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The New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game on Sunday night, a 630 pm est. kick off, in what will be a rematch of last years Title game, a game in which the Ravens should have won. This time around, the Patriots are -8 point favorites at 5 Dimes Sportsbook, down from an opener of -9, with a total of 51.
The betting action at sportsbook.ag has favored the Ravens with 69% of the wagers taken this week coming in on the Baltimore. It's not hard to see why the public is backing the Ravens here. The last 5 times these teams have met, 4 of the games were decided by a TD or less. The last two games were decided by 1 and 3 points with the 3 point game being last years title game. The game that was decided by more than a TD was a playoff game in 2009 which the Ravens won 33-14in Foxboro. That one was over in the first quarter.
Throw in the win in Denver last week and the fact that they get to return to New England for a rematch of a game they felt they should have won a year ago and you can certainly understand why the Ravens would be a hot side this week. Just about every radio and TV talking head can't say enough about the Ravens. Callers are calling into these talk shows and going on and on about how easy this one looks, suggesting that the Ravens are that dreaded 4 letter word......L-O-C-K. Uh oh.
Hey, this may very well be a close one decided late. In fact, we were back and forth on this game ourselves all week. Many of the numbers we like to use point toward this game being decided by less than a TD. But the more we looked at this game and the season each team has had, the more we started leaning towards New England.
The Ravens have been far from impressive this year. This Ravens team is simply no where near as good as Ravens teams of the past. They really had no business winning in Denver last week and their other playoff win was against a Colts team that quite frankly wasn't as good as their record. Take a glance at the Ravens dance card this year, their entire body of work. Nothing that makes you say "wow". They lost to a bad Eagles team, beat the lowly Chiefs by just a field goal, 9-6, got blown out at Houston, lost to the Steelers and Chargers (neither team very good this year) and couldn't beat the Bengals on December 30th in a game they needed, losing 23-17. Oh, and let's not forget the 34-17 loss in Denver a few weeks back.
They beat the Colts and Broncos, combined with the Ray Lewis story and all of a sudden they are this years great story. As the Raven money continues to come in, this line continues to drop. As we write this on Thursday, there is at least one -7.5 on the board. If we can get -7 or better here, we have to strongly consider the Patriots. The Pats have put up some big numbers offensively this year. They've been able to extend margins better than any other team in the NFL this year.
Our model, when using season to date data, has the Patriots on top by a score of 35-23. We're going to side with our model here. The feeling here is simply that the Pats have been the better team from start to finish this year. They lost Gronkowski for the year but still have too many weapons for the Ravens defense to deal with. The Patriots also lead the league in turnover margin at a whopping +25 and their defense is much better than people realize. They rank 7th in the NFL against the run while the Ravens are 20th. The one category, on both sides of the ball that the Ravens rank higher in is Pass defense, but remember, teams are often so far behind the Pats that they have no choice but to throw the ball.
A Patriots win with an exclamation point would be of no surprise here. Again, this Ravens team s no where near as good as past Ravens teams, yet this Patriot team may very well be every bit as good as past Patriot teams. Patriots -7 -125 (but watch the board - you may be able to do better by Sunday)
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