When the Baltimore Ravens scored two touchdowns in just over five minutes against Washington last Sunday night, the game was as good as over.
The Ravens' defense is that good.
Expect more defense from both sides Sunday when Pittsburgh comes to town in an AFC North showdown. The oddsmakers certainly do: The over-under is a miniscule 33 in a game in which the Ravens are favored by a 1 1/2 points.
The incentive is high for both teams.
The Steelers, at 10-3, lead the Ravens by a game and won the first contest 23-20 on Sept. 29, which means if they win, they clinch the AFC North. But the Ravens certainly have momentum with seven wins in their last eight games, the only loss to the Giants at the Meadowlands.
``We want to be division champs. We want to be champions. That's something that every team in the division definitely plays for,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh says. ``We're not backing down from the fact that that's our goal. The Steelers stand between us and the division championship, and they're next up on the schedule.''
arter deficit to beat Dallas with the defense, naturally, playing the major role. Deshea Townsend's interception return was the winner.
Baltimore's defense should be the difference in this one, in large part because Ben Roethlisberger already is battered from playing behind a shaky offensive line. He's been especially vulnerable against the better defenses - notably the Cowboys' and the Giants' - and there's no reason to think he will stand up well against the Ravens.
RAVENS, 17-12
----
New York Giants (plus 3) at Dallas
One of the rare times this season the Giants have been the underdog, although this spread really is a combination of the home field and the ``America's Team'' bonuses. Desperation time for Dallas, but the Giants bounce back from the Philly loss.
GIANTS, 21-17

New Orleans (plus 3) at Chicago (Thursday)
A reprise of the NFC championship game of two years ago. Too cold for the Saints.
BEARS, 39-14

Denver (plus 7 1/2) at Carolina
The Broncos are the NFL's least predictable team and the Panthers are due for a letdown.
PANTHERS, 33-30

Minnesota (off) at Arizona
Lots of questions. Gus Frerotte or Tarvaris Jackson? Will the Williams Wall be available? Will the Cardinals relax after clinching the NFC West?
VIKINGS, 31-21

Tampa Bay (plus 3) at Atlanta-
id (actually didn't) Monday night, Michael Turner might get 400 yards.
FALCONS, 27-17

Cleveland (plus 14) at Philadelphia (Monday night)
Has anyone noticed that the Eagles get hot every December, even when they miss the playoffs?
EAGLES, 28-13

Buffalo (plus 7) at New York Jets
The Bills are in free fall. The Jets are in half-fall.
JETS, 9-8

New England (minus 7) at Oakland
The Patriots lost the second game the last time they stayed out west for two weeks. Not this time.
PATRIOTS, 18-13

Detroit (plus 17) at Indianapolis
Do they really have to play this game?
COLTS, 38-10

San Francisco (plus 6 1/2) at Miami
The 49ers have improved under Mike Singletary, but the Dolphins are in an AFC East title drive.
DOLPHINS, 21-17

Washington (minus 6 1/2) at Cincinnati
The Redskins are battered. The Bengals are done.
REDSKINS, 16-5

Tennessee (minus 3) at Houston
Might be the last win the Titans need before the playoffs.
TITANS, 24-23

Green Bay (minus 2 1/2) at Jacksonville
The disappointment bowl.
PACKERS, 24-16

San Diego (minus 5) at Kansas City
The Chargers try to stay alive in the AFC West.
CHARGERS, 38-17

Seattle (off) at St. Louis
Off? On? Who cares. Seattle cares more.
SEAHAWKS, 29-12
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LAST WEEK: 9-7 (spread); 12-4 (straight up)
SEASON: 103-101-4 (spread); 129-78-1(straight up)

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