- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

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.

Like Ryan, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has been a starter since 2008, when both were rookies. Like Ryan, he has plenty of helpers. He also has a better defense.

RAVENS, 19-17

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.


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.


New England (plus 4) at Pittsburgh

After that stinker at Cleveland, the Patriots should be motivated and mad. Steelers looked shaky in second half against Bengals.


Philadelphia (minus 3) at Washington, Monday night

How much is Andy Reid enjoying some QB melodrama somewhere other than in Philly? And with Donovan McNabb in the middle, no less.

EAGLES, 24-17

Cincinnati (plus 8) at Indianapolis

There’s no truth to reports the Colts are bringing back Marvin Harrison to play wideout.

COLTS, 24-17

Houston (plus 1) at Jacksonville

Last week convinced us it’s dangerous to rely on the Texans in tight matchups. Jaguars, coming off a bye, aren’t much more reliable.

JAGUARS, 18-15

Minnesota (minus 1 1/2) at Chicago

We still don’t believe the Vikings are turning it around, even after that scintillating comeback against Arizona. We do believe the Vikes are good enough in this one.

VIKINGS, 24-17

Detroit (plus 3) at Buffalo

Drew Stanton at QB offsets many of the strides the Lions have made in other positions. Bills keep coming close. This time, they get over the hump.

BILLS, 14-13

N.Y. Jets (minus 3 1/2) at Cleveland

If the Jets truly are a Super Bowl contender, they need to begin showing it here, especially on defense against a team growing in confidence. This one has OT written all over it.

JETS, 20-17

Carolina (plus 7 1/2) at Tampa Bay

Spunky Bucs should have little trouble handling undermanned and undertalented Panthers.


Kansas City (minus 2 1/2) at Denver

Chiefs haven’t been favored in the Mile High City often. Broncos might not be a favorite the rest of the way.

CHIEFS, 24-18

St. Louis (plus 5 1/2) at San Francisco

A chance for each team to prove some worth in the weak NFC West. We’ll give the Niners one more chance.

49ERS, 21-20

Seattle (plus 3) at Arizona

This one depends entirely on whether Seattle gets back QB Matt Hasselbeck from a concussion. Charlie Whitehurst might not be good enough to start for the Cardinals, and that is saying something.

SEAHAWKS (with Hasselbeck), 17-13



Versus spread, 9-4 (overall 69-53-1); Straight up, 9-4 (overall 82-48)

Best Bet: 4-5 against spread, 6-3 straight up.

Upset Special: 6-3 against spread, 6-3 straight up.

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