The NFL saved the best for last on the 9th Sunday of the season, as the day will end with a showdown between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. Game time is at 8:20 EST on Sunday, November 3 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The game will be televised nationally on NBC.
If we check out Week 9 NFL odds, the Patriots are 3.5-point favorites on the road. The over/under for the game is set at 45 points.
Eight weeks into the season, the Patriots remain one of the NFL’s two unbeaten teams along with the 49ers. However, it’s impossible not to make note of New England’s rather favorable schedule. Outside of their road game against the Bills, a game they could have lost, the Patriots haven’t played a team with a winning record. In fact, the seven other teams the Patriots have beaten have combined for 10 wins, most of which came against one another.
Of course, all of that is about to change. Starting with this week’s road trip to Baltimore, the Patriots will play five straight games against teams that are .500 or better. That stretch also includes road games against the Eagles and Texans and home dates with the Cowboys and Chiefs. By the end of those five games, we should know whether or not the Patriots are in a class of their own or just one of many contenders in the AFC.
At the moment, the Ravens are counting themselves among the contenders in the AFC. Prior to last week’s bye, Baltimore had put together a three-game winning streak, punctuated by a 30-16 road win over the Seahawks. Of course, that’s the only win the Ravens have this season against a team with a winning record on their way to being 5-2.
That 5-2 record is good enough to put Baltimore at the top of the AFC North standings with a little bit of a cushion over the 3-4 Steelers. The Ravens are clear favorites to win the division, although that has as much to do with the poor play of the three other teams as it does with how Baltimore has played. Much like the Patriots, the Ravens are about to embark on the most challenging stretch of their schedule. Five of Baltimore’s next six games are against winning teams, although things do ease up a little for the Ravens the second half of December.
Despite not playing in the same division, the Patriots and Ravens have developed a fierce rivalry in recent years. Since 2010, the two teams have met eight times with four of those games coming in the playoffs. While the teams have split those four playoff games, the Patriots have won three in a row against Baltimore, including a 41-7 win in 2013 when they last visited Charm City.
This could be the game when the Patriots pay the price for facing such an easy schedule during the first half of the season. More than that, I think Baltimore presents some unique challenges for New England to face. The Ravens have also had two weeks to get healthy and prepare for this game. I think all of that will add up to a Baltimore win. Even if it doesn’t, I feel good getting an extra 3.5 points for the home team.
The numbers tell us that the New England defense is the best in the league, conceding less than eight points per game. They also tell us that the Patriots lead the NFL in takeaways with 25. However, both of those stats have been skewed by the Patriots playing half of their eight games against teams that have one or fewer wins this season.
I don’t think it’ll be so simple against the Ravens. Baltimore has committed the third-fewest turnovers in the league. They also have the best rushing attack in the NFL, highlighted by the athleticism of Lamar Jackson. Of course, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards aren’t too bad either, giving the Ravens multiple options on the ground, even if Jackson can be spotty as a passer at times.
Last week, the Patriots struggled to control Cleveland’s rushing attack, yielding 159 yards and over seven yards per carry. If the Browns hasn’t turned it over three times, it could have been a different game. Given Baltimore’s strengths on the ground and their lack of turnovers this season, I don’t think the New England defense will dominate the way that they’re used to dominating.
Of course, a Baltimore defense that’s been average at best this season still has to deal with Tom Brady and company. But the Patriots have been far from invincible this year. The New England rushing attack is averaging a meager 3.2 yards per carry this year, and that’s against some of the worst defenses in the NFL. When they faced a strong Buffalo defense, Brady completed less than 50% of his passes for just 150 yards and no touchdowns. I don’t think the Baltimore defense is that good, but they’re better than most teams the Patriots have faced.
Ultimately, I think the Baltimore running game will cause problems for the Patriots, allowing the Ravens to control the clock and shorten the game. More importantly, it’ll keep Brady off the field and out of rhythm. Even if that’s not enough to win, I think it’ll be enough for the Ravens to beat the 3.5-point spread at home.