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Despite rules to protect them, injuries to quarterbacks have become a major issue in the National Football League. Injuries to starting QBs probably will have an effect on the two most important and much-anticipated games on the Week 11 league schedule.

Pittsburgh will be without Ben Roethlisberger (sprained shoulder/dislocated rib) for tonight’s AFC North showdown against the first-place Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field. The Steelers (6-3) are a game behind the Ravens (7-2) in the standings. The rivals meet again Dec. 2.

Quarterback injuries on both sides are a concern for the Monday Night Football clash between the Chicago Bears and 49ers in San Francisco. Jay Cutler of the Bears and Alex Smith of the Niners suffered concussions in their last games and were unable to finish. Cutler is out. Smith is questionable.

Also, Michael Vick of the Eagles is unavailable for the NFC East game at Washington today. It may not matter because Philadelphia has fallen from realistic playoff contention. Four NFC teams with at least five wins top the contenders for the wild-card berths.

In the AFC, second-place Pittsburgh and Indianapolis have six wins each. No other AFC teams, except, of course, division leaders, have more than four.

Game of the day

Ravens (7-2) at Steelers (6-3)

TV: Ch. 2, 8:20 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-3)

The scoop: Pittsburgh may have to face Ravens twice in three-week period without Roethlisberger. Byron Leftwich will start at QB for Steelers, his first start since he was with Tampa Bay in 2009. ... Talk about domination: Ravens have won 11 in a row against AFC North rivals while Steelers are 11-2 in last 13 in the division.

Outlook: Without Ben, it’s Baltimore, 20-13.

Top attractions

Bears (7-2) at 49ers (6-2-1)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.

The line: 49ers (-6).

The scoop: Ex-Bears QB Jim Harbaugh coaches against his old team for first time. ... It’s first of five games in a row against NFC playoff contenders for Chicago, including two with Vikings. ... Niners could get beaten up with road games at Saints, Patriots and Seattle left on schedule. ... This one could find Colin Kaepernick (Niners) versus Jason Campbell (Bears) starting at QB.

Outlook: Giants manhandled Niners at home, but Bears won’t. San Francisco, 21-14.

Colts (6-3) at Patriots (6-3)

TV: Ch. 4, 4:25 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-9)

The scoop: Today and home-and-home with Texans will determine whether Indy’s luck holds up. ... Patriots looking at challenging finish with home games against Texans and 49ers, road game with Jets and two left with ambitious Dolphins. With Peyton Manning gone, Tom Brady of Patriots finds a new Indy QB rival to face off with – Andrew Luck.

Outlook: Patriots lead NFL in points (33.2) and yards (430.3). New England, 44-34.

Packers (6-3) at Lions (4-5)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Packers (-3)

The scoop: Detroit entering tough stretch – home with Texans and Colts and return game at Green Bay follows today’s game. ... Green Bay has dominated recent rivalry with Detroit (20-3).

Outlook: Aaron Rodgers and Co. should like indoor track. Packers, 42-35.

Chargers (4-5) at Broncos (6-3)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-8)

The scoop: San Diego has won last three in Mile High City and Philip Rivers is 5-1 in career at Denver. ... After this, Broncos in good shape with three division games left (two with K.C., one with Oakland). ... All the Chargers have to do to stay in the playoff picture (assuming they win their four remaining home games) is get a win today or at Pittsburgh or New York Jets.

Outlook: Peyton Manning has 10-0 TD-INT ratio at home. Denver, 30-21.

Best of the rest

Cardinals (4-5) at Falcons (8-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Falcons (-10)

The scoop: Atlanta isn’t home free yet. Falcons have three tough divisional games left – two with Tampa Bay and return game with Saints at home. ... Falcons Matt Ryan is second in league in passing yards (2,771) and third in TD passes (20) and passer rating (102.6)

Outlook: Without a running game, can’t see Arizona keeping up with Falcons. Atlanta, 31-14.

Buccaneers (5-4) at Panthers (2-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bucs (-1)

The scoop: Bucs won first meeting, 16-10, in Week One ... Carolina has lost six of last seven but giving up 36 points to Denver with help of interception and punt return last week hurt most. ... Bucs must play four of last seven on road. Three are toughies (Broncos, Saints, Falcons). ... QB Josh Freeman, RB Doug Martin and WRs Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson give Tampa Bay dynamic weapons.

Outlook: Bucs have scored 28 or more in last five. Tampa Bay, 27-20.

Browns (2-7) at Cowboys (4-5)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Cowboys (-7½)

The scoop: Browns lead all-time against Dallas (15-11) but started rivalry 11-1 in the 1960s. ... First of three in a row at home for Dallas, which might have saved its season with win at Philadelphia.

Outlook: Browns are competitive but still lacking offense. Dallas, 23-13.

Bengals (4-5) at Chiefs (1-8)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bengals (-3½)

The scoop: If Cincy tends to knitting today, they can get back in playoff mix because next two are also very winnable – Raiders and at Chargers. Chiefs’ next three are at home so boo-birds will have their fun. ... Chiefs nearly upset Steelers in Pittsburgh but found a way to lose with penalties, turnovers.

Outlook: Chiefs were motivated to rub it in face of former coach Todd Haley, now Steelers offensive coordinator. They won’t be as fired up this week. Bengals, 28-17.

Jets (3-6) at Rams (3-5-1)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Rams (-3½)

The scoop: Believe it or not. Unless they’re in a total meltdown, bickering Jets could get back in playoff picture because their remaining opponents are a 19-35-1 combined. ... Danny Amendola of Rams has 43 receptions despite missing three games with broken clavicle.

Outlook: Jets are unpredictable. Can’t see them getting their problems straightened out so soon. Rams, 24-20.

Eagles (3-6) at Redskins (3-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Redskins (-3)

The scoop: Joe “Buddy” Sutton, Eagles DB from ’40s and ’50s who had 13 INTs in three seasons, died this week at 88. Former Temple star, the oldest living ex-Eagle, began his pro career with AAFC Bills. ... Two of Eagles’ last seven are against Washington. Redskins have five divisional games left on schedule. That’s where they usually give their best.

Outlook: Rookie Nick Foles to start at QB in place of Vick for Eagles. That and home field favors ‘Skins, 26-17.

Saints (4-5) at Raiders (3-6)

TV: Ch. 29, 4 p.m.

The line: Saints (-5)

The scoop: After giving up 97 points total in last two, Raiders now have to take on Drew Brees & Co. ... Saints haven’t played in Oakland since 2004. That was before Brees came to team. He has 6-0 record against Raiders, most with Chargers.

Outlook: New Orleans offense starting to roll, and Raiders are giving up gobs of points. Saints, 33-20.

Dog of the day

Jaguars (1-8) at Texans (8-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Texans (-15½)

The scoop: Texans won first meeting, 27-7, in Week Two. ... Houston had completed toughest part of a favorable schedule. Roadies at Lions, Patriots are toughest left on Houston schedule.

Outlook: Jags are last in league in offense, Texans are No. 2 in defense. Should be obvious: Houston, 27-12.

Last week’s results: 5-7-1 outright, 4-9 versus spread.

Season’s record: 77-58-1, 60-74-3 versus spread.

email: mnorthrop@buffnews.com