Ravens all charged up

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Football players do more than just play the game.

They watch Sportscenter. They see and hear what the experts on Fox, CBS, NBC, ESPN say about them and the rest of the league.

They may not believe all of what they hear, but sometimes they take it personally.

To that end, the Baltimore Ravens have a message for those gone ga-ga over LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and the San Diego Chargers offence.

"San Diego hasn't played the Baltimore Ravens yet," Ravens linebacker Bart Scott said this week. "They've done a good job (but) we'll see what we're made of and they'll see what we're made of."

The clash between two early-season AFC forces is one of a trio of outstanding games on the Week 4 board.

Right up there with the Bears-Seahawks and the Patriots-Bengals, in Baltimore where the host Ravens are 3-0, the locals are in a frenzy about the Ray Lewis-led defence that is bringing back memories of six years ago.

The Ravens lead the league in takeaways with 10, including seven interceptions. They've also terrorized opposing quarterbacks, lighting them up for 16 sacks and 65 hits.

But stopping the offences of Tampa, Oakland and Cleveland with their combined 0-8 record will be far different than that of the Chargers.

Then again, that San Diego offence has bulked up on the Raiders and Titans and faces its own different beast today. In his first year as a starter, quarterback Rivers has looked like a seasoned veteran.

He has yet to give up a sack and has enjoyed letting Tomlinson and Antonio Gates make him look like a budding star.

Today, the 6-foot-5, 228-pounder enters a hostile environment like he has never seen.

The Ravens defence versus the Chargers offence is only half of this story. The San Diego D, led by linebacker Shawne Merriman, the NFL's reigning defensive rookie of the year, is anxious to be mentioned alongside Lewis and the Ravens.

"We play with the attitude that we will be a dominating defence," cornerback Quentin Jammer said. "It's all about attitude."

Meanwhile, for the Pats-Bengals meeting at Cincinnati, the easy story line is to focus on glamour boy quarterbacks Tom Brady versus Carson Palmer.

Brady, who looked miserable in Monday night's loss to Denver, rarely has two bad games in a row while some are ready to hand Palmer and his reconstructed knee the 2006 MVP after just three games.

Somehow, that just sounds a little too easy, especially in the eyes of Sunday afternoon investors who will eye this point spread with justifiable skepticism.

The Bengals are favoured by a hefty six points, making the Patriots the biggest underdogs they have been since early in the 2003 season.

Finally, the Bears-Seahawks tilt begins a trend we will see for much of the season, that of the Sunday night game being stronger than Monday night offering.

In this second battle of unbeatens, the Bears have picked up where they left off last year, winning with defence and some improved quarterback play out of Rex Grossman.

The Seahawks struggled offensively the first two weeks before busting out with five Matt Hasselbeck touchdown passes last week against the New York Giants.

Today, though, it will be Maurice Morris getting the bulk of the work at running back because of Shawn Alexander's broken foot.

That might just play into the arms of linebacker Brian Urlacher and the rest of the Bears who, like the Bengals and especially the Ravens, feel they have something to prove.

---

FULL SELECTIONS

Home team in CAPS

FAVOURITE LINE UNDERDOG LONGLEY THE HANDLE

Colts 8 JETS Colts Jets

Chargers 2 RAVENS Chargers Ravens

BILLS 1 Vikings Vikings Vikings

Cowboys 9 TITANS Cowboys Titans

CHIEFS 7 49ers Chiefs 49ers

PANTHERS 7 Saints Panthers Saints

FALCONS 7 1/2 Cardinals Falcons Falcons

Dolphins 3 1/2 TEXANS Dolphins Dolphins

RAMS 5 1/2 Lions Lions Rams

BENGALS 5 1/2 Patriots Patriots Patriots

Jaguars 3 REDSKINS Redskins Redskins

Browns 3 RAIDERS Raiders Oakland

BEARS 3 Seahawks Seahawks Bears

TOMOROW

EAGLES 11 Packers Packers Packers

BYE WEEK: DENVER, NEW YORK GIANTS, PITTSBURGH, TAMPA BAY

LAST WEEK SEASON

SUN NFL writer Rob Longley: 7-5-2 26-18-2

Randall The Handle: 5-7-2 17-27-2


Videos

Photos