Maybe the NFL schedule makers did the Baltimore Ravens a big favor.
Thursday night's game couldn't come any more quickly for the Ravens, allowing them to turn away from the turmoil of the Ray Rice release and concentrate on football. And with a visit by the bitter rival Steelers on the agenda, the game becomes even more of a relief for Baltimore.
"Obviously it's a little different not having Ray here and realizing we're not going to have him here," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Having said that, we have to move on."
Pittsburgh, which beat Cleveland last week, is a 2 1-2 point underdog against the Ravens, who fell at home to Cincinnati.
The Steelers could stamp themselves as an AFC contender. As if the Steelers need more incentive against the Ravens.
And then there's the little dance Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did last season when Baltimore's Jacoby Jones was returning a kickoff. The league fined Tomlin $100,000 for sideline interference because he got in Jones' way — they didn't collide — while watching the videoboard.
Tomlin promises Jones will be "safe" at home.
"It's a nonfactor in terms of what I'm doing in terms of preparing for this opportunity," he said, "and obviously what needs to happen for us in the stadium. I don't tote those bags."
Baltimore is toting lots of baggage, a bit too much to win this one.
No. 14 Detroit (plus 2 1-2) at No. 12 Carolina
Liked what we saw from Panthers minus Newton more than what we saw from Lions last week.
BEST BET: PANTHERS, 30-23
No. 10 Arizona (plus 1) at No. 29 New York Giants
Cardinals spoiled our Upset Special in Week 1 by edging Chargers. This time they are ...
UPSET SPECIAL: CARDINALS, 21-13
No. 5 Philadelphia (plus 3) at No. 9 Indianapolis, Monday night
First team to 50 points wins? Not quite, but ...
No. 8 New England (minus 3) at No. 20 Minnesota
Patriots ran out of gas in Week 1, Vikings never let off the gas. Still ...
No. 15 Miami (minus 1) at No. 21 Buffalo
New owners on the way for Bills. Old habits, like losing, return.
No. 27 Jacksonville (plus 6) at No. 28 Washington
Not sure the Redskins should be favored by 6 over Jacksonville State.
No. 6 (tie) New Orleans (minus 6 1-2) at No. 26 Cleveland
Saints should have won in Atlanta and they know it.
No. 22 (tie) Chicago (plus 7) at No. 3 San Francisco
Bears know they should have won at home vs. Buffalo. Their anger won't help much this week.
No. 11 Atlanta (plus 5 1-2) at No. 4 Cincinnati
Bengals showed a little of everything, lots of guts at Baltimore.
No. 1 Seattle (minus 5 1-2) at No. 16 San Diego
Even though there's little question Seahawks are NFL's best, this could be tight.
No. 32 St. Louis (plus 5 1-2) at No. 25 Tampa Bay
Rams plummeted to bottom of AP Pro32. Bucs also fell, but not nearly as badly.
No. 22 (tie) Houston (minus 3) at No. 31 Oakland
Texans headed for 2-0. Of course, they were 2-0 in 2013 and finished 2-14.
No. 24 Kansas City (plus 13) at No. 2 Denver
Broncos headed for 2-0 before first road game — at Seahawks.
No. 18 New York Jets (plus 8 1-2) at No. 6 (tie) Green Bay
Jets headed for 2-0 ... oops, that thinking stops right here.
No. 30 Dallas (plus 3 1-2) at No. 19 Tennessee
It will be easier to evaluate each team after this game. Maybe.
2014 RECORD: Against spread: (7-7-2). Straight up: (10-6).
Best Bet: 0-1 against spread, 0-1 straight up.
Upset special: 1-0 against spread, 0-1 straight up.
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