Free NFL Picks: Patriots at Ravens Week 16 Odds
by Alan Matthews - 12/18/2013
The NFL really got it right in Week 16 as there are only three games that involve two teams with no playoff chances: Tampa Bay at St. Louis, Cleveland at the NY Jets and Tennessee at Jacksonville. I was planning to preview the flexed prime-time game between the Bears and Eagles in Philly, but I opted for Patriots-Ravens for a few reasons. First, the Eagles might not have anything to play for. Should Dallas win early Sunday in Washington, the Week 17 Eagles at Cowboys game will be for the NFC East no matter what Philly does against Chicago. Secondly, I think the NFL will flex next week's Packers-Bears into the prime-time spot if it's a winner-take-all for the NFC North, which it very well could be. So I may be writing about both the Eagles and Bears next week, so I'll let that intriguing matchup pass this time.
The Patriots and Ravens both have a ton to play for in a rematch of the AFC Championship Game and perhaps a preview of another playoff matchup in a few weeks. New England (10-4) wants to lock down at worst the No. 2 seed in the conference (I'm just presuming Denver wins out to clinch No. 1). A win here would all but do that considering the Pats should handle the visiting Bills next week. However, a loss gives Cincinnati an opening for that No. 2. The Bengals should handle the Vikings on Sunday and close at home -- where they haven't lost -- against Baltimore. So we could be looking at Ravens at Patriots on wild-card weekend.
Baltimore (8-6) clinches a playoff spot with Miami and San Diego losing this week. The Ravens also could still steal the AFC North from Cincinnati, but I find the Bengals losing this week highly unlikely. The worry for the Ravens is that Miami, tied for the final wild-card spot with Baltimore, should win this week in Buffalo (Bills starting backup QB Thad Lewis) and next at home against the Jets.
Patriots at Ravens Betting Story Lines
I think any realistic Super Bowl chances the Patriots had went down when Rob Gronkowski did for the season in Week 15's 27-26 miracle win over Cleveland. The New England offense had been leaps and bounds better with Gronk than when he missed the first six games. It struggled last week in the 24-20 loss at Miami as the Pats dropped to 3-4 on the road. Tom Brady's numbers looked pretty good -- 364 yards, two TDs and one pick with both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola having double-digit catches and triple-digit yards -- but Gronk was hugely missed on the final series. Brady couldn't find one of his smallish receivers in the Miami end zone with a chance to win. Brady's fourth-down pass with two seconds left was picked off by Michael Thomas. If the huge Gronk is in there, Brady can throw it almost up for grabs, and his guy probably gets it. Frankly, New England deserved to lose as it had been playing with fire in a three-game winning streak, rallying from double-digit deficits in each.
I don't find games that end on a field goal all that exciting unless it's on the absolute final play. However, Monday night's 18-16 Ravens win in Detroit was heart-pumping. The Ravens had fourth-and-eight at the Detroit 43 with 43 seconds left and the Lions up 16-15. Originally the Ravens were set to go for it before John Harbaugh called timeout, and apparently kicker Justin Tucker said what Harbaugh needed to hear. Tucker was brought on and made a 61-yarder by about the thinnest of margins inside the right goalpost. He was 6-for-6 on the night and has made 33 straight kicks. This week the term “Legatron” has been trending as a nickname for Tucker in reference to him beating the Lions and their star receiver Calvin Johnson, i.e. “Megatron”.
It was only Baltimore's second road win of the season. There was a scary moment when QB Joe Flacco took a helmet to his left knee late in the game, but he continued, and there's no doubt he will make his 108th consecutive start this week. The main injury to watch for New England is starting left tackle Nate Solder. He left last week's game with a head injury. Getting injury information from the Patriots is harder than breaking into Fort Knox, so who knows if Solder will play. Left guard Logan Mankins would slide to tackle and rookie Josh Kline in Mankins' normal spot as happened Sunday if Solder is out.
Patriots at Ravens NFL Week 16 Betting Odds and Trends
At Sportsbook.ag, Baltimore is a 2.5-point favorite with a total of 45. New England is 6-8 ATS (1-6 on road) and 7-7 “over/under” (3-4 on road). Baltimore is 7-7 ATS (4-3 at home) and 6-8 O/U (2-5 at home). The Patriots are 1-4 ATS in their past five road games against teams with a winning home record. They are 1-5 ATS in their past six December games. Baltimore is 3-8 ATS in its past 11 on a Sunday after a Monday night game. The over is 5-2 in New England's past seven after a loss. The over is 4-1 in Baltimore's past five Sunday games following a Monday matchup. The road team is 4-0-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
Free NFL Picks: Patriots at Ravens Betting Predictions
Normally this time of year you would expect the weather to be a big factor in Baltimore, but it won't be as the city could near a record high with temperatures as high as 70. There is a good chance of rain.
The Patriots are 6-1 all-time against Baltimore in the regular season, including 2-1 in games played in Baltimore. That loss came in Week 3 last season when Tucker hit a 27-yard kick as time expired. You may remember that was the game Bill Belichick chased down the ref on the field afterward. Flacco was better than Brady in that game and was again in the AFC title game in Foxboro, a 28-13 Ravens win after the Pats led 13-7 at intermission.
While the Pats have been very shaky on the road, Baltimore has been good at home with only a close loss to Green Bay, which still had Aaron Rodgers then. It also looks like Baltimore is getting hot at just the right time, which should scare the rest of the AFC. I like the Ravens and the under here (because of the potential rain).
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