Beltway Bowl: Key game for Ravens, Redskins
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III passes the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Landover, Md., Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III scrambles with the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Landover, Md., Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in Miami. (AP Photo/Rhona Wise)
Houston Texans safety Glover Quin (29) intercepts a pass thrown by Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker, not shown, in the second quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. At left is Texans inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton (51). (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith, center, sacks St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, left, for a 6-yard loss while Rams tackle Barry Richardson, right, tries to block Smith during the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice celebrates his touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Baltimore (9-3) at Washington (6-6)
The Ravens and Redskins renew the Beltway Bowl, a game that happens only every four years, but today is of critical importance to both teams. Unless they faced off in February, of course.
Baltimore leads the AFC North and wins it by beating Washington and seeing both the Steelers and Bengals lose. The Ravens grab a playoff berth with a win and one of those division rivals losing.
Washington (6-6) has won three in a row to move within one game of the Giants atop the NFC East. Rookie sensation Robert Griffin III runs a hybrid offense that has been effective on the ground and in the air. When needed, RG3 has been a superb improviser.
Miami (5-7) at San Francisco (8-3-1)
San Francisco has gotten very sloppy the last two weeks, endangering what was a huge lead in the NFC West. The Niners had 21 penalties in those games out of 88 total for the season, and eight times were called for offensive holding.
Miami must find a way to keep linebacker Aldon Smith in check in passing situations. Smith has matched the franchise single-season sacks mark with 17½ , and Miami’s starting left tackle, Jake Long, is gone for the season.
New Orleans (5-7)
At N.Y. Giants (7-5)
The Saints have a three-game winning streak against Giants, including two blowouts. But New Orleans is a different team on the road and, for that matter, a lesser version of previous Saints squads with Drew Brees at quarterback. Brees never has lost to the Giants in four games, has 11 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 122.1 passer rating.
But he comes off a five-interception debacle against Atlanta, and faces a Giants team that still must have nightmares over chasing RG3. With trips to Atlanta and Baltimore ahead and just a one-game edge in the NFC East, New York is in dire need of a win here.
Chicago (8-4) at Minnesota (6-6)
Last year, one injury after another, most notably to QB Jay Cutler, victimized the Bears. The injury curse has struck again, with the latest star unable to suit up being Brian Urlacher. That doesn’t bode well for a team that has lost three of four and must play Green Bay next week.
“When you start getting depleted and trying to make that run for the division, trying to position yourself for the playoffs or whatever it is, and you don’t have your main guys out there, it could be difficult,” said Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen, whose club lost outstanding receiver Percy Harvin for the season this week, but has the equally outstanding Adrian Peterson.
Detroit (4-8) at Green Bay (8-4)
Detroit’s slide has reached four, all against solid opponents, including the Packers’ 24-20 decision three weeks ago. The Lions have been undisciplined and it has really cost them late in games.
Even with Jordy Nelson likely sidelined and Donald Driver nursing a broken thumb, the Packers could tear up the tundra and fill up the scoreboard.
Atlanta (11-1) at Carolina (3-9)
The Falcons barely escaped against the Panthers in Week 4. Atlanta has clinched the NFC South, but desperately wants to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and actually could do so this weekend with a victory and losses by Chicago, Green Bay and San Francisco.
With few blowouts this season, the Falcons haven’t overwhelmed anyone despite their gaudy record. It will take some playoff victories to make a major impression, not wins over the likes of the Panthers, who fell at lowly Kansas City — albeit in an emotion-filled setting — last Sunday.
Dallas (6-6) at Cincinnati (7-5)
Cincinnati has overcome a four-game slide with four consecutive wins, three against AFC West weaklings and one over the Giants, who aren’t looking so good recently, either. The Bengals do seem a legit contender, though, as their defense has stepped up, allowing a mere 42 points in the winning string.
Dallas confounds everyone, and if it could hold onto leads late in games, it might very well be leading the NFC East. The Cowboys trail the Giants by one game, but their last four victories are against Carolina, Cleveland and two against Philadelphia, all last-place teams.
Tennessee (4-8) at Indianapolis (8-4)
Here’s how stunningly well this season is going for the Colts: win here and next week at Houston — a tall order, that one — and Indy could own a playoff spot. That’s how effective the new regime and its collection of new players, including, of course, top overall draft pick Andrew Luck, has been.
Tennessee has nothing so noteworthy in its 2012 resume, although it did force Indy to overtime on Oct. 28 before losing 19-13.
Arizona (4-8) at Seattle (7-5)
The first of three home games with NFC West rivals for the Seahawks, a huge edge in the schedule that could help them make the playoffs. No team has collapsed deeper than the Cardinals, who won their first four, but haven’t tasted victory in two months. Their quarterback situation is a total mess, and they can’t stop the run.
Philadelphia (3-9) at Tampa Bay (6-6)
While the Eagles can’t get the season over quick enough, Tampa Bay still has big plans. Losses to the Falcons and Broncos the last two weeks were damaging, but the Bucs remain in the wild-card chase and can’t afford a stumble here.
San Diego (4-8) at Pittsburgh (7-5)
For those who believe the Steelers saved their season with that impressive victory at Baltimore, hold on. They remain vulnerable until Ben Roethlisberger is healthy enough to function like the winning quarterback he has been. San Diego has lost four straight and seven of eight as it plays out the string in perhaps the final season for coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith.
St. Louis (5-6-1) at Buffalo (5-7)
St. Louis is the only team in the league that wishes it could face San Francisco more often after a tie and a win against the 49ers. This week, though, it’s Buffalo, which runs the ball nearly as well as the Niners, but has trouble stopping it. Could be a productive day for the Rams’ Steven Jackson and the Bills’ C.J. Spiller on the ground.
Kansas City (2-10)
At Cleveland (4-8)
The Browns are showing some life since new owner Jimmy Haslam took over, and perhaps they can save coach Pat Shurmur’s job with continued strong performances. KC comes off an uplifting victory against Carolina one day after linebacker Jovan Belcher shot to death his girlfriend and then committed suicide.
N.Y. Jets (5-7) at Jacksonville (2-10)
Mark Sanchez remains behind center, and not necessarily on a short leash given the backup situation with the Jets. New York has gotten sloppy in virtually every offensive area, with the spotlight, naturally, on Sanchez’s failings. But the running game isn’t much, the receivers have been pedestrian and the offensive line has continued its 2011 slump.
— The Associated Press