The Ravens at The Patriots!
Just the mere mention of the two teams stirs up memories of the AFC Championship Games during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. And to a lesser degree, flashbacks of the frustrating 35-31 loss on January 10, 2015.
Three games, two losses, yet when the Ravens visit Gillette they carry a swagger. New England’s lion’s den hardly scares John Harbaugh’s team. If anything, the cold Massachusetts air warms the confidence of the Baltimore Ravens because they’ve handled the Patriots as well, if not better than any of their guests during the Brady era.
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This week on a national stage, the Ravens take their (7-5) record north to show the world that their season has turned the corner. That they are a healthier team – as healthy as they’ve been all season, and that their offensive woes are behind them.
On the other hand, the Patriots are nicked up. Tom Brady’s biggest offensive weapon, Rob Gronkowski, is sideline for two months and joining him for at least this game is another of Brady’s favorites, Danny Amendola. For the Patriots, the mantra “next man up” will be in full force.
The Ravens enter the game as 7-point underdogs, just as they have the last 3 visits to Gillette.
They’ll be unfazed. They’ll be confident. They’ll be ready.
But still it’s hard to overlook the Patriots success at Gillette. They find ways to win there. Great teams do that. It’s akin to a pitcher going 9 innings even without his best stuff. It’s part of the Brady-Belichick mystique. Of course the naysayers will remind everyone about the cheating but let’s put that aside for now. It’s unlikely to deflate, I mean affect Monday Night’s game.
There’s a lot of things moving in the right direction for the Ravens and the Patriots appear a bit pedestrian at the moment without Gronk and a pass rush that has slumped since the departure of Jamie Collins. Yet there’s this lingering doubt that the Ravens offense could fall back into its sleepy doldrums – that the up tempo offense was just a one-week gimmick designed to exploit the weaknesses of the Dolphins only.
But that won’t happen, right? When you discover something that works so well, you stick with it until teams stop you, right?
There’s a lot at stake. Stealing a win in New England could set the Ravens up well for the balance of the season. A win in Foxborough would lessen the pressure on Christmas Night. With a win on Monday the Ravens might be able to survive a loss in Pittsburgh and STILL win the AFC North.
But first things first…
The Ravens WILL win on Monday. They are catching the Patriots at just the right time. Referee Ed Hochuli might help Brady up when the Ravens knock him down but it won’t be enough to save Taw-Me Boy from his third loss. Brady has thrown just 1 interception in 302 attempts this season. On Monday he’ll double that total while his counterpart will continue to build upon the momentum established last Sunday against the Dolphins.
During the last 3 visits to Gillette Joe Flacco has thrown for 9 touchdowns against 3 picks with an overall passer rating of 97.5. During those same games, Brady has thrown 4 TD passes and has been intercepted 5 times contributing to a passer rating of 74.3.
Look for more of the same on Monday. It will be a close shave but look for the Ravens to escape the Big Razor with a 24-20 win.
This week on Monday Night Football… pic.twitter.com/1EYcDl12X2
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 8, 2016