In the end, just a little smarter than oddsmakers

The Baltimore Sun

For a game that was supposed to be a slam dunk, yesterday's 27-17 Ravens victory turned into a mind-bending roller coaster that had my football alter ego - Knee-Jerk Fan - all over the emotional map.

If you don't believe me, and even if you do, here's my real-time stream of consciousness during the game. Call it the official knee-jerk timeline:

First quarter

Kickoff: Can't believe how confident everybody is. I know the Browns are banged up and they're going with a backup quarterback, but he's better than their starting quarterback, and the 11 1/2 -point spread is a little ridiculous. This game, like the routine physical I had the other day, scares me.

9:48: Browns draw first blood, which also reminds me of the physical. Just a long field goal. No need to panic. Browns aren't really moving the ball. Ravens will start grinding any minute. Nachos ready?

9:25: Browns linebacker Andra Davis steps on Steve McNair's hand, knocking him out of the game. Time to panic. Who names a boy Andra anyway?

7:42: Dawan Landry picks off Derek Anderson and returns the ball to the Browns' 16-yard line, setting up 7-yard touchdown run by Jamal Lewis. Everything is beautiful, in its own way. Ray Stevens nowhere to be found.

Second quarter

14:22: Boller hits Ovie Mughelli with a 9-yard touchdown pass to give Ravens 11-point lead. Maybe the oddsmakers knew what they were doing.

10:39: Boller pass deep to Demetrius Williams, picked off by defensive back Leigh Bodden. This is starting to look vaguely familiar. Who names a boy Leigh anyway?

8:21: Boller fumbles snap on next Ravens offensive play. Can't believe they let Anderson get away last year. McNair is warming up on the sideline. What's taking so long?

2:44: Matt Stover kicks 38-yard field goal to put Ravens up by two touchdowns. Should never have taken the points. Even with Boller struggling and McNair probably not going to return, the Browns can't compete. I smell crab cakes.

0:57: Anderson hits Joe Jurevicius for a 3-yard touchdown and the Browns don't look quite dead. Who names a kid Joe Jurevicius anyway?

Third quarter

6:34: Anderson hits Braylon Edwards for 14 yards and a touchdown. Tie score. Dialing phone to cancel Super Bowl reservations. Wonder if there are any crab cakes left. So-called oddsmakers need to take a long look in the mirror.

5:36: Boller cranks up 77-yard touchdown pass. Even better, someone catches it. I don't know why people are so down on this kid. Billick rushed him. He didn't have an offensive line. Longest play and touchdown of his NFL career.

4:31: Chris McAlister intercepts Anderson at Ravens' 49-yard line. Second pick thrown by the kid Ravens pawned off on the Browns. Ozzie Newsome is a genius. Sends players to other teams so they can help Ravens get to the playoffs.

3:45: Lewis fumbles at Browns' 35 to squelch scoring opportunity. Third turnover for Ravens. Didn't that smart columnist from The Sun predict the Ravens had a couple of mistakes coming today? He's funny, too.

Fourth quarter

6:04: Time to grind it out. Run the ball. Maybe get a late field goal to win by 10. Guy sitting next to me claims I care more about calling the game right against the spread than what's best for the team. Guilty as charged.

5:19: First down. Take a couple more minutes off the clock. Boller drops back. What's he doing? Long pass to Mark Clayton down the right sideline. My soon-to-be 13-1 record against the spread in Ravens games flashes before my eyes.

4:20: Second-and-goal from the 1. Jamal loses 2 yards. I'm still alive.

3:43: Third-and-goal from the 3. Boller takes the snap, rolls to the middle of the field and slides. Don't you love that kid? No ego. Just wants to help the team win.

2:53: Stover chip shot. Ravens lead by 10. Oddsmakers actually are pretty smart. I'm just smarter.

0:00: Ravens clinch playoff berth. More importantly, I'm 13-1 against the spread, baby.

Minutes after the game, reader Herm Blinchikoff writes to tell me that the odds of picking exactly 13 of 14 against the spread (presuming each line is a 50-50 proposition and not including the possibility of ties) is 1 in 1,170.

If only I were a gambling man, I'd be rich ... and I wouldn't have shown up for the physical.

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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