AFC rivals spice up Thanksgiving
By BARRY WILNER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | November 28,2013
AP FILE PHOTO
The boys in blue — the Detroit Lions — kick off the traditional NFL bill of Thanksgiving fare today when they host the rival Green Bay Packers in the first leg of an NFL tripleheader.
Normally a grudge match for AFC North supremacy, Thanksgiving night’s visit by the Steelers to Baltimore doesn’t carry quite such a lofty air this year.
It still should be one of the more physical and contentious games of the holiday weekend. Or of the entire schedule, for that matter, even though both perennial powers are 5-6 and trail Cincinnati by two games in the division.
The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens (No. 19 in the AP Pro 32) are 3-point favorites over Pittsburgh (No. 18, AP Pro32). But the Steelers have been the hotter team of late, winning three in a row, while Baltimore has taken two of three following a three-game slide.
“Teams evolve,” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who has won a Super Bowl and led the Steelers to another. “Sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. I’m not going to dredge up the past. That is the past. We had a lot to do with that. I’m more concerned about pressing forward with the men that we’re playing with now and their preparation this week.”
Pittsburgh got off to a horrendous start, dropping its first four games. Now it’s in the wild-card mix, along with Baltimore, which has a difficult schedule down the stretch.
“We understand where we’re at,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who has gotten the team into the playoffs in all five of his previous seasons in charge. “We know what everybody’s record is. But we also know we have to win. None of that matters unless we continue to win. We’ve got to win as many games as we can, and we’ll be hopeful that’s enough to get us in.
“We haven’t given up the division championship yet, either. But we’ve got to win games. We have to win the next one on our schedule.”
No. 22 New York Giants (minus 1)
at No. 28 Washington
Surprised that NFL didn’t flex out of this prime-time eyesore? So are we.
BEST BET: GIANTS, 31-21
No. 20 Miami (plus 1 1-2)
at No. 23 New York Jets
Time to drop one of these teams from playoff talk.
UPSET SPECIAL: DOLPHINS, 17-10
No. 2 New Orleans (plus 6)
at No. 1 Seattle, Monday night
Now here’s a tasty treat, with major Super Bowl implications. Spread is too big.
No. 15 Green Bay (plus 6)
at No. 13 Detroit, Thursday
Once a regular Thanksgiving matchup. Plenty of NFC North importance here.
No. 27 Oakland (plus 9 1-2)
at No. 12 Dallas, Thursday
Cowboys feeling very good about themselves. Raiders won’t ruin it.
No. 3 (tie) Denver (minus 4)
at No. 6 Kansas City
Excuse us for not being all that excited by the rematch.
No. 9 Arizona (plus 3 1-2)
at No. 11 Philadelphia
Now this one does get the blood flowing with two teams on the rise.
No. 3 (tie) New England (minus
7 1-2) at No. 32 Houston
Look out, Patriots could steal AFC home-field advantage.
No. 8 Cincinnati (plus 1) at
No. 16 (tie) San Diego
If Bengals are to be playoff threat, they need to win this type of game.
No. 21 Tennessee (plus 4 1-2)
at No. 10 Indianapolis
Stumbling Colts could let Titans back in AFC South race with loss.
No. 16 (tie) St. Louis (plus
9 1-2) at No. 7 San Francisco
Jeff Fisher’s Rams have no fear of Niners, no matter where they meet.
No. 25 Tampa Bay (plus 8
1-2) at No. 5 Carolina
Two streaking teams. Panthers’ win string — and roster — far more impressive.
No. 31 Atlanta (plus 3 1-2)
vs. No. 24 Buffalo at Toronto
Falcons in running for top overall draft pick.
No. 14 Chicago (pick-em)
at No. 29 Minnesota
Vikings in running for top overall draft pick.
No. 30 Jacksonville (plus 7)
at No. 26 Cleveland
Jaguars in running for top overall draft pick.
2013 RECORD: Against spread: 2-11-1 (68-94-7). Straight up: 4-9-1 (99-75-1).
Best Bet: 4-8 against spread, 10-2 straight up.
Upset special: 3-9 against spread, 1-11 straight up.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org