The third week of the NFL season brings us a rematch of the AFC Championship Game last year. New England won that game to head to the Super Bowl, but Baltimore was the better team for much of the day and should probably have come out on top.
Thanks to last week, though, neither team is going to be focused on replaying that January contest. Instead, they both have to figure out what went wrong last week, how they each threw away games they should have won, and what they are going to do to fix it.
After the first game of the season this contest looked like it would be a war for AFC supremacy. After last week, though, things have changed. One of these squads is about to fall to 1-2. That’s not a fatal record by any stretch, but it’s not what either squad was looking for at this point in the season. The stakes were higher last time these teams met, but this is still a very important game.
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Patriots at Ravens Betting Storylines
It’s far too simple to suggest that the loss to Arizona last week was Tom Brady’s fault. He didn’t have his best day by any means, but neither did any other player on his team. Still, he needs to be much better this game than he was last week.
To add to the intrigue, Brady had a rough day in the AFC Championship Game: 239 yards and two interceptions without a touchdown. It will be harder to bounce back now than it could be, though, since tight end Aaron Hernandez will be out for this game and more. Brady loves his tight ends, and Hernandez was likely the receiver Brady was most comfortable with.
There isn’t a lot of depth at tight end right now, so the team is going to have to make significant changes in their formations and offensive approach. They have brought in Kellen Winslow and old Brady favorite Deion Branch to try to fill the gap, but it’s still going to be an adjustment. That would be a concern against any defense, but against what the Ravens can do — and have done against the Pats — this is a particular concern.
Despite all the big names on the Baltimore defense, the player to keep an eye on right now is one who doesn’t get nearly as much attention — safety Bernard Pollard. In the game and a half he has played this year he has been versatile and brilliant. He’s been strong against the run, tough against the pass, and hard for opposing defenses to deal with. He suffered a rib injury against Philadelphia last week, though, and is questionable this week. On Sunday Pollard and the team both said he would be ready to go this week, but that position has softened since. If he’s not ready to go then there will be a hole to exploit in the defense, and Brady is better than almost anyone at exploiting such situations.
You never want to look past the game at hand, but there is an interesting story to tell here about the loser of this game. The last time the Ravens had a losing record at any point in the regular season was after five games in 2008 when they were 2-3. The streak is much longer for the Pats — they haven’t been below .500 since losing their opener in 2003. That shows just how significant those losses were last week. The loser will be in unfamiliar territory. It will be very interesting to see how they respond, and even more interesting to see how the betting public responds to the struggles of such a public team.
Patriots at Ravens NFL Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the Ravens favored by three points — essentially just the home field advantage – according to NFL odds. They have drawn just a small majority of the action, so there hasn’t been a whole lot of pressure to move the line. It has moved to 2.5 in some places, but can still be widely found at three. Depending upon the team you like, then, shopping around is going to be important here to get the right price. The total opened at 48.5, with upward pressure moving it as high as 49.5.
The Patriots are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games as a road underdog. Baltimore is 3-1-1 ATS in their last five meetings with the Patriots. The underdog in those five games has the same 3-1-1 ATS record. New England has gone “under” the total in each of their last four games.
Patriots at Ravens Predictions and Pro Football Betting Picks
I will never write off the Patriots as long as Brady and Belichick are in town, and I still expect them to win the AFC East. At this moment, though, I’m not wild about where they are at.
I don’t like the uncertainty in their receiving situation, I didn’t like anything about the offensive line last game, and the kicking game is a concern. Baltimore has the big advantage of being at home, and despite losing they played a much better game last week than the Pats did. They are a good position to win here, and at -2.5 they are attractive in my eyes.
As for the total, I would let it drift as high as it will, and then take the under quite happily.
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