Ravens (- 2) v. Patriots
Over/Under @ 45
When you think of the New England Patriots you think of two things first: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. One’s whining and the other’s cheating cast shadows on their greatness. But make no mistake about it, they are both among the league’s all-time greats at what they do.
Looking at the 2013 New England Patriots it’s hard to imagine how that team is 10-4 and how that offense is ranked 8th overall in the league. Their offensive line is in tatters and just about all of Brady’s primary receiving weapons from last year (Gronkowski, Hernandez, Welker, Lloyd and Woodhead) are gone.
In essence this is yet another testimony to Brady’s greatness particularly when supported by a defense that ranks 24th in the NFL.
That said, the Patriots seem to be a team living on borrowed time, a team that looks like it’s running out of gas. The Ravens, who are building momentum, just might be catching them at the perfect time.
For the Patriots to win Brady will need a monster game or the Ravens will have to be extremely generous in the turnover department. On the season the Ravens are -2 in turnovers while the Patriots are +6. However at home the Ravens are +1 while the Patriots are -2 on the road. Historically the Ravens aren’t into playing the role of Santa in December at home.
The Ravens special teams have been playing extremely well as of late. To his credit K Stephen Gostkowski matches up well with Justin Tucker so there’s no real advantage there. The same can be said for punters Sam Koch and Ryan Allen. The Ravens do have a decided advantage with returner Jacoby Jones who is averaging 28.8 yards per kick return and 14.1 on punts.
Defensively the Ravens are at home where they give up just 14.3 points per game and are ranked 9th overall and 4th in red zone defense. Without Rob Gronkowski the Patriots have struggled in the red zone. The Patriots are ranked 24th overall on defense and 31st against the run. The last time the Ravens faced such a lowly ranked rushing defense they ran the ball for 174 yards in Chicago. With a banged up defensive line, the Patriots linebackers and even a safety will have to provide support and that could open up play action for Joe Flacco.
So this all points back to Brady, the guy who has carried the team for all intents and purposes. For him to have a good game, he’ll need an even better game from the Patriots’ north and south running backs Stevan Ridley and LaGarrette Blount. That could open up the Patriots intermediate passing game with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. The wild card here could be RB Shane Vereen who is an accomplished route runner.
But the Ravens are the league’s 7th best run defense and that combined with Brady’s less than spectacular history against Baltimore suggests that it won’t be enough. Meanwhile Joe Flacco has enjoyed tremendous success against the Patriots, particularly as of late, with a passer rating of 109.7 over the last four contests against New England.
Last Game: 0-1 v. Winner, 1-0 v. Spread
Season Total: 7-7 v. Winner, 7-6-1 v. Spread
Besides his struggles against the Ravens in the past, Brady hasn’t been stellar on the road overall this season posting a passer rating of just 81.8 with only 9 TD’s and 6 INT’s and a win-loss mark of 3-4. Making matters worse are some nicks and bruises to the offensive line, one that hasn’t protected Brady as well as in years past. They’ve given up 37 sacks overall this season with 2 to play as compared to 27 all of last season.
In the end it will be more of the same for the Patriots when they’ve faced the Ravens as of late.
RAVENS 30, PATRIOTS 20
Image courtesy of FootballRadioShow.com