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Baltimore Ravens New England Patriots
Ravens (4-1) at Patriots (3-1) Sunday, 1 p.m. Line: Patriots by 3

The Ravens returned to their roots last Sunday, bringing back the retro-chic dive-and-bomb offense that helped them reach the playoffs in 2008 and 2009. The scheme is football comfort food: fullback plunges and mashed potatoes in an N.F.L. world dominated by spread-shotgun fusion cuisine. The Ravens kept it simple last year, rushing for 234 yards in a 33-14 win against the Patriots. Ray Rice missed practice with a sore knee this week, but he s expected to play, so the Ravens offense should remain nice and starchy.

Baltimore Ravens New England Patriots

The Patriots have been guilty of serving a few tilapia-andgorgonzola pita frittatas on offense in recent years: since 2007, they haven t seen a screen or formation they didn t like. All that may have changed now that Randy Moss is gone. Look for fewer empty-backfield tunnel screens and more of a two-tight end power offense, the kind the Patriots used during their rise to dominance. Tom Brady told WEEI Boston that the Patriots offense won t be completely overhauled, but it just may be a little bit different than what you ve seen. Who knows if it s better or worse? That remains to be seen for all of us. Sounds as if the chef wasn t consulted before the menu changed. Pick: Ravens

Indianapolis Colts Washington Redskins
Colts (3-2) at Redskins (3-2) Sunday, 8:20 p.m. Line: Colts by 4

The Redskins are 1-1 in overtime games, were stunned by the Rams, and beat the Cowboys on an end-of-half fumble-return touchdown and an end-of-game holding penalty. Donovan McNabb s return to Mount Doom of Mordor two weeks ago was actually the least dramatic event of the Redskins season so far. That s saying something.

Indianapolis Colts Washington Redskins
The Colts, meanwhile, are acting like a baseball team in mid-May, shrugging off losses and sloppy wins, biding their time until their inevitable playoff run. The Colts have real problems this year, like a run defense that can t stop anyone and a goal-line offense that consists mostly of incomplete passes and angry Peyton Manning scowls, but the Redskins lack the running game to capitalize. Pick: Colts

Dallas Cowboys Minnesota Vikings
Cowboys (1-3) at Vikings (1-3) Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Line: Vikings by 1 1/2

Part Game. part Over Dramatists Anonymous meeting, this matchup guarantees that one of these teams will go 1-4 and indulge in Chicken Little news conferences and a long dark midweek of the soul. Unless there s a tie. Wouldn t that be swell? The Cowboys secondary cannot cover anyone, their oncereliable offensive line is crumbling, and their get everyone involved immediately approach to offense has resulted in a lot of unproductive screen passes to Dez Bryant and 10 firstquarter points in four games.

Dallas Cowboys Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings offense started clicking on Monday night once Brett Favre realized he should throw to Randy Moss, not the other way around. Favre then lapsed into full Melancholy Dane mode, saying that he may miss this game because of his sore elbow. Oh, the suspense. What will he do? Analysis suggests that the Cowboys are the better team. Psychoanalysis proves inconclusive. Pick: Vikings

Miami Dolphins Green Bay Packers
Dolphins (2-2) at Packers (3-2) Sunday, 1 p.m. Line: off the board

The Packers are grappling with an injury plague. Aaron Rodgers has a concussion, tight end Jermichael Finley may miss the season with a knee injury, and Clay Mathews is nursing a pulled hamstring. At the rate players are dropping, the healthy Packers will each be forced to commit six penalties per game, just to keep the pace up.

Miami Dolphins Green Bay Packers
As The Wildcat offense has been downgraded from conservation dependent to vulnerable in recent weeks. Eight Wildcat plays by the Dolphins against the Jets resulted in a net loss of 20 yards once penalties were factored in, and the Dolphins used the tactic just once against the Patriots (on third-and-long, no less). In place of the Wildcat, the Dolphins are using the Chad Henne Wild Throw, which has been effective only in boosting the confidence of the opposing secondary. Pick: Packers

Atlanta Falcons Philadelphia Eagles
Falcons (4-1) at Eagles (3-2) Sunday, 1 p.m. Line: Eagles by 3

Michael Vick may return from injury to face his former team; Kevin Kolb took most of the practice snaps this week, but Vick claims that he doesn t need practice to play. (Or was that Allen Iverson in an Eagles cap?) Either way, the Falcons have moved on nicely without him. Vick s arrest before the 2006 season was a disguised blessing for the Falcons, who were forced to purge their roster and coaching staff of hotheads, underachievers and self-promoters, ushering in the Thomas Dimitroff-Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era. Thanks to Dimitroff s management and Smith s coaching, the Falcons now have one of the strongest rosters in the N.F.L., though few have noticed because they lack a high-profile player with Vick s After-School-Special appeal.

