With just a few weeks remaining in the 2016-17 regular season, two of the AFC’s best prepare for their ninth meeting in history as the (7-5) Baltimore Ravens make their way to Gillette Stadium to take on the (10-2) New England Patriots (8.30pm ET, Monday).
Establishing a pretty heated rivalry in recent years, the Patriots own the season series 6-2. However, in the playoffs, the two teams have evenly split their four meetings, all of which have taken place in Foxborough. Three of those determined who would represented the AFC in the Super Bowl.
The last meeting between the two took place in January 2015 as New England fought back from two separate 14-point deficits to secure a 35-31 victory, en route to winning the Lombardi Trophy. As far as regular season results go, the last meeting was a one-sided affair in favor of the road team as the Patriots smoked the Ravens, 41-7.
While this score stands out, since John Harbaugh became Baltimore’s head coach in 2008, five of the eight meetings between the two teams have been decided by just one score. That is something this preview expects to see again in this intriguing Monday night NFL game, and that thought could influence our concluding picks and betting predictions.
Life Without Gronk
For the past several years, New England’s offense has gone through one man and his name is Rob Gronkowski. The imposing tight end, who has earned his way into the record books in just a few short seasons, has become one of the NFL’s best and his impact on New England cannot be understated.
Gronk is quite the weapon and he has made life easier on Tom Brady, who really hasn’t consistently had much in the weapons department outside of his tight end. In fact, it has been Brady and Gronkowski, who have formed one of the better QB and receiver connections in the league, that have decidedly helped the Patriots ascend to the top of the NFL once again.
But on Monday, as the team has had to do for the past few weeks, New England will be playing without the league-leading tight end as Gronkowski is out for the season with a back injury. Losing Gronk is a huge blow to this offense because on a team where a next man up philosophy is truly embraced and perfected, there is no replacing the tight end. He is invaluable to the Patriots and life without him has begun to look a little different.
New England is still trying to find its identity in an offense without Gronkowski and one of the players who has been tapped, in some small way, to fill that hole is running back LeGarrette Blount (pictured). The big back is having a career year, leading the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns and playing starters’ minutes in the absence of Dion Lewis, who just returned to the roster a few weeks prior. Lewis has been eased back into the running game and taking snaps away from Blount in the process, but without Gronkowski, Blount could find himself useful as a fullback of sorts and a pass catching back in the backfield. Lewis and James White could also be involved in the passing game as the team looks to find a way to make up for the lack of production from the tight end position.
Another option is Martellus Bennett, who was brought to the team in the offseason to be a secondary tight end on a team that is known for using two or even three tight end sets. Bennett has yet to really be an impactful player on this offense however. Perhaps that will change as, without Gronk, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Brady try to get Bennett more involved in the passing game. Against the Ravens’ top-ranked run defense, he will need to if the team hopes to pull off yet another victory against Baltimore.
Winning in December
Since Harbaugh became the head coach of the Ravens, not only has the team won a Super Bowl championship, but they also have a .644 winning percentage in the month of December, the third-best mark in the league.
Winning in December is something that can’t be undervalued as it suggests teams getting hot at the right time and entering the playoffs as strong contenders. This has been the Ravens MO under Harbaugh as the team has done well to finish the season on a high and perform well in the postseason as well.
This year seems to be no different. The Ravens are coming off a huge win which saw Joe Flacco pass for 381 yards and four touchdowns. It was his best game this season and was certainly a coming out party for this offense which has really struggled with consistency this year. Additionally, Mike Wallace and Steve Smith, who are coming off strong starts to their December, are Patriot killers. Smith has 145 receiving yards in his last two contests against New England and Smith is looking for his fourth TD catch in his fourth consecutive game against the team.
Sure, one of them will have to deal with safety Devin McCourty, who is among the best at his position in the NFL, but the way both have been playing is promising. McCourty can’t cover both and if Flacco can spread the ball to his two top guns and that’s not even to include Breshad Perriman and Kamar Aiken, who have both made key plays in recent games, the Ravens could be poised to pull off the upset.
Our Preview’s Baltimore Ravens vs New England Patriots Betting Predictions & Picks
The Baltimore/New England games are always battles as these are two great franchises with great head coaches and top quarterbacks leading the way. Both have established strong offenses and have talent to burn.
One thing to look at it is Baltimore’s run game, which is very much an area of weakness. The team is running around 20 rushing plays per game compared to double that through the air. This means New England has one less thing to worry about and can focus their attention on stopping Baltimore through the air. With a team as good as the Patriots, you really don’t want to make anything easier for them.
So, in conclusion, this preview’s Ravens vs Patriots predictions and betting picks are:
- New England sits around seven point favorites and given how close these two have played in recent years, I think the Ravens can beat that spread. So bet on Baltimore +7pts @ -120 with Bovada. That seven-point spread is -130 odds with 5Dimes, while it is +6.5pts for -110 with BetOnline.
- As for the total game points, it’s set at 44.5pts. Expect that to be topped comfortably as Brady and Flacco lead the way. Go over 44.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes or BetOnline. It is over 45pts @ -105 with Bovada.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.