Free Expert NFL Picks: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/6/2015
Just one upset in the NFL's wild-card round of playoffs, and I'm not even sure it was a huge surprise when Baltimore beat Pittsburgh 30-17, with the Ravens as the only road winners of the four games. That was also the only game I picked wrong, although I thought the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell would play when I wrote that preview early last week. Without him, the Steelers clearly are a very different team, and it showed.
That victory got sixth-seeded Baltimore a familiar trip to Foxboro to face the AFC top-seeded New England Patriots on Saturday afternoon. It's probably the worst matchup New England could get among the AFC field as the Ravens know how to win on the Patriots' field when the stakes are highest. Baltimore won the AFC Championship Game in the 2012 season in Foxboro, 28-13. A total of 18 players from that Ravens team remain. The Ravens lost a close AFC title game the season before at New England, 23-20 (Billy Cundiff missed a chip shot field goal to tie it with 11 seconds left), and won a wild-card game there in the 2009 season. Some teams might be intimidated playing at the Patriots, but not Baltimore.
The Patriots are +260 second-favorites at Sportsbook.ag to win the Super Bowl and -130 AFC favorites. The Ravens are +1700 and +800, respectively.
Ravens at Patriots Betting Story Lines
The 2014 Ravens are starting to remind me of the 2012 Super Bowl winning team. That club didn't play well down the stretch, losing four of its final five games. But it got hot at the right time and thoroughly dominated New England in the second half of that AFC title game to win going away. This year's Ravens did win three of their final five games, but they didn't look good in two of those victories. In Week 15 the Ravens trailed visiting (and terrible) Jacksonville midway through the third quarter before winning 20-12. In the season finale against a Browns team with nothing to play for and starting an undrafted rookie at quarterback, the Ravens trailed 10-3 entering the fourth quarter but pulled out a 20-10 win.
That inconsistent offense was held to 295 yards in the victory last weekend in Pittsburgh, but Joe Flacco had two touchdown passes and no picks -- he had multiple TD passes and no interceptions in all four 2012 playoff wins. Flacco was 8-for-9 for 107 yards and a touchdown when the Ravens turned a 10-9 halftime lead against Pittsburgh into a 20-9 edge entering the fourth. The offensive line kept Flacco untouched pretty much all night against the Steelers despite left tackle Eugene Monroe missing the game with an injury (too early to know if he will play Saturday). In addition, the Baltimore defense forced three Pittsburgh turnovers and sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times. Haloti Ngata was terrific in his first game back after serving a four-game suspension. In playing 52 snaps, his most since Week 5, he had one sack, one tackle for a loss, four quarterback hurries and one batted pass.
It was the 10th road playoff victory in Ravens' franchise history, and that ties for the most road playoff wins of any team in league history. Green Bay also has 10, but that's over 94 years. The Ravens have been around only 19. Flacco and Coach John Harbaugh are 7-4 on the road in the playoffs since they started in Baltimore in 2008.
New England was 7-1 at home this season, and that loss didn't mean a thing as it came in Week 17 to Buffalo with nothing at all to play for. Guys like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman didn't play, and Tom Brady was pulled early. Otherwise the Pats were mostly dominant at home. They blew out playoff teams Detroit, Denver and Cincinnati there, plus a pretty good Miami squad. The Patriots are 12-3 in home playoff games in the Bill Belichick era. They will get back starting guard Dan Connolly for this game. He missed the final two of the regular season due to injury.
New England and Baltimore most recently played in Week 16 of the 2013 season, and the visiting Patriots rolled 41-7. Brady only threw for 172 yards and a touchdown, but the Patriots had 142 yards rushing. The Ravens turned it over four times, two of which were turned into touchdowns by the New England defense. Flacco was picked off twice and sacked four times.
The Ravens got to Roethlisberger without blitzing. Can they do that against Brady? It's probably the key to pulling an upset. The Ravens had 49 sacks during the regular season, which was tied for the second-most in the NFL. The Patriots only allowed 26 sacks this season, which ranked fourth in the NFL. If anyone knows how to attack Brady and Co. it would be Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. He was the Patriots' defensive coordinator from 2006-09. Three of Baltimore's linebackers, Pernell McPhee, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, ranked in the top five for most total pressure (sacks, hits and hurries) among linebackers playing in a 3-4 defensive scheme this year. When not under pressure this season, Brady had a 113.1 passer rating.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots NFL Divisional-Round Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New England opened as an 8-point favorite (+120) with alternate lines of 8.5 (+125), 7.5 (+115), 7 (-105) and 6.5 (-125). The Patriots are -300 on the moneyline and Ravens +250. The total is 47.5. Baltimore is 8-8-1 ATS this season (4-4-1 on road) and 7-9-1 "over/under" (5-3-1 on road). New England is 9-7 ATS (5-3 at home) and 9-7 O/U (5-3 at home).
The Ravens are 6-0 ATS in their past six playoff games. They have covered 10 of their past 14 road games vs. teams with a winning home record. New England has covered eight straight home games vs. teams with a winning road record. The Pats are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 home playoff games. The under is 4-1 in New England's past five vs. teams with a winning record. The road team is 5-0-1 ATS in the past six meetings.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots Expert NFL Picks and Betting Predictions
Could Baltimore lay a big egg here? It's possible. The Ravens were just 4-4 on the road during the season and were blown out at Pittsburgh and Houston. However, Flacco seems like a different guy in the postseason. I'll take the eight points and go under. It will be cold in Foxboro, but as of now there's zero chance of precipitation.
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