Baltimore Ravens (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (10-2 SU, 9-3 ATS)
Week 14 NFL
Date/Time: Monday Night Football, December 12, 2016 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: BAL +7/NE -7
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The Baltimore Ravens come to Foxborough to face the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Monday Night Football. Both teams are in first place in their respective divisions. New England is 10-2, following a 26-10 win over the Rams on Sunday. They are all but a lock to win the AFC East. The Ravens also won on Sunday, notching their fourth win in 5 games with a big 38-6 win over a Miami team that had won 6 straight games. They look to follow that with what would really be a big win over one of the conference's favorites.
Baltimore has been somewhat quiet in their resuscitation. After starting the season 3-0, the Ravens descended into a 4-game freefall that threatened to derail their season. So this latest 4 out of five stretch has been big, as they now share a first-place lead with the Steelers. On Sunday, the Ravens had things their own way at home against a surging Dolphins bunch. The defense allowed one meaningless fourth quarter touchdown, as they continue their improved level of play. The offense, meanwhile put up nearly 500 yards of total yardage en route to the big win.
On Sunday, Joe Flacco had a nice game at home with 381 yards and 4 touchdowns on 36 of 47 passing. Terrance West scored a touchdown on the air and the ground. Rookie back Kenneth Dixon ran for 50 yards and a touchdown with 4 receptions. Flacco connected with resurgent tight end Dennis Pitta twice on TD strikes. Breshad Perriman caught a 53-yard TD pass. Mike Wallace and Steve Smith, Sr. each caught 6 balls. Against the Dolphins, there was a lot of room for different guys to have success in this offense. In recent weeks, Flacco has been sharp. They had a stretch of 4 home games in five weeks and they made the most of it by winning all those games. Can they now beat one of the best teams in the league on the road? It helps to be coming off their best game of the season.
The Ravens got a good performance from the defense on Sunday. In the last five games, their only loss was to Dallas, 27-17. In the four wins in that period, they allowed a combined 41 points. On Sunday, they picked off Ryan Tannehill three times, with Eric Weddle, Ladarius Webb, and Jerraud Powers all getting interceptions. The pass-rush was consistent and forced Tannehill into making mistakes. The front seven is getting its act together with Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, CJ Mosley, Timmy Jernigan, and the secondary is making an impact with Webb, Weddle, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, and others.
Baltimore has beaten teams that didn't have positive momentum at the time the Ravens faced them until they beat the streaking Dolphins on Sunday. And the 38-6 score suggests some things we suspected about the inherent danger that the Ravens possess. It doesn't always manifest. Other than narrow week 2 and 3 road wins against Cleveland and Jacksonville, they haven't fared well on the road this season and are 1-4 ATS away from MT&T Stadium. This road test is about as tough as it gets.
The Patriots have been taking care of business, winners of three straight since losing to the Seahawks. Two of those wins were on the road, but they get a tougher assignment this week after beating the Niners, the Jets, and the Rams in consecutive games. This week should represent a more-accurate barometer of where the Pats really stand heading into the final quarter of the season. They did well against LA without their most-valuable offensive player not named Tom Brady, but let's see how they fare against some better teams.
Losing Rob Gronkowski is a major loss, even if it doesn't manifest against the lesser teams. It's just that over recent seasons, "Gronk" has been in and out of action a lot and it's no coincidence that their offensive production by any measure is significantly better with him healthy. He's on IR and it's a wrap for 2016 for the star tight end. Against the Rams, it didn't matter. Brady connected well with Julian Edelman and burgeoning rookie Malcolm Mitchell. Running back LeGarrette Blount was again productive, running for a 43-yard score, his 13th touchdown of the season, as he should surpass 1000 yards early in this game. Chris Hogan caught a TD pass, though with Gronkowski out, one would have pictured a better performance from TE Martellus Bennett, who was quiet on the day. The Pats have a very balanced offense, fifth in the league in passing offense and sixth in rushing.
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New England is also balanced on defense, pretty robust, while not ironclad, against both the opposing ground game and aerial attack. They are third in the NFL in points allowed with just 17.1 a game. Granted, the Rams' offense has been pretty horrible, but New England was still dominant in allowing just three points until a garbage TD late in the game. Logan Ryan, Chris Long, Shea McClellin, and Rob Ninkovich all registered sacks, while Malcolm Butler and Kyle Van Noy each picked off Jared Goff. With others like Dont'a Hightower, this is a clutch defense that can make plays and change the complexion of a game. In the Pats' last ten games, they have given up 17 or fewer points seven times.
This is a big game between contending teams, making for a good MNF event. In terms of urgency, Baltimore might need this more and their effort should be a strong one. But the Pats didn't get to be in this spot by taking weeks off mentally and this is a test of where they stand against a good conference team on a good run. While taking the points and Baltimore is awfully tempting, I think they still have a ways to go against the better teams in the league. I'll take the Pats.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the New England Patriots minus 7 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Baltimore vs. New England game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!