The latest chapter in the Ravens/Patriots saga will be played out in Foxboro this weekend but which team will give us the greatest chance to cash in our NFL picks?
The Ravens not only covered the NFL Odds on Saturday but defeated their archrivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, outright. In the interest of full disclosure and never eager to be accused of ducking from an ill-advised NFL pick, I was surprised to say the least at their 30-17 playoff road win over the AFC North champs. The NFL is rife with surprises throughout the long winding season and teams rarely stagnate from where they were in September to the team they become in January. That can be for the better, as in the case with the Ravens, or worse – see the Arizona Cardinals for more on that front.
The Ravens are indeed a legitimate threat which is rather startling considering the fact that they had to deal with the loss of one of the most dynamic and multifaceted running backs in the NFL as well as the resulting drama which captivated the nation and severely tarnished the legacy of Roger Goodell who initially gave Ray Rice a slap on the wrist for a whack in the face. But here they are traveling to Foxboro at a time when their defense has morphed into an immovable object. Over the last 19 quarters Baltimore has allowed 15 field goals and a scant two touchdowns.
New England Patriots
Tom Terrific, the Evil Genius, All-World tight-end-of-the-ages Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the Patriots’ high-octane offense are not moving into the postseason on a high note. While they can be excused for their lethargic 17-9 Week 17 home loss at the hands of the improving Buffalo Bills due to head coach Bill Belichick resting the regulars and giving the vast majority of playing time to the irregulars, the loss comes on the heels of a rather uninspired effort against the New York Jets in Week 16. Certainly the 17-16 victory over New York as 10-point home favorites in NFL Odds counts as another notch in the win column but it did little to assuage the fears of New England backers and bettors that their team may be less than poised to run the gauntlet in the postseason.
Perhaps as concerning is the head-to-head comparison of Tom Brady versus Baltimore’s Joe Flacco. In their last two postseason meetings Flacco has undeniably won the battle over the future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady. As we review the numbers from the 2011 and 2012 AFC Championship Games Flacco completed 59.8 percent of his passes versus 56.6 percent of Brady’s aerial launchings. Not much of a difference I grant you but now take a peek at the difference between Flacco’s five touchdowns to only one interception garnering a passer rating of 100.8 to Brady’s dreadful one touchdown and four, yes four, interceptions which in turn manifested in a 60.3 passer rating. It’s scary stuff to consider if you are a New England fan.
These teams have not met this season but if we look back to 2013 we may be able to glean a bit of insight into Saturday’s matchup in Foxboro. In the 2012 AFC Championship Game held on the Patriots’ home turf the Ravens swarmed and defeated New England despite the Pats being installed as eight-point home betting favorites in NFL odds.
An important thing to keep in mind when forming this NFL pick is that the Patriots had revenge on their minds as they flew to Baltimore late in the season the following year and blasted Baltimore to the tune of 41-7 as 1 ½ point traveling chalk. Which will it be this time around? Stay tuned as SBR has several opinions and your old buddy Swinging Johnson will take a side, and maybe a total, in his Bust Your Bookie article this weekend.