Ravens Are Near Unanimous Choice to Defeat Patriots
The New England Patriots find themselves in an unfamiliar position heading into Sunday night's game against the Ravens: seven-point underdogs at home. That hasn't happened since 2001, Tom Brady's first season as a starter.
Entering this year with 20 straight winning seasons and 16 AFC East titles in 17 seasons, the Brady-less Patriots sit in third place in the division at 3-5. Since 2003, the most games New England lost in a season was six (2005, 2009).
The pundits are near unanimous in their belief that the Ravens will hand the Patriots their sixth loss in Week 10. Of the 47 pundits we looked at, 46 forecasted a victory for the Ravens, who have won 10 consecutive road games, the longest active streak in the league. (ESPN's Seth Wickersham was the only pundit to pick the Patriots).
Of course, Head Coach John Harbaugh won't underestimate any team, much less one coached by Bill Belichick.
"It's a very big challenge, because they have a great coaching staff," Harbaugh said. "They always find ways to scheme up their opponents [in] different ways; we have to try to anticipate that."
Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:
The Patriots don't match up well against the Ravens.
The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker: "It feels strange to view a trip to Foxborough, Massachusetts, as a relatively light week on the schedule, but the Ravens are better than the Patriots in almost every area and will benefit from an extra day of preparation. [Lamar] Jackson will need to avoid turnovers against a good secondary, but the Patriots match up poorly against the Ravens' power and don't have enough offensive weapons to keep pace."
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal: "This was a nightmare matchup for the Patriots last season, even when they had a strong defense. Now Bill Belichick coaches the 31st-ranked group in football, per Football Outsiders' DVOA metric."
The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer: "The Patriots have allowed at least 24 points in six of their past seven games, and Cam Newton doesn't have a lot of help in the passing game. If New England were even reasonably healthy, this could be a tossup. But the Ravens have favorable matchups in every phase of the game."
It will be a good night for the Ravens' running game.
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: "The Patriots have problems against the run. … I think the Ravens will go in there and pound the football. Lamar Jackson will run the ball, they will move the football on the ground and keep Cam Newton and the offense off the field."
The Patriots will commit to stopping the run, which will open things up for the Ravens' passing game and wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown.
CBS Sports' Brady Quinn: "We know how good the rushing attack is in Baltimore. We know that's been an issue too for New England this year. So what's going to end up happening is, devoting all those bodies down around the line of scrimmage to stop the rushing attack, including Lamar, is going to make you thin in the secondary. And that's where the speed of Hollywood Brown and some of the other playmakers for Baltimore is going to come into effect. So I think this Baltimore offense, weather pending, is going to have a big game."
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz: "The Patriots' pass defense has been boom-or-bust this year. New England ranks third in the NFL with 10 interceptions, but it also has allowed opposing passers to gain 8.8 yards per attempt, the highest number in the league. And if the Ravens want to take advantage with the type of big play that could jolt their offense, the slight and speedy Brown is their best bet. He'll also take on extra value this week if the Patriots follow last season's plan of shading extra coverage to Ravens Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, who ranks second on the team in receiving yards."
With Calais Campbell (calf) likely out, Derek Wolfe's role becomes vital.
Kasinitz: "The Patriots rank sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, and quarterback Cam Newton's 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame allows him to push past tackles as a runner or whip passes on any given play. It's imperative for Wolfe, a nine-year veteran, and Baltimore's defensive line to generate push against New England and to bottle up Newton. Without Campbell, that challenge expands."
