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The Baltimore Ravens are fighting back.
Just one month ago the defending Super Bowl champions were face down on the mat with the referee, like an undertaking, counting down their demise.
Then they got up, winning four games in a row and surging to an 8-6 record. They currently occupy the second AFC wild card spot, but their work is far from finished.
In order to prove they belong in the playoffs, they must give perennial contender and likely AFC North winners New England their second consecutive loss.
The Patriots, playing without TE Rob Gronkowski, came up short against the Miami Dolphins in a 24-20 loss one week ago. QB Tom Brady will try to prevent them from losses back to back games for the first time this year.
A win in this game would lock up the AFC East for the Patriots. A win for the Ravens would give them a chance to win the AFC North when they travel to face the Cincinnati Bengals the following week.
Baltimore opened as a 1-point favorite at 5Dimes, but the action has moved to 2.5 points at the present time. Despite being favored, if they cover, it will be in true underdog fashion as 68% of the action at sportsbook.com favors New England. Sports bettors must choose between the Patriots 6-8 against the spread record versus the 7-7 against the spread mark of the Ravens.
The total sits at 44.5 points. New England is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games. The total has gone UNDER in 6 of New England's last 9 games on the road. The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Baltimore's last 9 games at home. It appears that Las Vegas bookmakers expect this to be a low scoring defensive struggle.
A key matchup for this game is Baltimore's Overall Scoring vs New England's Overall Defense. The Ravens rank 25th in the NFL at 21.1 PPG and the Patriots are 10th in NFL in overall defense, allowing just 16 PPG. It took a 61-yard FG from Justin Tucker to secure last week's win. Tucker hit six FGs total, but it is going to take touchdowns to escape this match with the Patriots as winners.
For Baltimore to win, they must find a way to be more productive on offense. That could be tough to do as they are playing on short rest after a Monday Night win over Detroit. Both QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice are banged up and did not practice the following day. They are obviously key offensive cogs and their progress should be monitored. As of now, they are expected to play.
For New England to win, they must play better on the road than they have all year long. They run into a team that is 6-1 at home and are 3-4 on the road this season. Their wins are against Buffalo, Atlanta and Houston, teams that have a combined record of 11-31; hardly impressive. All four of their losses came on the road against good teams. They were competitive in all four games, but couldn't find a way to win.
It doesn't get much better than this. A Sunday night game in late December with so much on the line. Our position on this game is similar to the position we tok last week with the Pats down in Miami. This game is so close that we'd be on whichever side we could get +3 with. In this case, with the line at 2.5, we'd have to buy that half point to get the 3 but think it's the right move. If the Pats don't win outright, there's a high probability that this game is decided by 3 points or less. Last year the regular season game was a 31-30 Baltimore win and the Ravens also bounced the Pats out of the playoffs in the AFC title game in Foxboro. We'll call this payback for last season as the Pats come up big here. Patriots +3 -135 - but watch the board. Might be able to do much better on the juice if the Ravens money continues to flow in.
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