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Steelers will be smart, beat Ravens through the air this time

So last week's Cowboys-Eagles game failed to come down to the final 2:00, unless you were counting the minutes until the coin toss, that is. The Vikings-Panthers affair was the barn-burner we thought it would be, however, so you give and you get. Onto this weekend's slate, where we have six tilts worthy of spotlighting.

THE GAME WE'LL BE TALKING ABOUT ON MONDAY: Ravens-Steelers. Usually you can count on fewer than 30 total points when these teams play. Not anymore. Week 1 was a Ravens blowout, but that was a different Pittsburgh team, one that was delusional that it could run the football effectively. ("Jeopardy" Question: Name a running back who can't run. Answer: Who is Rashard Mendenhall?) You can make plays on the Ravens defense if you throw downfield, but from seven yards and in they're still the toughest defense in the league. Ben Roethlisberger's ability to buy time combined with the Steelers' evolution into a pass-first team wins them the rematch. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are great at street-football adjustments, and it will be another huge day for Roethlisberger, who will break the Ravens' backs with big completions. But don't worry -- just because there will be offense doesn't mean you won't feel the hits through the TV screen, as is the norm in this rivalry. I get bruised just watching.

THE BEST FINAL 2:00: Packers-Chargers. It's gut-check time for San Diego. Things are so dire in their backfield that Chuck Muncie might start this week, which means Philip Rivers is going to throw the football a ton -- like it or not. I fully buy into the "he's hurt" theory on Rivers, just because nothing else computes, and hearing reports he was wincing while throwing the football Monday night against Kansas City clinches it for me. Despite all of that (and the fumble), Rivers went for 369 yards. I think he's back, and this is a dogfight that comes down to the end. I just can't shake my vision of Aaron Rodgers sneaking in for a TD and doing his championship belt celebration to quiet the San Diego crowd in the final 30 seconds. Fans will be crying in their fish tacos Sunday night.

THE GAME THAT WILL FINISH 17-14: Jets-Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick won't be able to throw on the Jets defense -- no one does. Fred Jackson will run wild against the Jets -- everyone does. Mark Sanchez will move the Jets and throw interceptions, which is what he does every game against Buffalo. I can write the first paragraph of the game recap right now. Despite 154 yards rushing and a touchdown from Fred Jackson, the Bills fell to the Jets Sunday, 17-14. Mark Sanchez made up for his two interceptions by leading New York on two second-half scoring drives and Antonio Cromartie clinched the win with the Jets' third interception of the day amid swirling winds in Buffalo. Watch out for some big plays from Joe McKnight, who gashed the Bills for 158 yards rushing in the season finale last year. Rex Ryan promised that McKnight, the closest thing the Jets have to a game-breaker, will see more backfield action this week.

THE SUPER BOWL REMATCH THAT WILL HAVE A DIFFERENT OUTCOME: Giants-Patriots. New York is a different team than it was at the beginning of the season. The emergence of Victor Cruz does for them what Az-Hakim did for the Greatest Show on Turf. He's uncoverable in the slot, and he's Eli's go-to guy. Just watch the second half of the Miami game if you have any doubts. Without Ahmad Bradshaw I'd be surprised if Brandon Jacobs carries the football 10 times. So they'll throw, and they'll score. But the flip side? This isn't your older brother's 2007 Giants defense. Anyone can run on them, even New England, who commits to the run like Kim Kardashian commits to marriage. Call me crazy, but I have the suspicion this could be a game where BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets 12-15 carries, Stevan Ridley gets seven or eight and the Pats have a little more balance and win this one by 10 points.

THE GAME THAT COULD SEE A TEAM RUSH FOR NEGATIVE YARDAGE: 49ers-Redskins. San Francisco hasn't allowed a rushing TD all season. Ryan Torain is averaging less than 2 yards per carry the last three weeks. They're so desperate they signed Ricky Ervins -- er, Tashard Choice. John Beck will throw the ball 50 times Sunday, and it will be another workmanlike win for the 49ers. However, I'm not sold on them as an elite team. They have big wins, they've beaten good teams and bad teams and they've scored a lot of points. But they're not built to play from behind. They're a front-running team that needs to play from that position to succeed. Alex Smith isn't throwing for three TDs in the second half of a wild playoff game to make the 49ers advance in the postseason. So yes, I'm wary of them, just not this week.


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THE LUCK SWEEPSTAKES ELIMINATION GAME: Rams-Cardinals. Right now, it's a four-horse race for Andrew Luck. St. Louis, Arizona, Indianapolis and Miami. Here's the thing: I think this sweepstakes gets down to two teams pretty soon, and it will be the Dolphins and the Cardinals, because the Rams will go on the road and win this game. Arizona is having trouble beating anyone no matter if Kevin Kolb or John Skelton is playing QB. St. Louis is getting better (defense) and healthier (Steven Jackson) and the Rams will win a few games between now and the end of the season. So will Indianapolis. The Colts have the potential to score a lot of points in any given game at home, and I can see them winning two or three games. Miami has no quarterback and is in the toughest division in the league. The Cardinals? After this week they're at Philly, San Francisco and St. Louis for a three-game road trip. Then home for Dallas and San Francisco again. So they'll be sitting at one win when they host Seattle and Cleveland in two of the final three weeks, with Luck on the line.

See Jason Smith on "NFL Fantasy Live," airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the NFL RedZone channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes Fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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