Motivated Ravens will leave Bills feeling black-and-blue

December 31, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

The Ravens have announced that they will go all-black for today's game at M&T Bank Stadium, which can mean only one thing: They obviously hope to lull the Buffalo Bills into a false sense of security by impersonating the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I can't think of any other explanation, since the Ravens were playing pretty good football in their regular uniforms and Brian Billick strikes me as an if-it's-not-broke-don't-fix-it kind of coach, but I'm not going to worry about it.

The black jerseys do look cool, and the Ravens probably could beat the Bills wearing something from Victoria's Secret.

The oddsmakers consider this game a mismatch and it's hard to disagree. The 9 1/2 -point spread seems modest, considering some of the Bills probably will carry their suitcases right onto the field with them. They aren't going anywhere but home afterward.

It's still a meaningful game for the Ravens -- who need to protect their first-round bye -- so you can expect them to go full throttle until the evening is well in hand. The betting line is only an issue because Billick is likely to clear his starters off the field as soon as the lead is comfortable in the second half.

There has been some grumbling about the NFL's decision to move the game from 1 p.m. to 4:15, but it was the right thing to do to assure that all four games involving the AFC division champions remain meaningful. There will be plenty of time to ring out the old year after the Ravens wring one more victory out of the 2006 regular-season schedule.

Bills at Ravens (-9 1/2 ): The Ravens will have a big first half and Kyle Boller will get some tuneup time in the second. Nobody gets hurt. I end up a very respectable 14-2 against the spread in Ravens games. Mission accomplished. Ravens.

Lions at Cowboys (-12 1/2 ): The Lions also will have their bags packed, but they're so bad they'll probably lose their luggage today, too. Cowboys.

Raiders at Jets (-11 1/2 ): Eric Mangini should be NFL Coach of the Year after the Jets improve to 10-6, but this one will be a little closer than everyone thinks. The Raiders have been out of it so long they might accidentally show up. Raiders.

Rams (-2 1/2 ) at Vikings: The Rams still have a minuscule chance to make the playoffs, which should provide enough incentive to win this game against one of the 12 teams eliminated from playoff consideration. And, for some reason, I still think the Vikings win outright. Vikings.

Browns at Texans (-4 1/2 ): The only game of the week that has no postseason implications. I would rather watch Rosie O'Donnell mud wrestle with Donald Trump. Texans.

Panthers (-3) at Saints: Conventional wisdom tells you the Saints have no reason even to show up for this game. Their place in the playoffs is set, win or lose. I still think they try to win. Saints.

Patriots at Titans (-3): I can't imagine there was anyone in September who would have believed the Titans would be favored to beat the Patriots in Week 17. Tennessee has been beating the odds all year, but the fun ends today. Patriots.

Seahawks at Buccaneers (-3): The Seahawks really do have nothing tangible to play for today, but they've spent much of the past few weeks in reverse and they need to shift gears for the postseason. Seahawks.

Steelers at Bengals (-6): After watching Ben Roethlisberger mail it in last week against the Ravens, it's difficult to envision the Steelers showing up for their final game. The Bengals need help, but they first have to take care of business at Paul Brown Stadium. Bengals.

Jaguars at Chiefs (-2 1/2 ): Theoretically, this is a showdown for a possible playoff berth. Realistically, it's just an interesting late-season matchup that will come down to home-field advantage. Chiefs.

Dolphins at Colts (-9): The Colts are coming off a devastating loss to the Texans last week, so it's not like they're invincible, but they'll bounce back today and make this one look easy. Colts.

Cardinals at Chargers (-14): Everybody in Baltimore is a Kurt Warner fan today, but it won't do much good. The Cardinals will bust the spread because the Chargers will play conservatively, but that No. 1 AFC seed is safe. Cardinals.

Falcons at Eagles (-8 1/2 ): The Eagles are playing for the NFC East title and the Falcons entered the weekend needing a miracle. This is going to be a feel-good game in Philly. Eagles.

49ers at Broncos (-10): This is a game that means everything to the Broncos and nothing to the 49ers. No reason to be counterintuitive at this point. Broncos.

Packers at Bears (-3): The Packers have several playoff scenarios in play, but all require that Brett Favre rise to the occasion in possibly his last game and beat the Bears at home. Just don't see that happening. Bears.

If anyone still cares, my 7-7 performance last week boosted my overall record against the spread to 122-112-6. Obviously, those parades tomorrow are not for me.

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

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