NFL Games of the Year: Playoff race makes Ravens live dog vs. Pats

Odds are out for the biggest and best games of the upcoming NFL season. Covers Expert Larry Ness gives you insight into some of these marquee matchups and predicts where the odds could move before kickoff.

NFL Week 16: New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens (+2.5)

Past history: John Harbaugh (head coach) and Joe Flacco (QB) both came to Baltimore in 2008 and from 2009-12, the Ravens have met the Pats six times. The Pats are 2-1 SU in the regular season but are 1-2 SU (0-3 ATS) in the three postseason meetings, all of which were played in New England.

Early look at the Patriots: While there are many changes in New England, the Pats remain defined by the duo of head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady. The two helped lead New England to Super Bowl wins to cap the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons, winning nine straight postseason games. That duo extended its postseason win streak to 10 in the 2005 season but since that win, have gone 7-7 in postseason games (just 4-10 ATS), including losing Super Bowls to the Giants in both the 2007 and 2011 seasons. The Pats remain the class of the AFC East (not saying much), so expect Belichick and Brady to be back in the playoffs in 2013.

Early look at the Ravens: Every Super Bowl champion faces a tough task the year after winning it all (last back-to-back champs were the Pats in ‘03-‘04). However, few defending champs have faced the kind of turnover and changes that have beset this current Ravens team. Joe Flacco’s incredible postseason (1,140 yards with 11 TDs and 0 INTs) earned him a $120 million contract in the offseason but I doubt anyone expects Flacco to replicate that kind of performance week-in and week-out in the 2013 regular season.

Where this line will move: This meeting comes late in the season and the Pats will likely have already secured the AFC East division title. In comparison, the Ravens will very likely be in a life-and-death playoff fight in the AFC North. If that’s the case, I’m taking the home dog.

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