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Baltimore, Pittsburgh turn back the clock

A number of compelling matchups dot the NFL schedule in Week 4, but if you’re a queasy individual, the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game might not be for you.

The Steelers have been a remarkable story through three games, winning with a ferocious defense while waiting for suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s return.

Ray Lewis and the Ravens are solid defensively, and the Baltimore offense had a little coming-out party last week.

The line opened at pick, but Pittsburgh has been bet to a 2½-point home favorite. There is no reason to believe this will be anything other than a backyard brawl, with points being hard to come by, and that’s reflected in the low total of 34½.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants odds director Tony Sinisi is turning the clock back for this contest.

“This is a game from another era. We don’t see many games like this in this day and age,” Sinisi said. “Turnovers are always king in the NFL, but this contest screams out, ‘Whoever wins the turnover battle, wins the game.’ “

In the highlight of the afternoon lineup, Donovan McNabb returns with the Washington Redskins to face the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFC East showdown. While much of the focus is on McNabb, the wild card to the whole scenario is Michael Vick, who has given Philadelphia a short-term excitement boost at quarterback.

Are too many people going over the top in their praise of Vick? He certainly has been exciting, putting his electric athletic skills on display through 2½ games.

He’s 2-0 as the new starter, but look who the victories came against. Detroit and Jacksonville are not striking fear in the hearts of many opponents, and the true tests are about to come.

Vick and the Eagles are 6-point favorites over the Redskins.

“There are many questions still to be answered for Vick,” Sinisi said. “He had holes in his game years ago in Atlanta, but Andy Reid just may be the head coach that can make him a complete quarterback.”

The New York Giants (1-2) are 3½-point home favorites over the unbeaten Chicago Bears tonight, with the Giants’ season possibly on the line at this early stage.

“The Giants are without a doubt a desperate team, with tough games on the horizon,” Sinisi said. “The Bears have been fortuitous, to say the least, through three games.”

One of the biggest line moves this week has come in the AFC South contest between Indianapolis and Jacksonville. The Colts opened as 8½-point road favorites, but the number has dipped to 7.

During coach Jack Del Rio’s tenure with the Jaguars, they have fared better covering the spread away from home in this matchup. Since 2003, Jacksonville is 2-5 straight up and 3-4 against the spread at home against Peyton Manning. The Jaguars covered five of the past seven games at Indianapolis.

In Monday’s matchup, New England is a 1-point favorite at Miami. The Patriots have issues on defense, and they have had issues in the past with the Dolphins and their wildcat offense.

In four meetings under coach Tony Sparano, the Dolphins have split with Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

Brian Blessing, host of Sportsbook Radio on ESPN (1100 AM and 98.9 FM), can be reached at blessproductions@yahoo.com.

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