Sure, Ravens will handle Browns, but not the spread

December 17, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

By any reasonable measure, the Ravens clearly are the best team that will take the field today at M&T Bank Stadium, and I suspect that anyone who knows a gridiron from a George Foreman grill is picking them to defeat the Cleveland Browns and take another important step toward the postseason.

If only it were that simple.

Trouble is, I've built quite a reputation for predicting how the Ravens will fare against the spread, and I'm torn between their obvious superiority over the hapless Browns (who, incidentally, hope to fill that void by drafting at least two haps next year) and my gut feeling that an 11-point betting line is just too wide.

I realize that the Ravens are 5-1 at home and the Browns are a sparkling 0-5 in the division. I also realize that the Ravens' defense has given up an average of just 13 points a game this year and the Browns' offense hasn't even settled on a quarterback yet. This game smells like a blowout, but me and my amazing 12-1 record are going with the other way.

The Ravens are coming off a highly emotional victory at Kansas City and they are due for a couple of mistakes. They're too good to let that keep them from clinching a playoff spot today, but the Browns will hang around and eventually bust the spread with a meaningless score in the fourth quarter.

By the way, I've been asked why I have not been picking the Thursday night NFL Network game in my Wednesday column. It's just my little way of standing up against the man, or whoever it was who decided to sacrifice the integrity of the late-season schedule for a few extra cable television bucks.

Browns at Ravens (-11): What, did you just skim the first six paragraphs? Browns.

Redskins at Saints (-9 1/2 ): I'm a believer after the Saints pushed the Cowboys around in Dallas last week, but I'm not just going to roll over and give them that many points after such a big and meaningful victory. The 'Skins don't win, but they make a game of it. Redskins.

Dolphins at Bills (-1): This is going to be a cataclysmic battle to see who can reach .500. Believe it or not, it might matter. Bills.

Jets at Vikings (-3 1/2 ): This is a huge game for the Jets, but the Vikings (6-7) might actually have a better chance of earning a wild-card playoff berth. They've got only the washed-up Packers and Rams remaining on their schedule. Vikings.

Lions at Packers (-5): The Packers have won 14 straight games against the Lions at Lambeau Field, which should set me up for the counterintuitive play of the week. Except it's the Lions. There's counterintuitive, and there's crazy. Packers.

Buccaneers at Bears (13 1/2 ): Rex Grossman saved his job against the Rams on Monday night in St. Louis, but I'm thinking he'll struggle again off a Monday road game. The Bears win, but not by two touchdowns. Bucs.

Jaguars (-3 1/2 ) at Titans: There is no rational reason to pick the Titans after Jacksonville spanked the Colts, so I came up with an irrational one. The Jaguars used up all of this week's points in that game. Titans outright. Titans.

Texans at Patriots (-11): Only three NFL teams have scored fewer points than the Texans this year. The Patriots were shut out last week. New England owes somebody a severe thrashing, and this just might be the day for it. Patriots.

Steelers at Panthers (off): The Panthers will go with an injured or an inexperienced quarterback, and their secondary is banged up. Ben Roethlisberger is due for a big day. Steelers.

Broncos (-2 1/2 ) at Cardinals: The Broncos have lost four straight games and hope to avoid their first five-game losing streak since 1990. Interesting matchup between last year's No. 10 overall draft pick (Matt Leinart) and No. 11 (Jay Cutler). Broncos.

Eagles at Giants (-5 1/2 ): Who would have imagined when Donovan McNabb went down that this would turn out to be one of the key games of the late season? The winner takes the inside track to a wild-card berth. Giants.

Rams at Raiders (-3): If I had tickets to this game, I would go to Fisherman's Wharf. It would be more fun if both teams were still in Los Angeles. Raiders.

Chiefs at Chargers (-8 1/2 ): I no longer think that the Chargers can be stopped ... until the playoffs. This has blowout written all over it. Chargers.

Bengals at Colts (-3): The Colts are 6-0 at home but badly need to make some kind of statement after losing three of their past four overall. This is a great Monday night matchup that could have major implications for the Ravens either way. Bengals.

In case anyone cares, last week's 8-7 performance improved my overall record against the spread to 105-101-6.

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

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