The National Football League will complete their longest week ever today with a Wednesday afternoon game involving the defending AFC North Division Champion Baltimore Ravens and the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. The game is set to begin at 12:40 p.m.
That’s right, we’ve got an NFL game set to start just after noon on a Wednesday. Seems a more appropriate time for a summer baseball game than an NFL midseason critical matchup. But, welcome to 2020, where norms are tossed away like yesterday’s news.
This is the fourth scheduled time and date for this matchup. The 11-0 Steelers were originally scheduled to meet the Ravens in a primetime game on Thanksgiving. That got pushed back when the Coronavirus swept through the Ravens camp like a party at the White House. So, they moved the game to Sunday, which was scrapped when more players, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, tested positive.
The next scheduled date was Tuesday, but that was moved to today because, well, I guess because the league feels a Ravens game is a lot more important than a Denver Broncos contest.
By moving the date from yesterday to today, the Ravens could have gained the services of a number of players that had tested positive ten days ago. Included in that group was a pair of runningbacks, Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins. But, when the Ravens traveled to Pittsburgh yesterday, neither Ingram nor Dobbins made the trip.
Jackson is also still out, which leaves the quarterback duties for Baltimore to Robert Griffin III.
In other words, the league kept delaying the playing of this game to give the Ravens the best opportunity of gaining back some of their depleted roster. It is not an accommodation afforded the Broncos, who were forced to play last Sunday without a quarterback on their roster available.
So, did the league’s accommodation for Baltimore allow them a better chance to compete than the quartberackless Broncos were on Sunday? For the record, the Broncos wide receiver who lined up behind center completed one of nine passes for 12 yards and the visiting New Orleans Saints rolled over Denver, 31-3.
Now, the Ravens are a more talented team than the Broncos. A more likely group to compensate for the loss of a key player or two. Even a quarterback.
This is a great spot motivationally for the visitors today. They need this game to keep their now flickering postseason hopes alive, and they are looking to avenge a loss last month to this same Steelers team when they outstated Pittsburgh but turned the ball over three times in a 28-24 home loss.
If Quentin Tarantino was directing the action today at Heinz Field, he may put a Hollywood ending on this story. Give the once promising career of RGIII a lift while leading the third place defending champions to an upset win as a double-digit underdog that ends the Steelers quest for a perfect season.
But, this is not Hollywood, this is Pittsburgh. And when the Steelers smell blood in the water this is more likely a Jaws script where the shark wins.
All my motivational tendencies are leveled by the fact that we are not getting the Steelers versus the Ravens today, but rather a perfect home team playing a skeleton crew that may be a major factor on why this NFL season doesn’t stay on schedule all the way to Super Bowl LV.
While I bend to motivation like a tree surrendering to hurricane winds, I also know that when the books employ a radical shift in a point spread, they most often do it in an attempt to get bettors to bite at the wrong side. Last Sunday, the point spread on the Denver/New Orleans game went from the Broncos getting six points to Denver getting 17 points on the spread. It didn’t help in a 28 point loss.
Today, the Ravens go from getting three points on the spread to ten … I have no confidence it is going to help.