SNF Pick: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
New England Patriots (8-0 SU, 6-2 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (5-2 SU, 2-5 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday, November 3rd, 8:20 PM
Where: M&T Bank Stadium
Point Spread: NE -3.5 / BALT +3.5 (GTBets)
Over/Under Total: 44.5
There will be plenty of animosities abound on Sunday night when the Patriots travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens in a matchup of non-divisional rivals with no love lost between them. New England has had a clear upper hand throughout their history, leading the all-time series 10-3 and having won the last three in the series while also going 3-1 in their previous four in Baltimore.
The Ravens head into this week off a bye and will hope with the extra time off will be able to come up with an offensive and defensive game plan to offset New England’s undefeated run of success this season. After a surprising home loss to Cleveland, Baltimore has responded well with a three-game winning streak topped off with an impressive 30-16 upset road win against Seattle. At this near midway point of their season, they are basically a guarantee to win the AFC North with a two-game lead over the Steelers and even more so against the disappointing Browns and winless Bengals. One problem facing them this week, though, has been Belichick and even Brady’s ability to get in coach Harbaugh’s head in recent games, and how Jim’s older brother reacts this time around will be a significant factor in determining Sunday’s outcome.
FROM LAST TO FIRST
One primary reason for Baltimore’s success this season has been the play of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who will look to become the first quarterback from the 2018 draft class to beat the Patriots this season after they have already taken out the four drafted ahead of him (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen), all of whom went in the top ten while Jackson was picked last in the round at 32. Jackson has thrown for 1650 yards and an 11/5 TD-INT ratio while also making plenty of plays with his legs, posting 576 yards on the ground with three additional scores and currently ranking 9th in the NFL with 82.3 rushing yards per game. Since taking over as the starter in Baltimore, the team is 10-1 in games when Jackson has at least ten rushing attempts and 1-3 when he has fewer than ten.
RUSHING TO THE TOP
Baltimore ranks first in rushing yards per game in the NFL thanks to not only Lamar Jackson, but also focal back Mark Ingram. The free-agent signee from New Orleans has 470 rushing yards on the year and with seven touchdowns on the ground ranks fourth in the league. Ingram and Jackson are the only two players on the team to score a rushing touchdown as backups Gus Edwards and Justice Hill are still looking to make a mark on the scoreboard.
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STOCKING THE ARSENAL
The most promising part of the Ravens run of success this year has been the play of those drafted in the past two years, most notably Jackson, Mark Andrews, and Marquise Brown, while Miles Boykin and Hayden Hurst are still looking to make their mark on the team. Brown has three touchdowns after being picked in the 1st round of this year’s draft but has missed the last two games due to an ankle injury, though he is expected to suit up on Sunday. The second-year tight end Andrews leads the team in targets, catches and receiving yards and is tied for tops in touchdowns with Brown at three, though he has been kept out of the end zone since week four and will be looking to make a scoring return on Sunday.
New England heads to Baltimore undefeated with wins in their first eight games of the season, most recently beating Cleveland 27-13 this past Sunday. This week marks the beginning of a five-game stretch against the toughest competition they will face all season with games including this week against the Ravens along with matchups against the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans, and Chiefs. For those who (moronically) point out that a significant reason for the Patriots’ success is the fact that they play in the AFC East, it should be known that since 2010, New England is 46-11 against divisional foes while going 41-7 versus the rest of the conference. And considering they have Philly and Dallas left, they are also 8-2 in that same time span against the NFC East.
The Patriots defense continued their success last week against Cleveland, causing turnovers on three straight plays, scoring their fifth touchdown of the year, and sacking Baker Mayfield five times. Against 105 opposing opponent drives, the Patriots have allowed just four touchdowns, meaning the defense has scored more touchdowns than they have given up. The quality of competition is about to get a lot tougher, and all five quarterbacks coming up are better than anything they have seen so far, so it will be interesting to see just how of a pace they can keep up to their historic start so far.
While the defense rightfully gets a lot of the attention and credit for the Patriots’ unbeaten start to 2019, the offense continues to struggle with consistency, which may sound odd considering they lead the league in scoring with an average of 31.3 points per game. One reason for difficulty has been their lack of ability to run the ball well, with Sony Michel a major reason why. The team has had ample injuries to the offensive line, and clearly continues to miss the additional blocking ability of Rob Gronkowski. That said, it still doesn’t excuse how poor Michel can look at times, especially considering he is coming off a postseason when he ran for 336 yards and scored six touchdowns. It is starting to look like Michel may have just been a product of the system thanks to last season’s top-notch blocking, and he will likely find difficulty improving on a paltry 3.3 yards per carry average against a Ravens defense that ranks 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game.
WINDS OF CHANGE
The Patriots offense went through some roster changes over the past week, trading for Muhammad Sanu from the Falcons and then days later putting Josh Gordon on injured reserve. Gordon will have to be released in two weeks because he is actually healthy and they only did this so he would have to go through waivers due to the trade deadline passing on Tuesday. They are expected to get wide receiver N’Keal Henry and lineman Isaiah Wynn back in the next couple of weeks after spending the season on IR up until now, and their return along with any other roster moves the team is able to pull off will go along way in strengthening an offense that while putting up plenty of points, isn’t close to performing on all cylinders.
THE FINAL DECISION
Lamar Jackson is currently tied with Tom Brady at +900 to win NFL MVP this season, and considering his early success and the teams’ division-leading record of 5-2, it is easy to see why. He will be looking to become the only first or second-year quarterback to beat the Patriots in a 22 game span, and to do so he will hope to improve on his recent passing numbers considering the Patriots will likely go out of their way to attempt to keep Jackson contained in the pocket by leaving one of their linebackers to spy on him. The Ravens quarterback started the season with a 10/2 TD-INT ratio in his first four games but has since slowed down through the air, with no touchdown passes over the past two games, which followed a one touchdown-three interception performance in week five. Baltimore has a definite advantage with the additional week to prepare for the game, and they have done well in recent years in this situation, having gone 9-1 straight up (8-2 against the spread) in their past ten games at home after a bye week. Despite that factor and the unquestionable hatred the Ravens and head coach John Harbaugh have for the Patriots, I am still going to continue to back New England until they do anything to prove otherwise. They are 6-2 against the spread this year with their only non-covers against the Bills (favored by the seven, they won by six thanks to a missed extra point) and Jets (two rookie mistakes, fumbled punt at goal line and atrocious pick-six, killed an easy cover), and even with an inconsistent offense I expect Tom Brady on the field and Bill Belichick on the sidelines to be the difference in the game and the Patriots to go home with a road win and cover against the Ravens.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -3.5