The New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens are very familiar with each other. Not only did these teams clash in last year’s AFC Championship Game but they also butted helmets back in Week 3 of the regular season.
We asked some of Covers Experts’ sharpest minds to help bettors handicap this rematch, telling you what to take and what to leave from Baltimore’s last-second 31-30 win over New England back on September 23.
Ravens RB Ray Rice had 101 yards and a score, as well as 49 yards receiving, in the Week 3 win over the Patriots and is coming off a huge 131-yard effort in the upset over Denver last weekend. New England, which ranked ninth against the rush (102.1 ypg), gave up 90 yards and a TD to Houston RB Arian Foster, who added 63 yards and a score receiving.
“The Pats had no answer for Ray Rice in the previous meeting and given what we saw from Rice last week, we might expect that trend to continue,” says Covers Expert Jesse Schule.
Ravens WR Torrey Smith was one of the incredible stories of the season, putting together a 127-yard, two-touchdown performance versus the Patriots in Week 3 after his brother died in a motorcycle accident that morning. Smith has since become Baltimore’s best deep target and had two touchdowns versus Denver.
“He's Baltimore's more dangerous downfield weapon and quite capable of putting together a similar performance in the rematch,” says Covers Expert Teddy Covers.
Baltimore is a team that thrives on emotion. The Ravens came out swinging in Week 3 looking to avenge a loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game the year before, led by Smith’s inspired decision to play despite the death of his brother. Baltimore is still out for payback and is sparked by the swan song of team captain Ray Lewis, who will retire at the end of the season.
“The Ravens had every reason to be fired up for the Wk 3 battle with New England,” says Covers Expert Bryan Power. “This will still be an emotional Baltimore team (this weekend) as every game can now be Lewis' last.”
Throw from Joe
Joe Flacco stretched the legs of the Ravens’ new offensive system in Week 3, hanging 382 yards and three TD passes on the Patriots. However, Baltimore leaned more on Rice and the running game last week, trying to keep the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands. Expect a similar game plan versus Tom Brady.
“I don't expect to see another aerial assault from the Ravens this week,” says Covers Expert Sean Murphy. "Rice seemed to regain his form last week. A heavier workload seems to suit him well, and I don't think that will be lost on head coach John Harbaugh or offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.”
Flags a flyin’
New England and Baltimore combined for 24 penalties and 218 penalty yards in Week 3, none more crucial than a pass interference call on Patriots CB Devin McCourty in the final minute that help set up Justin Tucker’s game-winning 27-yard field goal as time expired. Those calls came from replacement refs and there were just seven whistles for a total of 38 yards in last year’s AFC Championship.
“The refs controlled the first meeting, dominating the game,” Teddy Covers says of the Week 3 game. “I don't expect a penalty-fest this time around.”
Pats’ pointless push
New England managed to run for only 77 yards on 34 attempts in Week 3 – its lowest output on the ground this season. The Patriots have since been able to gain traction with the run, averaging 126.5 rushing yards over their last 11 contests. That includes 122 yards on 24 carries – 5.08 yards per attempt – and two scores against Houston’s seventh-ranked run defense last week.
“After finishing 20th in rushing offense a year ago, the Patriots are seventh this year which has contributed to their top NFL ranking both in total offense and scoring offense,” says Covers Expert Matt Fargo.