Ravens Enter New England as NFL's Top Rated Team
What are the whining Baltimore Ravens’ fans supposed to do? For the second week in a row, they are #1 in the ESPN power rankings and getting much respect from almost every network talking head and ex-player turned commentator. Keyshawn Johnson and Cris Carter not withstanding, the Ravens are the toast of the NFL this year so far. Even Chris Berman, one who frequently slights the Ravens, is on board but for what opinions Berman has that do not involve his own vanity anything he says lacks conviction and like many network big shots, he’s quick to become a front runner when the hot teams emerge.
The Ravens game against New England in Foxboro is the key matchup of the weekend with two teams most would seem certain to be part of the playoff picture in January. A game like this could affect playoff seedings and home field advantage later on. New England is currently one game behind the upstart New York Jets. The Ravens are a game ahead of the surprising Cincinnati Bengals. It would sure help either team build its case for AFC supremacy by winning this contest on Sunday. Currently, the Patriots are installed as a slight favorite -2 or less. The Ravens key is on defense. They need to rattle Tom Brady and take advantage of a banged up passing attack. If they do that, they should win convincingly.
The other big matchup features the New York Jets travelling to New Orleans to face the Saints in a battle of undefeated teams. Victories by either team could help put the winning team in a nice position atop its division. The matchup features New Orleans explosive multi-faceted attack on offense against an energized Jets’ defense showing Coach Rex Ryan’s influence. Rookie QB, Mark Sanchez, is charged with executing a simple but effective scheme on offense. This game is almost impossible for us to call despite Vegas giving the Saints a touchdown advantage, but we’re going to say the Jets have a little more of that mysterious X factor to win.
The Washington Redskins cannot lose to Tampa Bay, a winless team that could be weaker than the Detroit Lions. A Washington win, they’re at 2-2 with a dozen games to salvage a decent season. If they lose, they are losers to losers, and figures like Coach Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell will get no mercy from their fans or the media. The Redskins have to throw all they have at Tampa and hope the huge FedEx Field crowd delivers pandemonium to keep the Buccaneers off guard.
San Diego visiting Pittsburgh is a crucial test for the Steelers for a loss would put them at 1-3 possibly three games behind the Ravens. San Diego can seek some comfort realizing Denver ahead of them has yet to play truly tough competition. Still, should Denver win and they lose, they’re two games back.
Finally, Monday night provides one of the best scripts for a game so far this year. Division rivals the Green Bay Packers face the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis staring down their former heroic quarterback, Brett Favre. Minnesota is undefeated with a one game lead over Green Bay. Minnesota wins, they’re clearly in the driver’s seat. They lose; they’re dead even but Green Bay gets the edge with a divisional win.
Let’s look at the specific games and who’s going to prevail.
Baltimore at New England (-2 ½)
Baltimore wins. See above.
Tampa Bay at Washington (-7)
Unless the Skins are shell shocked from last week, home cooking will give them the win.
Detroit at Chicago (-10)
Welcome back to reality. “Dah Bears” beat “Dah Lions.”
Cincinnati (-5 ½) at Cleveland
What would have looked like a toss up a few weeks ago clearly puts Cincinnati in as a clear favorite. Derek Anderson starts at QB as Man-Genius tosses local favorite, Brady Quinn, in the dog house. The Cleveland organization is a mess. Deposed GM, Phil Savage, must feel vindicated.
Oakland at Houston (-9 ½)
Houston should be ready to show how good they can be against the hapless Raiders with the friendly Houston home crowd.
Seattle at Indianapolis (-9)
Seattle is torn and frayed. They’ll get their butts thumped in Indy.
Tennessee (-3) at Jacksonville
Here’s a game where the Titans can finally turn things around as they should be a better team than division rival, Jacksonville. They cannot afford to lose this one.
New York Giants (-9) at Kansas City
Off in the Land of Oz, the Chiefs will feel like a house landed on them once the Giants defense comes on the field. This could be ugly.
Buffalo (-2) at Miami
Buffalo is struggling and T.O. is ticking like a time bomb. Sure, Miami is pretty beat up, but they should finally get things moving in the right direction, for now, with Sunday’s game against the Bills.
New York Jets at New Orleans (-7)
This is a tough one to call, but somehow the intangibles seem to favor the Jets. We’d call them this year’s Cinderella, but the thought of Rex Ryan in a Cinderella outfit is just too scary to ponder!
Dallas (-3) at Denver
Though Dallas won on Monday over Carolina, they did not look strong doing so. It’s up to Mike Nolan’s defense to stop an erratic Cowboys offense. The Broncos should win this mild upset.
St. Louis at San Francisco (-9 ½)
San Francisco should get well in a hurry at home against St. Louis. Who’s this Crabtree fellow?
San Diego at Pittsburgh (-6 ½)
Pittsburgh should finally prevail but this will be a hard fought victory.
Green Bay at Minnesota (-3.5)
The Vikings have too many elements on offense and a solid defense to let Green Bay beat them in their own house. Packers fans will not be happy.