By Charles Jay
The New England Patriots have a path to the home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. But it could be a rocky road getting there. On Monday night they have to face an opponent that has been pesky in high-profile situations – even in Foxborough – as they take on the Baltimore Ravens in this ESPN-televised game that is slated to get underway at 8:30 PM ETat Gillette Stadium. Even as they are viewing the game, BetAnySports customers will have an opportunity to place wagers on the game, in real time, as they take advantage of all that is available through the magic of Live Betting Ultra.
The Ravens have a record of 7-5 straight-up (6-6 against the points) and will have to win this game if they hope to remain tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers atop the AFC North division. They came up with probably their most impressive performance of the season last week, as they battered the Miami Dolphins 38-6. Joe Flacco, who has been tentative quite a bit this season when he isn’t throwing interceptions, had 381 yards and four TD passes in that game. And a defense that is unquestionably one of the best in the NFL shut down the Dolphins – who were winners of six consecutive games – both through the air (with three interceptions of Ryan Tannehill) and on the ground (giving up 62 rushing yards).
How much resistance can they offer to the Patriots, who have gotten an MVP-level season out of Tom Brady, who came out like a house afire from his suspension? Well, the Pats are favored, according to the Monday night football betting odds at BetAnySports:
New England Patriots -6.5
Baltimore Ravens +6.5
Over 45 points -110
Under 45 points -110
The objective of the Patriots is to overcome a stop unit that has allowed fewer yards per drive than any other team in the NFL, and do it without Rob Gronkowski, who is out for the season. Yes, they have Chris Hogan (17.9 yards a catch) and Julian Edelman, who is ever-present, along with Malcolm Mitchell, who has recently emerged as a viable target (17 receptions in last three games). And James White joins Dion Lewis as very effective pass-receivers out of the backfield. But here’s the dilemma – Martellus Bennett is banged up, and Danny Amendola is out. And although we know New England would like to do some business with LeGarrette Blount (957 rushing yards), we have to question how well that would work against this Raven front, which has limited the opposition to 3.4 yards per attempt.
BetAnySports patrons also have to be asking themselves questions about how well the Ravens could move. After all, the offense has been marked with inconsistency. Flacco has tossed eleven INT’s. And they have been looking all season for a formula that could work out of the backfield, with Terrance West and rookie Kenneth Dixon likely to have a rather even distribution of carries between them. But there is some production here. Mike Wallace has provided some big plays. Steve Smith (54 receptions) is putting forth a noble effort in what might finally be his farewell season, and tight end Dennis Pitta is the guy who has been on the receiving end of most of Flacco’s passes (61, to be exact). The guy who might turn out to be a factor is Breshad Perriman, who has shown some flashes of why the Ravens took him in the first round last year (15.3 yards per catch).
Since Oakland lost on Thursday, New England is now in a position where it can get to the #1 seed in the AFC. But they have coasted through their last three games against teams who couldn’t trade blows with them, on one side of the ball or both. But if there is one team that is not in awe of them, it’s the Ravens.
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