When NFL plays Thursdays, don't bet on good football

December 03, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

The Ravens need not be too discouraged after Thursday night's flat performance against the Cincinnati Bengals, and no one should be particularly surprised that the combination of short rest and bad weather would temporarily dampen their march to the playoffs.

It was all too predictable, which explains how I predicted it on Wednesday to run my record against the spread to 11-1 in games involving the Ravens.

Nobody should have to go on the road off a 2 1/2 -day practice week unless it's for the traditional Thanksgiving games, but the NFL apparently cares more about squeezing a few million extra dollars out of its cable channel than maintaining a high level of play during the final weeks of the season.

To their credit, the Ravens made no excuses and pointed out that the Bengals had to play under the same conditions, even though the home-field advantage is magnified during a short week in which the visiting team has to spend one of its prep days traveling. The Bengals clearly had an emotional edge from the opening kickoff and there was no reason to expect otherwise with the Ravens coming off such a sky-high performance against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Personally, I think the whole Thursday night NFL Network thing could backfire. The league is ridiculously successful, in part because of the weeklong buildup to the large slate of Sunday games. The fact that the NFL plays well on Sunday night and Monday night does not necessarily mean that football fans want to be force-fed two tired teams on Thursday, especially when those games might determine who gets to the postseason.

That might seem like Christmas every day to the NFL owners, but anyone who managed to stay awake all the way through Thursday night's snoozer in Cincinnati might take a different view.

In case you were wondering about the odds of me picking correctly against the spread 11 of 12 times, reader Herm Blinchikoff of Pikesville has been playing along the past few weeks and claims that there is just one chance in 341 of doing that if you assume each betting line is a 50-50 proposition. If only I was so proficient in the other games on the schedule:

Falcons at Redskins (-1 1/2 ): You'd think that Michael Vick might be a little quicker now that his wallet is about $20,000 lighter, but the Falcons are coming unraveled at the same time that the Redskins are finally starting to come around behind young quarterback Jason Campbell. Redskins.

Vikings at Bears (-9): The Bears have scored more points than any other team in the NFC except the Cowboys, and yet doubts about their offense persist. There's also the likelihood of snow today in the Windy City, which will make it that much harder to cover a big spread. Vikings.

Jets (-1) at Packers: The Pack scored 24 points in the snow against the Seahawks on Monday night in Seattle. They should be able to do the same against the Jets on a frigid afternoon at Lambeau. Packers.

Cardinals at Rams (-6 1/2 ): What do they call it when you keep doing the same stupid thing and expect different results? Oh, yeah, giving points with the Rams. I can't help myself. Rams.

Colts (-7 1/2 ) at Titans: One of these days, the Titans are going to get blown out by a good team, but I'm starting to believe they can compete with anybody. Titans.

Chargers (-6) at Buffalo: On a beautiful sunny day in San Diego, the Chargers are 20 points better than the Bills. On an icy afternoon in Buffalo, I think it's going to be a surprisingly close game. Bills.

Lions at Patriots (-13 1/2 ): This should be a breather game for the Patriots after last week's victory in a potential Super Bowl preview against the Bears, which is why I'm hesitant to give that kind of spread. Lions.

49ers at Saints (-7): The 49ers are playing well over their heads and the Saints proved last week that they are very much for real. This game should be called The Big Easy. Saints.

Chiefs (-5 1/2 ) at Browns: The Chiefs are a different team on the road, but - fortunately for them - the Browns are not a different team at home. Chiefs.

Jaguars at Dolphins (-1): This is a total momentum play. The Dolphins have won four in a row and the Jags couldn't beat the Bills on the road last week. The pendulum isn't going to swing back today. Dolphins.

Texans at Raiders (-3): The Society of American Masochists has named this its Game of the Week. Feel free to nap. Raiders.

Cowboys (-3 1/2 ) at Giants: The Jints have been fussing and fighting all week, which generally is a good thing in New York. Giants.

Buccaneers at Steelers (-7): I've got to believe the Steelers will put a hurt on somebody one of these days. I think it will be today against a team that hates the cold. Steelers.

Seahawks at Broncos (-4): Mike Shanahan is sending a new quarterback against the defending NFC champions tonight. For some reason, I think he knows what he's doing. Broncos.

Panthers (-3) at Eagles: It probably says more about the inconsistent Panthers than the Donovan McNabb-less Eagles that the oddsmakers view this as only a three-point game, but I think the Panthers know they can't afford to leave the Linc without a victory. Panthers.

If you're keeping score at home, my overall record for the year is 89-85-6 after last week's 7-9 performance and Thursday's correct prediction.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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

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