Thursday Night Lights: Ravens-Falcons

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 ) 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

We know all about how teams get stoked by coaching changes. Maybe it will happen for the — next year.


Rested, with a fierce pass rush and, just maybe, a who is on a mission, the will push Miami to 0-4 at home.


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


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

, 24-17

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

COLTS, 24-17

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

JAGUARS, 18-15

We still don’t believe the 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

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

BILLS, 14-13

If the Jets truly are a 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

Spunky Bucs should have little trouble handling undermanned and undertalented .


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

CHIEFS, 24-18

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

, 21-20

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.

(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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