Patriots Ready For Familiar Foe As They Get Set To Host Ravens In AFC Divisional Round
The New England Patriots have clash with the Baltimore Ravens in three of the last five postseasons. It is only fitting that the road to the AFC Championship game includes another clash against a familiar foe. New England is listed as a 7.5-point favorite heading in to its AFC Divisional round game against the Ravens this Saturday and while we could look back at the recent history between these teams there is one major difference that separates this meeting from when Baltimore beat the Patriots back in 2012. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is healthy and ready to make a difference in this game and it would be difficult to overestimate what he brings to the table for New England this week.
AFC Divisional Round
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Saturday January 10, 2014 – 4:35 PM ET
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
NFL Betting Line: New England -6.5
Ravens head coach Jon Harbaugh didn’t have to account for Gronkowski the last time his team played the Patriots in the playoffs and his defense will be in tough to account for his presence. Baltimore also won’t be able to afford completely shifting its focus away from the New England run game the way they did against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that didn’t have Le’Veon Bell last week and their ability to get after Tom Brady while still stopping the Patriots rushing attack will be key.
NFL Betting Preview: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens defense was able to send Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs off the edge with a reckless abandon against the Steelers because of their lack of a scary enough run threat but that likely won’t be the case against LaGarrette Blount. A year ago, Blount ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round and Baltimore can’t afford to let him get going at home. The Ravens will also need more from their own running back Justin Forsett after he was held to 36 yards versus Pittsburgh. From Derrick Mason to Anquan Boldin and now Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore has gotten some big performances out of its veteran receivers and they will need another substantial one from Smith Sr. this week as they look to stretch the New England defense. Joe Flacco threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers and if he can continue to air it out without turning the football over then it will at least give the Ravens an opportunity to grind out a win on the road.
NFL Betting Preview: New England Patriots
The Patriots cornerbacks match up well against Baltimore’s receivers and Darrelle Revis could very well find himself glued to Smith Sr. all game. New England’s pass rush has been inconsistent at times this season and they are going to have to find ways to generate pressure in order to keep their corners from being overexposed in the secondary. Keeping Forsett grounded will be big as they look to make the Baltimore offense more one-dimensional in order to help the pass rush. The Patriots won’t have Stevan Ridley available after losing him back in week six but Blount, Jonas Grey, and Brandon Bolden have done an excellent job since he went down and their tough rushing style is perfect for this time of the year. Brady is still one of the best in the game and if New England can keep the pass rush off of him he will have a chance to carve up the Ravens defense. Baltimore doesn’t have a strong match up against Rob Gronkowski and if that forces them to double him it could open up more room for Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman to operate on the outside and underneath.
NFL Betting Preview: Outlook & Pick
The Ravens have to feel confident after last week’s win over Pittsburgh and they surely won’t be intimidated by playing on the road at Foxboro but they do face a tough match up against a very good team that is rested and waiting for them. Brady’s receivers are healthy and ready to go and the Patriots also have a very good run game that will help keep the pressure off their veteran quarterback in the pocket. Baltimore’s offense isn’t the same when Forsett isn’t playing at a high level and if the New England defense can keep him in check they will be able to get after Flacco and force him in to making mistakes. The 6.5 points is a key number and as long as the spread stays below a touchdown it makes sense to take the Patriots to secure a big win at home.
Pick: New England -6.5