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Top 2 teams in NFC West face off

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Top 2 teams in NFC West face off

NEW YORK (AP) NFC Worst? Not anymore.

That was so 2010. Here in 2012, the NFC West is the best division in all of pro football.

And the two best teams in the division, the San Francisco 49ers (No. 5 in the AP Pro32) and Seattle Seahawks (No. 9) face off in the city by the bay on Thursday night.

Even though they come off their worst performance of the season in a 23-3 home loss to the Giants, the Niners are 7-point favorites - despite the Seahawks coming off a stirring comeback victory against New England.

You've got to dust yourself off and ride,'' 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. ``Right now we have no choice. We have to get to Seattle right quick. We've got a football fight coming.''

Much of that fight figures to be on the ground. Marshawn Lynch leads the NFC in rushing and is third in the league with 549 yards. Last year, he gained 107 against the 49ers and snapped San Francisco's string of 36 successive games not allowing a 100-yard gainer.

``Their running game is the bread and butter of their offense,'' Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ``And everything works off of that. He's one of the best backs in the league. He's the best back we played last year by far. He broke more tackles than any back we played against last year. He broke the most against us.''

For Seattle to pull slightly ahead in the NFC West race - the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals are all 4-2; the Rams are 3-3 - it must stymie the 49ers' running game. Frank Gore has 470 yards rushing and a 5.4-yard average, better than Lynch's 4.3.

With the way Alex Smith struggled against a Giants defense that hadn't been all that impressive beforehand, the Seahawks could present a huge challenge to San Francisco's passing attack at Candlestick Park.

Then again, the Niners need to prove something to themselves - and to the rest of the league.

49ERS, 27-14

No. 21 New York Jets (plus 10 1/2) at No. 8 New England

Patriots are angry at themselves - and they always are angry with the Jets.

BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 37-13

No. 15 Pittsburgh (minus 2 1/2) at No. 20 at Cincinnati

Two of the NFL's most disappointing teams. Go with the hosts.

UPSET SPECIAL: BENGALS, 21-20

No. 19 Dallas (minus 1 1/2) at No. 28 Carolina

Two more of the NFL's most disappointing teams. Breaking tradition, go with the visitors.

COWBOYS, 27-24

No. 32 Jacksonville (plus 4) at No. 29 Oakland

Two of the NFL's worst teams. Go with the visitors.

JAGUARS, 16-14

No. 23 New Orleans (minus 2 1/2) at No. 25 Tampa Bay

One more time - one last time? - going to believe in the Saints.

SAINTS, 30-24

No. 3 Baltimore (plus 6) at No. 4 Houston

Take Ray Lewis away from Ravens' linebacking corps and Brian Cushing from Texans' LBs and ...

RAVENS, 28-27

No. 7 Green Bay (minus 5 1/2) at No. 22 St. Louis

Pack really stepped up at Houston, but Rams are no pushover, especially at home.

PACKERS, 27-23

No. 18 Detroit (plus 5) at No. 6 Chicago, Monday night

Impressed by Lions' comeback win at Philly? We're not.

BEARS, 30-20

No. 13 Washington (plus 6 1/2) at No. 2 New York Giants

Giants showed their true mettle by manhandling 49ers. But Redskins give them trouble.

GIANTS, 28-26

No. 27 Tennessee (plus 3) at No. 24 Buffalo

Both teams pretty much were handed wins last week. Bills gladly accept another gift.

BILLS, 26-22

No. 14 Arizona (plus 6) at No. 11 Minnesota

Spread looks somewhat high. Vikes running game the difference.

VIKINGS, 19-16

No. 30 Cleveland (plus 3) at No. 26 Indianapolis

New owner means, uh, not much for Browns this week.

COLTS, 17-16

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2012 RECORD:

Against spread: 7-7 (35-54-2). Straight up: 7-7 (50-41)

Best Bet: 3-2-1 against spread, 5-1 straight up.

Upset special: 4-2 against spread, 3-3 straight up.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT, but the Ravens aren't fazed at all

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USA TODAY Sports

Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT, but the Ravens aren't fazed at all

Justin Tucker making an extra point for the Baltimore Ravens is a sure thing.

As sure as the sun will rise each morning, Tucker's dependability and success have been a constant for the team. But on an afternoon where winds of around 17 mph were a factor though 60 minutes, Tucker's success came to a shocking halt. 

After Joe Flacco and the offense made their way downfield, Flacco found wide receiver John Brown in the end zone to make the score 24-23 with 24 seconds left in regulation.

In walked the most accurate kicker in NFL history to do what he's done so many times before; keep the Ravens in the game. As the ball sailed off Tucker's foot, it took a right and became the first point-after-touchdown the kicker has ever missed.

"I felt like when the ball came off my foot, that I hit it just how I wanted to," Tucker said at the podium following the Ravens' Week 7 loss to the Saints. "Don't get me wrong, today was a challenging day to kick the ball in our stadium, to the right of our bench."

Two hundred and twenty two-straight PATs. 222 consecutive makes, including 112 consecutive since PATs were moved back to the 15-yard line in 2015. Tucker was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September, marking the fifth time he's been awarded the honor.

