Once or twice a season, NFL Network gets a matchup worth, well, worth searching for a TV system that gets NFL Network.
The first Thursday night game in the network’s package is as good as it can get: division leaders Baltimore and Atlanta. Both are 6-2. One team (the Ravens) has a powerful and physical defense. The other has a powerful and physical offense.
Atlanta is 4-0 at home and ranks fifth in offense behind rugged running back Michael Turner and efficient quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons also are a plus-7 in turnover margin, and they win close games: In five games decided by an average of 4.8 points this season, the Falcons have four victories.
“It’s preparing us for later in the season, and you know playoff games are always going to be tight,” said leading receiver Roddy White, whose team is a 1-point favorite.
The Ravens are among the most balanced teams around, and they got stronger in the secondary _ and in experience and leadership _ when star safety Ed Reed returned from injury. He has three picks in two games.
Dallas (plus 13 1/2) at N.Y. Giants
We know all about how teams get stoked by coaching changes. Maybe it will happen for the Cowboys _ next year.
BEST BET: GIANTS, 31-7
Tennessee (plus 2) at Miami
Rested, with a fierce pass rush and, just maybe, a Randy Moss who is on a mission, the Titans will push Miami to 0-4 at home.
UPSET SPECIAL: TITANS, 21-17