New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens Preview and Pick – Monday Night Football

New England Patriots (11-0) -20, 51.5 O/U at Baltimore Ravens (4-7)
+20, 51.5 O/U, M & T Bank Stadium, 8:30 PM Eastern, Monday

by Badger of Predictem.com

The New England Patriots put their undefeated record on the line in
hostile territory Monday night when they travel to Baltimore to play
the Ravens on ESPN.

The Patriots (11-0) survived a scare last week, slipping past the
blitz-heavy Philly Eagles, 31-28. For the first time all season the
Pats looked mortal, so look for Tom Brady and company to try and get
back to their dominating ways on prime-time television.

Baltimore (4-7) has seen their season go south quickly, losing five
straight games including a 32-14 laugher last week to the San Diego
Chargers. The Ravens may be playing to save their head coach Brian
Billicks job in this one, as the losing streak has made the thought
of a playoff birth hard to fathom.

This game opened with the Patriots as a -20 favorite. The over/under
total opened at 51.5.

The New England offense, or more specifically quarterback Tom Brady, has
been nearly flawless this season. Brady has been passing at will, to a bevy
of talented receivers, and the Pats have been putting numbers on the scoreboard
like a pinball machine. New England is 1st overall in the NFL in: points
per game (40.2), total yards (434.4) and passing yards (310.2). Even though
they slip to 7th overall in rushing yards, their 124.2 yards per game is
still a strong total and it hardly matters when Brady is carving up teams
with darts all over the field.

Baltimores Achilles heel continues to be a shaky offense. Their
quarterback play continues to struggle, as Steve McNair has been out
with a bum shoulder and backup Kyle Boller still has a hard time
telling who is on his team and who is playing defense (5 TDs/5 Int.)
As a result the Ravens rarely score (16.5 ppg 25th), and are in the
lower half of the league in the other offensive statistics (total
yards 294.5 24th ; 196.1 pass 21st ; 98.5 rush 19th). Not
even the acquisition of running back Willis McGahee has helped, as
teams are determined to stack the box and make Boller/McNair throw to
win.

The Patriots defense has been just as strong as the offense. It was
an interception by Asante Samuel that sealed their narrow victory
over the Eagles last week, showing the rest of the NFL that the
defense is capable of stepping up when it counts. Overall their
numbers are strong, 5th in points allowed (16.8( and rushing yards
allowed (86.2), 3rd in total yards (281.5) and 6th in passing yards
allowed (281.5).

The Ravens have relied on their defense for so long that its
starting to shows signs of wear and tear. Even though their season
average of points allowed is respectable (22.1 17th), they have
been gouged bad during the losing streak and have given up over 30
points in three of the five games. The lone bright spot continues to
be the run defense, as the Ravens are 3rd in the league allowing just
77.9 yards a contest.

The betting trends certainly favor the Patriots in this one, if they
needed any help to begin with in the first place. Not only is New
England 3-0 ATS versus Baltimore in the last three games head-to-head
(the last meeting was in 2004, a 24-3 Patriot win), but the Ravens
have failed to cover in all five of their losses during the losing
streak and are just 1-10 ATS in 2007.

The Patriots meanwhile are a rock solid 9-2 ATS this season, but they
are just 1-2 in their past three games because the number continues
to get higher and higher each week. The Pats have also gone over the
total in nine of their 11 games this year and 14 of their last 17
overall.

As far as Monday Night Football goes, New England is 3-2 SU in the
prime-time game their last five tries, while Baltimore is just 1-4
straight up in the weeks showcase game.

A lot of Las Vegas Sportsbooks, end even some offshore sportsbooks,
have taken this game off the board completely. There are most likely
waiting to see if Steve McNair is ready to come back for the Ravens.
Tom Brady is also listed on the Patriots injury list with a sore
elbow, but don’t think for a minute that he will be missing any time.
If you can still find the game listed, the number continues to be the
Patriots -20, with an over/under total of 51.5.

Badgers Pick: Again, 20 points is just too many points to give to
any NFL team. Sure the Ravens are struggling, sure their offense is
bad, but they are still professionals. I also think that Ray Lewis,
Ed Reed and some of the other University of Miami alumni are going to
play with extra incentive to rally for their fallen brother, Sean
Taylor. If you must take a side, take the Raven plus the 20 (maybe
tease it up even more), and look for the Ravens defense to keep the
Pats under 30 so that the under comes through too.