Sunday Night Football will have yet another compelling game as the Baltimore Ravens match-up against the New England Patriots (8.20pm ET, Sunday, Sept 23).
Both teams, currently sit at 1-1 and hold the first place spot in their divisions. Both are also coming off of tough losses in week two.
To add fuel to the fire, the last time they met was in last season’s AFC Championship where the Ravens were one made field goal away from playing in the Superbowl.
At home in Baltimore, the fire will certainly rage and the rivalry will carry on. Both teams are poised to avenge their week two loss and they have legitimate playoff aspirations this season.
Wes Welker, Where Art Thou?
There have been numerous explanations for Welker’s limited role in the offense but what everyone can agree on is that the team is not better off when he is riding the bench.
Without Welker, QB Tom Brady loses one of the most reliable pass catchers in all of the NFL. Since he joined the Patriots in 2007, Welker has caught over 100 passes in all but one season. He has averaged over 1,100 yards in receptions all but one year as well.
With the exception of 2008, each season that Welker has amassed these numbers the Patriots have made it to the playoffs. Twice in these five years they have made it to and lost the Superbowl against the NY Giants.
BetOnline Betting Lines (accepts all USA clients):
-105 Patriots +1.5pts; -115 Ravens -1.5pts
Bovada (all US except Maryland, Utah, NY, Washington):
-130 Patriots +3pts; +110 Ravens -3pts
Bet365 (for UK & all non-USA residents):
10/11 Patriots +2pts; 10/11 Ravens -2pts
There is no doubt that Welker is a very important part of this offense but his value comes more in just catching passes and touchdowns.
With his role diminished because of his offseason contract holdout, the Patriots have been starting Julian Edelman in his place. It is a significant downgrade as Edelman has only caught 54 passes in his four-year career. He has just one touchdown as well.
In addition to the excitement for the opposing defense of getting to go against Edelman and not Welker, there is another benefit that comes partly as a result of Welker’s reduced role and partly because of tight end Aaron Hernandez’s injury.
No Welker and no Hernandez favors the Baltimore Defense
When Hernandez went down with a high ankle sprain early during the Patriots game against the Arizona Cardinals, Brady lost another solid weapon in the receiving game. The 6’1, 245 pound tight end became an integral part of the New England offense last year when they really utilized a two tight end set. Hernandez flanked league best TE in Rob Gronkowski and together they combined for 169 receptions, 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns.
In revolutionizing this style of offense, the Patriots benefited immensely. Even though it was Gronk who amassed most of the numbers, having Hernandez performing well meant that opposing defenses could not double team Gronkowski. Besides, with a double already on Welker, who last season had one of the best years of his career, defenses had no choice but to put single coverage on two of the league’s best tight ends.
With Hernandez out for 3-6 weeks and Welker’s status in question for each game, defenses like Baltimore’s will no doubt benefit from the Patriot’s situation. With Edelman not really being a threat, the Ravens will likely double Gronkowski and do so with Ed Reed, a 5’11 free safety who has two interceptions on the season and 59 in his 11-year career.
For the Ravens, who this season have not fared particularly well especially in opponent’s passing yards allowed (27th with 275 yards per game), not having to worry about Hernandez is a big relief.
The only problem however is that at some point Welker will start getting more involved in the offense. In fact last week after Hernandez went down, Welker’s involvement immediately went up. After catching just three passes for 14 yards in week one, Welker caught five passes for 95 yards in week two. With Hernandez out indefinitely, Welker will get even more than five receptions and for the Ravens, it will be interesting to see how they play this situation.
Joe Flacco or Joe Fluke-O?
No one can deny that Raven’s QB Joe Flacco has the makings to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL . . . on a good day. When Flacco is off his game however such as he was in Baltimore’s week two loss against the Philadelphia Eagles, he is nothing more than just average.
For the Ravens, a team that many expect to take another run at the Superbowl, they can only go as far as Flacco can take them. Even though their defense is still pretty good, it has really taken a few steps back from past seasons. The offense as a result is going to have to be better than ever.
It isn’t as if they don’t have the pieces to be one of the better offenses in the league. As I mentioned, Flacco is a great QB he just needs to be great on a more consistent basis. In addition to Flacco, the Ravens have one of the best running backs in the league in Ray Rice and a big play wide receiver in Anquan Boldin.
Baltimore has the offense to be great but it really depends on where Flacco can take them. Over the course of his career he has seen regression in week two but it has seemed to bounce back immediately for a solid week three performance. Since taking over the Ravens’ offense in 2008, Flacco has never lost a game in the third week of the season. Most of these wins have also come in pretty convincing margins although it is worth noting that they also came against teams that would later finish amongst the bottom of their divisions.
The problem for the Ravens however is that the Joe Flacco of week one and week three is not the Flacco the team sees all the time. What also could be a problem is the Patriots defense who have stifled quarterbacks and running backs alike allowing just 202 passing yards a game (7th best) and 62.5 rushing yards a game (5th best).
Patriots v Ravens Betting Pick Verdict
With the spread being small and the Ravens the money line favorites, this game could be one of the biggest stay away games of the week. Both teams are relatively evenly matched and both are coming into what they must consider a must-win game.
That said, it is really tough to bet against a Patriots team that is 7-1 against the Ravens all-time and 6-0 against them in the regular season. It is also hard to bet against a Bill Belichick team coming off a loss as the Pats are 11-1 against the spread following a loss the week prior.
- Although it may not be the safest pick of the week, take the Patriots to best the Ravens by more than the spread (3 points with one sportsbook and 1.5pts with another). You can bet on New England at +1.5pts @ odds of -105 with BetOnline Sportsbook while Bovada go +3pts @ -130. For non-USA citizens, Bet365 goes Patriots +2pts @ 10/1.
- Also, with the over/under set at 50 and the firepower of both of these offenses, expect the score to go over 50 points which can be bet on @ -110 with both BetOnline Sportsbook & Bovada. It is the same betting line (10/11) with Bet365.