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By John J. Raspanti
It's amazing how one week can change the perception of a team. Two weeks ago, the New England Patriots trounced the Tennessee Titans 34-13. Many pundits were already talking a return to the Super Bowl.
That is until last Sunday when they lost to the undefeated (yes) Arizona Cardinals 20-18 in their home opener. Nevertheless, the Patriots had a chance to steal the game in the closing seconds when Stephen Gostkowski hooked a 43-yard field goal.
Coach Bill Belichick refused to put all the blame on his kicker.
"There are a lot of things we could have done better all the way around, all of us," he said. "Plenty of mistakes out there."
Quarterback Tom Brady has completed 66 percent of his passes through the first two games. Brady has tossed three touchdowns. Second year running back Stevan Ridley is running well, gaining 156 yards, and has scored twice. The Patriots shored up their receiving corps by resigning veteran Deion Branch. They also signed Kellen Winslow Jr. after tight end Aaron Hernandez went down with an ankle injury. Big Rob Gronkowski has caught 12 passes for the year. Talented but troubled Brandon Lloyd leads the team with 13 receptions.
Defensively, New England has played well. Outside linebacker Jerrod Mayo has collected 22 tackles. Chandler Jones, Don't'a Hightower, and Devin McCourty have 10.
Baltimore lost a heartbreaker 24-23 to even their record at 1-1 to the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia. Eagle quarterback Michael Vick scored on a 1-yard TD run with 1:55 left. The Ravens were unable to get into field goal range.
Quarterback Joe Flacco has completed 60 percent of his passes. He's ranked seventh in the AFC with a rating of 91.9. Ray Rice is averaging over six yards a carry thus far this season. Flacco, like Brady, targets his tight end a lot. Dennis Pitta has caught 13 passes for 138 yards and a score. Anquan Boldin had only two catches against the Eagles. The veteran wideout is off to a slow start this year.
It's shocking to see that Ravens defense ranked 25th in the league. Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis leads the team with 19 tackles. The officiating during the Eagle game frustrated Lewis.
"There's some serious calls the refs missed," said Lewis. "It's just the way it is, man, all around the league. We have to correct that. These games are critical."
Coach John Harbaugh feels the Eagle game was a learning experience.
"I think will be fine coming out of this going forward," Harbaugh said.
Both teams were disappointed in their respective performances last weekend. Look for a crisp and entertaining football game.
You never want to here players blame a loss on officials, even replacement officials. Especially a player that's suppossed to be a leader, like Ray Lewis. Win the game on the field, and leave no doubt. Don't whine about a bad call. That suggests that perhaps the Ravens defense is down a notch or two this year, which really shouldn't come as a surprise. In this game, the Patriots may actually have the better defense, if we're to judge based on the first two games. That being the case, we'll side with Mr. Brady here and suggest that it will be a big play or two from the Pats defense that ends up being the difference in this one. Also note that Belichick has been money in the bank as a dog, 6-1 his last 7 in that role. Patriots +3 -120 and we'll also lean towards the Under 49.5
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