Atlanta Falcons Philadelphia Eagles
W ho needs feel-good stories when your defense intercepts 10 passes in five games and your offense controls the ball for 33 minutes 15 seconds per game? The Phillies face the Giants across the street from Lincoln Financial Field at 8 p.m. Visitors should find a sensible place to park. Like Trenton. Pick: Falcons

New York Jets Denver Broncos
Jets (4-1) at Broncos (2-3) Sunday, 4:05 p.m. Line: Jets by 3

If engineers designed a team precision-tuned to lose to the Jets, they would probably create the Broncos. The Broncos don t run well, don t try to run well or pretend to try to run well, averaging 2.2 yards per rush once you take out the scrambles. They cannot pressure the quarterback (five sacks, with the sack leader Robert Ayers injured), and their run defense gave up and allowed itself to get mulched at the end of the Ravens game. The Jets can start blitzing as soon as the team bus is parked, and they can keep hammering away with LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene until the Broncos cave in. Pick: Jets

Seattle Seahawks Chicago Bears
Seahawks (2-2) at Bears (4-1) Sunday, 1 p.m. Line: Bears by 6 1/2

After Sunday s trip to Chicago, the Seahawks return home for a week, then fly to Oakland on Halloween (the one day a year when Raiders fans dress normally), then back to Seattle to face the Giants. Then they head down to Arizona, over to New Orleans and finally back to Seattle for a two-game homestand. They ll have enough frequent flyer miles for a trip to Neptune, and their luggage will be scattered across the continent by Thanksgiving, but the Seahawks are doing their part to keep the airlines in business. Jay Cutler returns to find the Bears in first place, looking down at the injury-plagued Packers and pressure-cooked Vikings. It s such an unlikely scenario that he may think he needs to lie down a little longer. Pick: Bears

Detriot Lions New York Giants
Lions (1-4) at Giants (3-2) Sunday, 1 p.m. Line: Giants by 10

The Lions executed a trick play in the fourth quarter of a 44-6 victory last week, but Jim Schwartz swears that he wasn t channeling his inner Spurrier. The Lions have a backlog of plays they want to run when they have a big lead and can afford to experiment; there s also an overflow of victory cigars in the team humidor and about 200 post-win movies backed up in their Netflix queue. The Giants have figured out the defensive problems that plagued them in Weeks 2 and 3, and Matt Dodge has booted four straight quality punts without calling Dr. Melfi. Chances are, we won t see that Jahvid Best option pass again until 2012. Pick: Giants

Cleveland Browns Pittsburg Steelers
Browns (1-4) at Steelers (3-1) Sunday, 1 p.m. Line: Steelers by 13

Ben Roethlisberger is back, so we can look forward to all of the Big Ben staples: 15-second intermezzos in the pocket, pump-fakes into the face of oblivion and penitence-ondisplay sit-down interviews during the pregame and halftime shows. As if on cue, all of the Browns quarterbacks got injured last week, leaving the rookie Colt McCoy (who was so bad in preseason that the team considered cutting him) to face the Steelers defense. Browns quarterbacks may not have much skill, but they do have self-preservation instincts. Pick: Steelers

San Diego Chargers St. Louis Rams
Chargers (2-3) at Rams (2-3) Sunday, 1 p.m. Line: Chargers by 8

Don t leave your seat when the Chargers line up to punt or kick. So far this year, they ve allowed three touchdown returns, had three punts blocked and committed a variety of other entertaining miscues: kicks out of bounds, fumbles and 46-yard, kicker-savesthe day returns. They are due for: a) a botched onside kick off a player s helmet, b) one of those plays where the punt returner backtracks into his own end zone and is tackled for a safety, and c) a fumbled field goal snap that forces kicker Nate Kaeding to throw a desperation pass backward, Garo Yepremian-style. If all three of those events occur this week, the Rams could actually win. Pick: Chargers

New Orleans Saints Tampa Bay Buccaneers Saints (3-2) at Buccaneers (3-1)
Sunday, 1 p.m. Line: Saints by 4 1/2

The talisman that made every bouncing ball and tipped pass land in the Saints arms last year has lost its enchantment. The Saints are now vulnerable to the same vagaries of luck as the rest of us, as they learned the hard way last week against the Cardinals innovative fumble into the end zone game plan. The up-and-coming Buccaneers could capitalize, but their record is padded with wins over the Panthers and Browns, and their secondary is among the league s worst despite nine interceptions. Pick: Saints

Kansas City Chiefs Houston Texans
Chiefs (3-1) at Texans (3-2) Sunday, 1 p.m. Line: Texans by 4 1/2

Just as Cowboys-Vikings guarantees that some erstwhile preseason contender will sound the red-alert claxons, this game ensures that one pesky upstart will stay in the playoff picture for another week.

Kansas City Chiefs Houston Texans

The Texans are brilliantly inconsistent, a talented but mistake-prone team completely incapable of stopping a forward pass. The Chiefs are slow and steady, great at controlling the clock and frustrating opposing offenses but awful at throwing downfield. The matchup favors the Texans, but that hasn t stopped them from playing terribly in two of the last three weeks. Pick: Chiefs

Los Angeles Raiders San Francisco 49ers Raiders (2-3) at 49ers (0-5)
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. Line: 49ers by 6 1/2

Coach Mike Singletary threatened to bench Alex Smith in favor of David Carr on Sunday night, but he was really just using reverse psychology: once Smith protested the move, he proved his worthiness to keep his job. No one told Carr that Smith s benching was just a page from the Riddle of the Sphinx Management Workbook, so Carr walked into the Niners huddle, only to find that Smith was already there. Keep in mind that the offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye was recently fired because of his poor communication skills. Niners fans shouted We want Carr! during the loss to the Eagles, but being from San Francisco, they really wanted some kind of hybrid. Pick: Raiders

Tennessee Titans Jacksonville(3-2) Jaguars Titans (3-2) at Jaguars
Monday, 8:30 p.m. Line: Titans by 3

There s nothing like a brief benching to splash some ice water on the face of a slumping quarterback. David Garrard has completed 78 percent of his passes and thrown for five touchdowns in the last two weeks. Vince Young has thrown for four touchdowns and no interceptions since his reintroduction to clipboard duty three weeks ago. The Titans are more solid all-around than the Jaguars, but this is just the battle to see who gets to be in first place until the Colts wake up in three weeks. Pick: Titans

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