game. He’s owned in all but 4% of leagues. Paired with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, without Jimmy Smith on the other side, there is potential for a big, big game. It’s also the game where Terrell Suggs shows up the most to disrupt him. The teams know each other so well, it might be an average output game. Flacco isn’t a guy you can be starting yet. But he is worth rostering for bye weeks coming up.
James Conner is the bell cow for the Steelers and you might as well roll with him for opportunity sake. Could easily see, even if the Ravens run defense is stout, a defensive pass interference in the endzone put the Steelers on the 1 where Conner punches it in. Alex Collins is still the lead back, but the commitment to running it isn’t really there by the Ravens, especially if they find themselves behind early on. Yet Collins and Buck Allen keep finding the endzone. Play at your own risk.
At receiver, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smtih-Schuster are auto starts every week. Jesse James and Vance McDonald are only TE plays in real deep leagues. The Ravens spread the ball out to too many guys to really justify starting any one. John Brown would be my bet to find the endzone again as he has the best chemistry in the red zone with Flacco it seems. Mark Andrews is a guy to keep an eye on as his opportunities are going up. But not worth starting a Ravens TE yet either. Hayden Hurst is on his way back as well. An worth a flier roster spot just incase. We’ll have to wait and see if Flacco leans on the first round pick when his time comes.
You saw by my score prediction, defenses might not be a good play tonight.
For the kickers, Justin Tucker is an auto start. Chris Boswell has made exactly one field goal this year. Though nine PATs. He’s missed a PAT, and missed three FGs, and somehow still has a job.