The fates are speaking loudly: Ravens will win a close one

November 12, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Now that it's obvious to all that I'm on some special psychic wavelength with the Ravens, the only thing that can keep me from nailing another correct pick against the spread this week is some competing otherworldly force ... or a particularly lousy performance by Vince Young.

I realize that the Ravens are on a roll -- and, at 7-1 against the spread, so am I -- but I've got a bad feeling about today's supposed mismatch against the Tennessee Titans. The oddsmakers say the Ravens will win by a touchdown on the road, which might seem logical enough when you weigh the relative quality of these teams, but not when you consider the karmic implications of the matchup:

Young has not been particularly impressive during his rookie apprenticeship, which brings the law of averages into the picture, and the otherwise impressive Ravens defense has been vulnerable to the occasional big play. This, at least to me, creates a troublesome vortex that could turn the game into a nail-biter.

Ravens quarterback Steve McNair will be returning to Music City for the first time since leaving the Titans, which cuts two ways. He will either rise to the occasion or the Titans will rise to greet him. Nobody knows him better than his former coach and teammates, which leads me to believe he may be vulnerable to a tide-turning mistake.

Ray Lewis appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated last week, which would be bad enough if only because of the famous SI jinx, but could lead to a cataclysmic karma collision since the cover story is titled "The Gospel According to Ray Lewis -- God's Linebacker." Talk about tempting fate on multiple cosmic levels, and Ray might not even play.

Don't despair. I'm not going to go so far as predict a Ravens loss, but that certainly is within the realm of possibility since the game will be closer than everybody thinks and the Titans already have put a scare into the undefeated Indianapolis Colts.

Ravens (-7) at Titans: No need to belabor the point. Matt Stover had better keep his shoes tied. Titans.

Redskins at Eagles (-7): The Eagles have the top-ranked offense in the NFL and the Redskins have the 30th ranked defense, which would point to a high-scoring, one-sided game at Lincoln Financial Field. That's why I'm going to look so smart when I take the points and the game ends up 19-16. Redskins.

Bills at Colts (-12): There is no reason why the NFL's last remaining undefeated team shouldn't stomp all over the 3-5 Bills, but I felt the same way when the Titans took the Colts to the wire a few weeks ago. I hate double-digit favorites, but I'm taking this one. Colts.

Browns at Falcons (-8 1/2 ): Look for the old Michael Vick -- all run, no pass -- to re-emerge today against a struggling Browns team whose only hope is the league's sixth-best pass defense. This is a no-nonsense game for the Falcons, who need to grind out a win and avoid a repeat of last week's upset loss. Falcons.

Packers at Vikings (-5 1/2 ): Either the Vikings are deceptively bad, or they're due to score big after the offense disappeared in back-to-back losses the past two weeks. The Vikings are this week's pendulum play. They either win big or they serve notice that they aren't a playoff team. Vikings.

Chiefs at Dolphins (-1): The question you have to ask yourself is simple: Did the Dolphins turn the corner with their stunning upset in Chicago, or were they just last week's fluke poster team for NFL parity? I think the latter. Chiefs.

49ers at Lions (-6): The Niners claim they are moving out of San Francisco, and inquiring minds want to know if that is a promise or a threat. Lions.

Texans at Jaguars (-10): The Jaguars crushed the lowly Titans last week, which would lead you to believe that they will do the same against the equally impotent Texans, but I'm banking on an emotional ebb that makes this game way more competitive than it has any right to be. Texans.

Jets at Patriots (-10 1/2 ): This is a big game for the Patriots, who have not played well at home and don't want the surprising Jets to inch within a game of first place in the AFC East. Everything points to a lopsided New England win. Patriots.

Chargers (-1) at Bengals: The Chargers are the highest-scoring team in the NFL and they need this game to stay alongside Denver at the top of the AFC West, but this is a must-win situation for the Bengals, who can't afford to let the Ravens get any farther in front of them. Bengals.

Broncos (-9 1/2 ) at Oakland: Let's see, the best defensive team in the league against the worst offensive team in the league and the spread isn't even double digits? You'd have to be crazy not to give the points, but my mental state has been in question for some time. Raiders.

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