AFC Championship Game Picks: Ravens at Patriots NFL Odds Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 1/18/2012
Old warriors die the hardest.
For the last decade Tom Brady and Ray Lewis have been the standard bearers for offense and defense, respectively, in the National Football League. They have each gone to war nearly 200 times in their careers and both have won every accolade, both individual awards and titles, that a player can ever hope for. They are first-ballot Hall of Fame players and they will match wills once again with everything on the line.
And when New England hosts Baltimore at 1 p.m. EST on Sunday, Jan. 22 in Foxboro for the AFC Championship one of these players is going to add another chapter to his legacy while the other will be forced into the long, cold winter of The History of The Defeated.
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The Patriots are 7.5-point favorites to win this game and advance to the Super Bowl to face either the New York Giants or San Francisco. The Patriots, the No. 1 seed in the AFC, throttled Denver, 45-10, last Saturday to advance. Baltimore held off Houston, 20-13, at home last week to earn a spot in the AFC title game.
Ravens at Patriots Betting Storylines
This game will mark the sixth time that the Ravens and Patriots have banged heads since 2004 and it is the fourth time in the last three seasons that they have squared off. New England has won three of those four meetings, but the lone loss came in the 2010 NFL playoffs when they were demolished, 33-14, in Foxboro.
Last October the Patriots overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to win, 23-20, in overtime. That marked the third straight time that the Patriots had beaten the Ravens by a touchdown or less.
Obviously, both of these teams inflict damage in completely opposite ways. For New England, their entire team revolves around Brady and his precision passing attack. The Patriots are No. 2 in the NFL in total offense, No. 2 in passing offense, and No. 3 in scoring at 32.1 points per game.
New England has scored 40 or more points in three of their last four games and they have been held below 30 points just once since Nov. 6.
Baltimore wields the No. 3 defense in football and they are ranked in the Top 5 in passing defense, rushing defense and points allowed. Baltimore has given up more than their average of 16.6 points just one time since Nov. 21 and they rely on their physical, violent, hard-hitting approach to overpower their opponents.
While these two teams have opposing strengths they also have opposing weaknesses.
Baltimore’s offensive attack is fairly mediocre outside of its power running game. But even that is ranked just No. 10 in the NFL. Joe Flacco has endured his worst season since his rookie year and he has been a below-average postseason quarterback in his career. The Ravens lack options in the passing game and they have mustered more than 30 points just one time since Halloween.
But the Ravens will be lining up against one of the worst defenses in football. New England finished the year No. 31 in total defense. But when you consider the schedule that the Patriots enjoyed – the best quarterback they faced in the second half of the year was probably Matt Moore – their numbers are even less impressive. The Patriots struggle against the run and the pass and they have the least talented defensive roster of any of the remaining teams.
However, New England’s ace in the hole is Bill Belichick. The Patriots coach is 16-6 in his career in the postseason and is 4-1 I his career in the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots have faltered a bit in recent years (their win over Denver last week was their first playoff win since the 2007 AFC Championship Game), but overall the prospects of beating Belichick in a game of this magnitude, on his home field, are pretty slim.
Ravens at Patriots AFC Championship Game Betting Odds
Naturally, the Patriots are favored in this game. They were released at -6.5 at some offshore books but they have either been bet up or were a solid late release at -7.5, according to NFL odds. That is where the line currently stands with the Patriots taking over 60 percent of the action.
The total in this game is set at 50.5. But that has actually been bet up for an early release at 49.5. There is no snow in the forecast, but the temperature is supposed to be around 37 degrees at kickoff.
Ravens at Patriots AFC Championship Game Betting Trends
The Ravens are 5-1-1 ATS and they are 11-5-1 ATS in their last 17 games following an ATS loss. However, the Ravens are just 5-11 ATS in their last 16 games in January and just 1-4 ATS in their last four conference games.
New England posted a solid win and cover last week. But even with that cash they are just 1-5 ATS in their last six home playoff games and 1-6 ATS in their last seven playoff games overall.
The home team is 4-1-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these two clubs. New England is 3-1-2 ATS the last six times they have hosted the Ravens.
NFL Predictions: Ravens at Patriots AFC Championship Game Betting Picks
This game is brutally tough to call for one simple reason: how can you really justify betting against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at this stage of the postseason? Taking Baltimore sounds like a great idea on Wednesday. But then Sunday morning comes and about 20 minutes before kickoff the cold realization of what you have done will start to settle in.
But that said, I still think that this New England defense is one of the worst I have seen in the postseason in a long time. Sure, they were able to stamp out Tim Tebow last week. But a lot of terrible defenses – like Detroit, San Diego and Buffalo, for example – were able to shut down the Broncos. And one good performance – at home with two weeks to prepare – doesn’t erase all of the horrendous performances we have seen out of the Patriots defense this year.
I would recommend taking the points in this game. Besides that win over Denver, the Patriots haven’t beaten a playoff team yet this year. In fact, their wins over the Jets and Cowboys are as close as this team has come to beating any decent competition.
Baltimore is going to battle for 60 minutes and I think this one will be decided in the fourth quarter. As great as Brady is, I think you have to hold your nose and take the points.
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