Great NFL rivalry missing a big piece Thursday night


Barry Wilner

AP Pro Football Writer

Fans argue vociferously about the best rivalry in the NFL.

Historic? Bears-Packers, of course.

Intense? Try Raiders-Chiefs.

For pure ferocity, Pro Picks will take Ravens-Steelers.

There’s a caveat with Thursday night’s meeting, though: no Big Ben.

Roethlisberger’s absence has a huge impact on the point spread. Although the Ravens (tied for No. 22 in AP Pro32) are 0-3 and the Steelers (tied for No. 9) are 2-1, Baltimore is favored by 2 1-2 points.

Guess the oddsmakers figure Baltimore is as desperate as a team could be after three tight defeats, and that Michael Vick can’t provide the spark Pittsburgh’s offense will need.

Vick believes otherwise.

“I feel like I have a chance to go out and play freely and enjoy the game, enjoy this moment and be out there with my teammates,” Vick said.

The Ravens haven’t lost their faith despite their fruitless start to the season.

“Win one game and we’re 1-3. Big deal, we’re 1-3,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “So, I think that the biggest thing for us is going to be to keep our attitude right. Because if we don’t do that, then we’re going to have no chance. If we do it, man, the fact that we’re 0-3 right now doesn’t mean anything.”

Pro Picks agrees, somewhat. Expect it to be close.

RAVENS, 20-17

KNOCKOUT LEAGUE TIP: SEATTLE worked out nicely last week. Have already taken Green Bay and Indianapolis (which knocked out Pro Picks). Anyway, try SAN DIEGO this week.

No. 2 Green Bay (minus 8 1-2) at No. 28 San Francisco

This shows how low the 49ers have fallen to be such a steep underdog at home.


No. 21 Houston (plus 6 1-2) at No. 6 Atlanta

A strangely high spread, and we have some faith in Texans.


No. 7 Carolina (minus 3) at No. 29 Tampa Bay

A strangely low spread. We have little faith in the Bucs, though.


No. 11 Minnesota (plus 6 1-2) at No. 3 Denver

Both teams’ defenses are strong. Which one prevails?

BRONCOS, 21-20

No. 19 St. Louis (plus 7) at No. 4 (tie) Arizona

Until further notice, ride the Cardinals, though Rams will get some sacks.


No. 25 (tie) Detroit (plus 9 1-2) at No. 8 Seattle

Way too big a spread, although Lions’ mistakes could make this pick a mistake.


No. 14 New York Jets (minus 2 1-2) vs. No. 24 Miami at London

A Dolphins home game. Will fans want them back in Miami after this defeat?

JETS, 22-16

No. 30 Jacksonville (plus 8 1-2) at No. 16 Indianapolis

Andrew Luck doesn’t lose to AFC South teams. More importantly, does he cover?

COLTS, 30-20

No. 20 New York Giants (plus 6) at No. 9 (tie) Buffalo

Buffalo aching on offense, but defense too tough a test for Giants’ O-line right now.

BILLS, 17-13

No. 15 Oakland (minus 3) at No. 32 Chicago

This shows how low the Bears have fallen to be underdogs at home to Oakland.

RAIDERS, 20-10

No. 17 Philadelphia (minus 3) at No. 25 (tie) Washington

If visiting Eagles can manhandle the Jets, they can do same at Redskins.

EAGLES, 24-14

No. 13 Kansas City (plus 4) at No. 4 (tie) Cincinnati

Thought KC would bounce back in Green Bay. How about in Cincy? Will be tight.

BENGALS, 23-21

No. 27 Cleveland (plus 7 1-2) at No. 18 San Diego

Home cooking surely should help San Diego.


No. 12 Dallas (OFF) at No. 31 New Orleans (OFF)

Pro Picks will take the cop-out route here.

If Drew Brees plays, SAINTS 26-17

Without Brees, COWBOYS 17-13

2015 RECORD: Against spread: Week 11-5, Season (26-20-1). Straight up: Week 14-2, Season (31-17)

Best Bet: 1-2 against spread, 2-1 straight up.

Upset special: 1-2 against spread, 1-2 straight up.

Barry Wilner

AP Pro Football Writer

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