Let's not kid ourselves - the 3-5 New England Patriots are stumbling through the 2020 NFL season. We learn more every day about flaws with this team - their lack of offensive playmakers, their inclination to turn the ball over, and less-than-ideal situational play calling.
So, of course you'd want to bet on the Ravens on Sunday. Right? The more-than-logical answer is, of course!
But, if I may...let me at least attempt to defend our beloved New England Patriots before we end up in waters that are surely uncharted for this franchise. While they can't really afford to slip to 3-6 - and, believe me, the likelihood is growing - I'm going to make the case for why you should at least think twice before putting that ticket down on Baltimore.
Let's break down what you need to know for the upcoming Sunday Night Football Week 10 matchup between the Ravens and the Patriots.
WHEN: Sunday 11/15, 8:20pm
WHERE: Foxboro, MA
HOW TO WATCH: Sunday Night Football on NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth)
BETTING INFO (courtesy of SportsBook Rhode Island) Last updated 11/14 @ 10pm / PLEASE BET RESPONSIBLY
Ravens Money Line: -330
Patriots Money Line: +260
SPREAD: Ravens -7 (-110)
O/U: 43.5 (-110 both selections)
The History: In their ten regular season games against the Ravens, the Patriots are 8-2. While this definitely looks promising, keep in mind Tom Brady was the one calling New England's plays for eight of those ten contests. The good news for New England? With the exception of their meetings in 2004 and 2013 (certified blowouts), each game has been quite close. With the powerhouse offensive teams that John Harbaugh has historically put on the field against the Patriots - and with New England fielding defensive contingents worse than their 2020 group - this is at least a silver lining. The Pats and Ravens have each won 2 of their 4 playoff games against each other over the last ten years.
Last Year (11/3/2019 - Baltimore wins 37-20): Lamar Jackson had his way with New England defense. The Patriots were slow out of the gates, got off to a 10-0 deficit in the first quarter, and were mercilessly exposed for weak run defense. They gave up a whopping 210 rushing yards - 61 to Lamar Jackson, and 115 to Mark Ingram.
If the Patriots accomplish these four things, they will most assuredly at least keep the game competitive. Here's what I think they need to do in order to beat the Ravens.
1. The run defense MUST show up. Period. It's a tale as old - or, considering Lamar's service time, "new" - as time. If you give Lamar Jackson enough time to evaluate his options to either run or pass the football, you've lost. However, if you can put enough pressure on the offensive line and "dictate" Lamar's running lanes for him - as only the Steelers and Chiefs had successfully done this year - there may be an opportunity to thwart his forward progress by ground. That's why the edge rushers (outside linebackers, defensive ends, and the occasional secondary member) will be integral in stopping Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' presumed rush attack. Look for Chase Winovich and John Simon to lead the way in this department, and maybe even someone like Kyle Dugger if the defensive play-callers really want to get creative. If they're not on their A-game, it's essentially game over.
2. Cam Newton needs to bring his A-game. I don't know about you, but I am not even close to giving up on Cam Newton just yet. Sure - you can probably find me saying "he sucks!" every time he does something less-than-desirable, but Cam has proven that he at least has some of his ability left in the tank. The alarming statistic, though, is that Cam has not thrown a single passing touchdown in ANY of the past four games. If he goes another game without finding paydirt, he'll be forever known as the quarterback that tied a touchdown drought franchise record for five straight weeks with no passing TD's. The lack of weapons certainly doesn't help, but Cam is going to have to string together a bit more than a 10-yard slant every three plays if they have a prayer at beating the Ravens.
3. Jakobi Meyers needs to get open. Although this Patriots roster is very lightly staffed in comparison to previous years, we've been pleasantly surprised the second-year wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. Last week against the Jets, Meyers posted career highs in targets (14), receptions (12), receiving yards (169), and receiving first-downs (8). Take it from John Harbaugh: "He's obviously become a target, and you see how and why. He's rangy, he's got good hands, has catch radius, and can get open." Meyers will likely be matched up against Marlon Humphrey, and if there were ever a time to be guarded by an All-Pro, it'd be this week. Humphrey is fresh-off the COVID-19 list, so Meyers will look to take advantage of the rust, if it exists. Regardless, he'll have to be a big part of the day for New England if they want to win.
4. Turnover-free football. All things considered, the Ravens have one of the most formidable and suppressive defenses crew in the entire league. Above all, the Patriots do not have even the slightest of chances of winning the football game if they turn the ball over more than once. Although the Patriots are net-negative in turnover differentials (-1, tied for 18th in the league), they did not turn the ball over at all on Monday against the Jets - a promising sight indeed.