This Week in the NFL: Ravens to take wing in Modell's memory

Art Modell's death should continue to inspire Baltimore Ravens against their divisional rivals this weekend

After the highest scoring opening week in NFL history, the second week sees a number of classic matchups and local derbies. Richard O'Hagan picks the best of the best.

"Rarely has one owner polarised the league in the way that Modell did."


The NFL is a league of spectacular hyperbole. You don't have to be in the game long before you are tagged as being a standout in one field or another, be it on an all-time basis or simply for one particular team. Look closely, though, and you'll find that the praise is all superficial; no-one ever mentions how little this all really matters to the game as a whole.

Every now and then someone comes along who genuinely makes a difference, which is why the death late last week of former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell was significant. Rarely has one owner polarised the league in the way that Modell did. Without him, there may have been no Monday night football, the league's showcase event. But when others baulked at the idea, fearful that working locals would not come to the game on a weeknight, Modell embraced it and, with the connivance of then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, brought in a bigger home gate than for a Sunday game as a result.

That was in Cleveland. Modell's love affair with the town palled in the 1990s, though, as the city refused to fund the building of a new stadium. Piqued, Modell simply moved the team to Baltimore, a city who had themselves lost a side when the Colts moved to Indianapolis in the dead of night. Modell was more open about the move, but that just gave the people of Cleveland more time to hate him. Four years after he left they built that stadium and the Cleveland Browns were back in the NFL. As he was over Monday night football, Modell had been proved right, but Cleveland never forgot and that is why one of the game's great innovators may still never find his way into the Hall of Fame.

In a twist of fate, the Ravens' first game after Modell's passing was a home match against Ohio's other side, the Bengals. It was a highly emotional event - veteran linebacker Ray Lewis was in tears before the kickoff - but Baltimore prevailed against their error-prone opponents. This Sunday sees a much tougher task, against their main divisional rivals Philadelphia. The Eagles also won their opening fixture (against the Browns), but were so unconvincing that quarterback Michael Vick felt compelled to apologise for their performance. The Ravens are [2.14] to win and yet with all of the passion and emotion that the last ten days have brought behind them, it is almost impossible to see them losing.

Tonight's game sees two of the surprise packages from the first week. Chicago not only defied the odds to beat the Colts, they did so easily. They travel to Green Bay in a vital game for both sides, competing as they do in the NFC North division where three teams could easily win. The Packers were one of the shocks of Week One, losing at home to the 49ers and more comprehensively than the 30-22 scoreline suggests. I just don't see Green Bay managing to contain the Bears on this occasion, so back Chicago at [3.3] to win this one.

Finally, back to Ohio and the local derby between Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Brows were one of five teams to field a rookie quarterback in Week One and Brandon Weedon stunk. The 29-year-old was supposed to be the most ready to play of any rookie QB this year, but he proved to be the yin to Robert Griffin III's yang. That's not to say that he can't put things right this weekend - those 'NFL-ready' plaudits don't come without some foundation - and [3.9] is a pretty generous price in the modern NFL no matter who the team is.

Recommended bet: Baltimore Ravens to beat the Philadelphia Eagles at odds of [2.14]

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