From the field to the press box and all the way to the nosebleeds, M&T Bank Stadium was in shock. 

"A lot of things go through your mind, but I've been there plenty of time," Flacco said. "If you play football long enough, you're going to be there at some point. We're a very tight team here, and the first thing you think about is your brother and him dealing with it. Justin's the best in the world at what he does, and he's the most confident person that I know. It's not going to be an issue." 

"We're a tight group – we are light years better than we've been in the past," safety Eric Weddle said in the locker room after the loss. "Shoot, 'Tuck' is going to win us some games. We're not worried about that missed kick. Shoot, I think it's the first extra point ever that he's missed. Let's not get on him too hard. He's going to be hard on himself. That wasn't the only reason we lost." 

The support for Tucker, in what was a one-off for their teammate, was apparent throughout the entire locker room. When Tucker took to the podium to address the media, long snapper Morgan Cox and punter Sam Koch stood in the interview room while their kicker tried to explain what went wrong in a show of support.

"This one just happened to get away from me," Tucker added. "I'll have to look at it. I can't tell you exactly what happened, but at the end of the day, I feel like I cost us the game. Every single one of my teammates thus far has told me the opposite, and no one plays wins or loses a game, but that's a tough thing to grapple with when you're the guy in the situation at the end of the game."

Even members of the Saints were in disbelief. Almost everyone was mentally preparing for overtime as Tucker's accuracy is known around the league.

"When [Tucker] missed it, I thought, 'Let's get up and get out of here,'" running back Mark Ingram said. "I mean, that guy is good, so I was shocked."

"I automatically was thinking about overtime and what we were going to do," quarterback Drew Brees added. "I was very, very surprised when he missed it."

What the Ravens and fans alike can take solace in is that Tucker's stats speak for themselves showing more positive plays than negative. While it was probably the most heartbreaking loss they've had since Week 17 of the 2017 season, Tucker's point of emphasis when speaking with the media postgame was about more than a missed extra point.

"But, more than anything, I just wanted to be here [at the podium]," he said. "If I was going to ever teach my son or any young person about accountability, I felt like it was really important that I stand up here and answer whatever questions you guys may have."

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What you need to know from the Ravens' 24-23 loss to the Saints

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What you need to know from the Ravens' 24-23 loss to the Saints

The Baltimore Ravens' top-ranked scoring defense clashed with the New Orleans Saints' top-ranked scoring offense in a game fans will soon never forget.

After a constant back and forth and a chance to tie the game, Justin Tucker missed his first ever point-after-touchdown attempt with seconds to spare.

Here's what you need to know from the Ravens' 24-23 loss over the Saints.

— We knew this game was going to be interesting and the Saints didn't waste any time getting things rolling. Facing a fourth down, New Orleans faked a punt for a five-yard gain from third-string quarterback Taysom Hill. The 20 play, 69-yard drive was highlighted by four fourth-down attempts, two challenges from the Ravens and a fumble recovery by nose tackle Michael Pierce on the final fourth down attempt at the six-yard line.

Not only was the 9:58 drive the longest opening drive by a team this season, it was the longest opening drive to result in zero points since the Browns' 9:59 opening drive Week 1 of 2015, per NFL research.

— Drew Brees continues making history during the 2018 season. The QB threw his 500th career touchdown to former Raven Ben Watson in the second quarter joining Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the prestigious club. Then when the clock hit zero and the Saints came away with the win, Brees also joined Manning and Favre as the third QB to beat all 32 NFL teams.

Prior to Sunday, Brees was 0-4 against the Ravens. He also became the NFL's all-time leading passer back in Week 5.

— It only took seven weeks, but rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson scored his first NFL touchdown with four seconds left in the first half. While it was only from one-yard out, it was nice to see Jackson kick it into gear with the clock ticking. He wasn't the only guy from the Ravens' 2018 draft class to make an impact. Tight end Mark Andrews scored an eight-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to put the team up 17-7 and left guard Bradley Bozeman and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. held down the O-line for much of the afternoon. 

— The Ravens' streak of not allowing a second-half touchdown in the 2018 season came to an end Sunday. Drew Brees gave the ball to running back Alvin Kamara at the top of the fourth quarter resulting in a two-yard touchdown. Kamara finished the day with 17 attempts for 64 yards and one touchdown. 

— Jimmy Smith's first start of 2018 didn't go quite as well as he'd like.

Smith was hit with two pass interference calls, with one of them coming in the end zone leading to a Saints touchdown and the other on one of many third downs. The cornerback had trouble covering wide receiver Michael Thomas, who heading into Week 7 was ranked fourth in the NFL,  all afternoon. One of their meetings resulted in a touchdown to put the Saints up 21-17.

— Then there was, of course, Justin Tuckers' first-ever PAT miss. After Joe Flacco hit John Brown in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown with 0:24 left on the clock, the Ravens were preparing to go into overtime until that wasn't necessary. Tucker, who is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, was on the wrong side of history when his kick went wide right.

From the field to the nosebleeds, M&T Bank Stadium was in shock as the clock expired and the final score was 24-23.

Postgame, Tucker took responsibility for the team's loss while his head coach and teammates all reiterated that a game never comes down to just one play.