Ravens primed for victory, but not against the spread

September 24, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

The law of averages is a nasty, nasty thing.

It lurks in the shadows, waiting to deliver a cruel dose of reality to anyone who imagines that the principles of statistical probability can be defeated in a fair fight. I know this because it happened to me while I was basking in the glory of my 12-4 performance against the spread in Week 1 of the NFL regular season.

How do you go from 12-4 to 6-10 unless that initial impressive performance was no more than a statistical anomaly? Kind of reminds me of one of my favorite bits of bumper sticker philosophy: "Every 24 hours, the world rolls over on someone who used to be on top of it."

Fortunately, last week's picks were for entertainment purposes only, because they sure weren't good for anything else. That said, I am bloodied but unbowed, and fully intend to turn things around in a big way this week.

Ravens (-6 1/2 ) at Cleveland: Everything points to another one-sided victory for the Ravens, but this game scares me. It's a big spread for a road game and it's not like one win in Tampa is enough to make anyone forget that this team didn't win a game on the road last season. The Ravens win, but your heart is going to be beating fast at the end and Cleveland is going to cover. Browns.

Redskins (-4) at Texans: The Texans have given up 67 points in their first two games, but they've also scored more points than the Redskins this year (34-26) and quarterback David Carr is playing pretty well under the circumstances. Conventional wisdom says the Redskins need a soft opponent like this, but the pressure not to lose might be too much for them. Texans.

Bears (-3 1/2 ) at Vikings: Everything points to a low-scoring affair, which is reason enough to take the points. One big offensive mistake by either team could decide this game, and the Bears probably have one coming after two dominating performances. Vikings.

Packers at Lions (-6 1/2 ): Can't get past the math. The Lions are averaging 6 1/2 points a game, which is what they are giving away. That may be a fair reflection of the state of the Packers, but still too many points to give in a game between struggling teams. Packers.

Titans at Dolphins (-11): My rule against giving double-digit spreads early in the season was my undoing last week, so I'm going to throw it out and figure the Dolphins are going to want to run it up against the embattled Titans. Nick Saban is so addled by now, he probably thinks a big win will help him in the Bowl Championship Series standings. Dolphins.

Jets at Bills (-5 1/2 ): The Bills are going to put some points on the board and the Jets' offense may be too banged up to stay with them. If you put me in a headlock and forced me to give you my pick of the week, this would be it. Bills.

Bengals at Steelers (-1 1/2 ): Ben Roethlisberger hunched over in pain several times during his first game back from appendix surgery, and he's coming off a short week of practice. The Steelers don't even list him as questionable, but he is and that may be enough to help the Bengals stay undefeated. Bengals.

Jaguars at Colts (-7): The Jags also come off a short week after their shutout victory over the Steelers on Monday night, which will make it that much tougher to catch up to Peyton Manning and the high-scoring Indianapolis offense. Colts.

Panthers (-3) at Buccaneers: At some point, the Bucs have to snap out of their early-season offensive slump, but so do the winless Panthers, who are a much better team. After this one, it might take a week to get Jon Gruden's jaw unclamped. Panthers.

Giants at Seahawks (-3 1/2 ): The Giants defense that gave up 626 yards to Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb the past two weeks faces a much more balanced attack on the road, which could mean the first breakout offensive performance of the year for Seattle. Seahawks.

Rams at Cardinals (-4 1/2 ): This matchup will feature one of the most successful quarterbacks in Rams history ... and he'll be playing for the Cardinals. Kurt Warner probably isn't going to win any more Most Valuable Player trophies, but Arizona can move the ball and should be able to win by a touchdown. Cardinals.

Eagles (-6) at 49ers: It will be interesting to see how the Eagles bounce back from last week's fourth-quarter collapse. The schedule was kind to them, so this figures be a good opportunity to rebuild some self-esteem. Eagles.

Broncos at Patriots (-7): Will this be the week the Patriots deliver their first dominating performance of the young season? Probably not, but they should be able to stay undefeated. Broncos.

Falcons (-3 1/2 ) at Saints: The Saints come into their first game at the Superdome since before Hurricane Katrina with a 2-0 record, but their luck figures to run out against the balanced Falcons. If Michael Vick doesn't get them, Warrick Dunn will. Falcons.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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