The game will be closer than expected.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: "I think the Ravens win, but I think Belichick and Co. find a way to keep it close and keep it interesting. … I like the Ravens, 24-20."
|Source||Team Selected||Panelists Score||Comments|
|ESPN||9 of 10 panelists pick Ravens||N/A|
|Baltimore Sun||4 of 4 panelists pick Ravens||“[Lamar] Jackson will need to avoid turnovers against a good secondary, but the Patriots match up poorly against the Ravens' power and don’t have enough offensive weapons to keep pace.”— Childs Walker|
|USA Today||7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens||N/A|
|NFL.com||Ravens 35, Patriots 17||“This was a nightmare matchup for the Patriots last season, even when they had a strong defense. Now Bill Belichick coaches the 31st-ranked group in football, per Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. New England's especially soft against the run, going up against a Ravens team that leads the league in rushing. Expect to see Robert Griffin III by the IVth quarter.” — Gregg Rosenthal|
|NFL Network||6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens||N/A|
|Sporting News||Ravens 20, Patriots 14||/ “The Patriots drafted and rebuilt their defense to better contain running QBs. They will work to take away that element and force the Ravens to grind out yards, not worrying much about big plays downfield. The Patriots, unfortunately, can't trust Cam Newton to be in comfortable passing or running situations against the Ravens' defense, either.” — Vinnie Iyer|
|CBS Sports||8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens||“Look for Lamar Jackson and the running game to have a big game against the New England defense. Cam Newton will not be able to keep up.”— Pete Prisco|
|Pro Football Talk||3 of 3 panelists pick Ravens||“The Patriots barely beat a terrible Jets team on Monday night. They’re not going to have much luck against one of the best teams in the league.” — Michael David Smith|
|Sports Illustrated||6 of 6 panelists pick Ravens||N/A|
|Fansided||Ravens 20, Patriots 16||“Baltimore is clearly the better team and should handle business, although Bill Belichick will have something for Lamar Jackson this time around. Still, Jackson will cause problems with his legs, and Cam Newton won’t win enough with his lack of weaponry.” — Matt Verderame|
Cam Newton on Lamar Jackson: 'I Don't Even Think I'm in That Stratosphere'
Earlier this week, Jackson referred to Newton as "the O.G. – Superman." Yesterday, the Patriots quarterback returned the compliment.
Newton, who ushered in a new style of mobile quarterback, was asked about Jackson's style of play during a conference call with the media.
"Man, my boy Lamar got a gear not many human beings got. And just to see him take off, I mean, I'm a fan of the game and if I'm watching Baltimore, obviously, I'm watching to see what the MVP is going to do," said Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP. "I think for a long time, and still to date, a lot of people do not respect the art of being able to run and protect yourself and to attack the defenses in many different ways. Not taking anything against anybody who cannot or does not decide to run but, for him to be as successful and to make the impact, the big splash in this game, you know, not many people have done it.
"I say Michael Vick, I say Lamar, I don't even think I'm in that stratosphere but for him to be as dominant, dynamic, explosive at the quarterback position is something that just gives so much opportunity to the younger generation to be able to see what Lamar Jackson is doing and to get hope to say I can play the quarterback position too."
Reasons for Optimism, Concern for Ravens at Midseason
Looking ahead to the second half of the season, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec identified one reason for optimism and one for concern for the Ravens.
On the positive side, Zrebiec said the Ravens have to feel good about being 6-2 despite not playing their best football yet.
"John Harbaugh's teams typically improve as the season goes on and the Ravens have a pretty forgiving December/January schedule, so they should put themselves in position to be peaking at the right time heading into the playoffs," Zrebiec wrote.
The biggest concern is the offensive line, Zrebiec said.
"It's seemingly not getting better and now the Ravens are dealing with a season-ending injury to All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley," Zrebiec wrote. "The offensive struggles have been real and well documented, but it's hard to foresee the unit getting much better if the offensive line doesn't do its part."
Would Mark Ingram II Rather Tackle Jackson or Derrick Henry?
Mark Ingram II will never have to tackle Jackson or fellow Alabama alumni Derrick Henry, and he's thankful for that.
During an appearance on The Ringer's "Slow News Day" podcast, Ingram was asked whether he'd rather have to tackle his quarterback or the Tennessee Titans running back.
"I don't know, man. That's tough," Ingram said. "You got this big alien running fast, long arms, stiff arms, fast, strong, powerful. Then you got this speed jitterbug at quarterback. … Either way it's probably a broken tackle for them."
- The Ravens were one of four teams to receive multiple votes to win the Super Bowl among NFL.com's panel of 28 analysts.