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Pittsburgh Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens Picks and Predictions NFL Week 18

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens NFL Week 18 Game Picks and Predictions for Saturday, January 6, 2024 at 4:30pm et.

Steelers vs Ravens:

When: 4:30 PM ET, Saturday, January 6, 2024
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland

The Baltimore Ravens locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff bracket and opted to rest MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson in the regular-season finale on Saturday.

Coach John Harbaugh made the decision to rest Jackson in favor of Tyler Huntley when the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) come to town fighting for their fading playoff dreams.

The Ravens (13-3) thrashed the Miami Dolphins 56-19 last Sunday for their sixth straight victory, clinching the AFC North and a first-round playoff bye in the process. Jackson threw more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (three) as public support grew for the quarterback to win his second NFL Most Valuable Player award.

One possible factor at play is the age-old “rest vs. rust” debate. When the Ravens secured a first-round bye in 2019, they held out starters against Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale, but after a long gulf between games, they came out flat in a divisional-round loss to Tennessee.

In Harbaugh’s view, there’s no comparison worth drawing, but the next time Jackson takes the field is either Jan. 20 or 21 for the divisional playoffs.

“I remember the experience and the choices we made (in 2019), but the decisions we made, we made for certain reasons,” Harbaugh said. “We thought they were the right decisions. What impacted how in terms of us not playing our best football that day, it’s really hard to say what the cause and effect was.”

The Steelers don’t mind facing Baltimore’s backups in Week 18. After staying in the AFC wild-card hunt with Sunday’s 30-23 win at Seattle, they have five paths to earn a playoff berth.

Three of the scenarios require Pittsburgh to win while getting help elsewhere in the conference. Pittsburgh could also get in with a tie, a Jacksonville loss and the Houston-Indianapolis game not ending in a tie. If the Steelers lose, but Jacksonville loses, Denver beats Las Vegas and Houston and Indianapolis don’t tie, Pittsburgh would sneak in, too.

The Steelers continue to place their hopes on the shoulders of Mason Rudolph, their third starting quarterback this season. In two Rudolph starts, Pittsburgh has two wins. He has completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 564 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Kenny Pickett was inactive against Seattle while recovering from an ankle injury, but he is now healthy and will be Rudolph’s backup Sunday. Pickett refuted a rumor that he refused to dress against Seattle if the starting job wasn’t returned to him.

“One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity,” Pickett said Tuesday. “Mason played well when he got in there. I have a ton of respect for Mason and everything that he’s done and what our team has been doing. My job now that I’m back healthy is to be the backup.”

“There’s never been an awkward air. Those guys are dear friends and always professional,” Rudolph said of his fellow quarterbacks.

Pittsburgh star T.J. Watt is tied for the league lead with 17 sacks. He recorded two sacks and recovered a fumble when the host Steelers defeated the Ravens 17-10 in October.

Pittsburgh has won six of its past seven games against Baltimore dating back to the 2020 season — all seven decided by seven points or fewer.

Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee) and linebacker Elandon Roberts (pectoral) did not participate in Pittsburgh’s walkthrough Tuesday. Running back Najee Harris (knee) — who had season highs of 27 carries, 122 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle — was limited along with guard Isaac Seumalo (shoulder), defensive tackle Cameron Heyward (groin) and safety Trenton Thompson (neck). Pickett was a full participant.

Baltimore’s estimated injury report listed leading receiver Zay Flowers (calf), linebacker Malik Harrison (groin), cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf) and cornerback Daryl Worley (shoulder/ankle) as non-participants. Star safety Kyle Hamilton (knee) and linebacker Patrick Queen (shoulder) were among seven Ravens listed as limited.

–Field Level Media

Free NFL Picks and Predictions:

In this Pittsburgh Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens Week 18 Saturday Football game, I’m on the Steelers First Half (-125) .

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