Monday Night Football

Monday Night Football

Game Preview for Patriots vs Ravens

(Sports Network) - Eight days after surviving their biggest scare of the 2007 season to date, the New England Patriots will be the team attempting to instill fear in the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.

The Pats were 31-28 home winners over the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday night, coming from behind to prevail in a game that they were trailing midway through the fourth quarter.

The victory moved Bill Belichick's team, which has already clinched the AFC East title and a playoff berth, one step closer to becoming the first club to post a 16-0 regular season in NFL history.

A win on Monday would make New England just the sixth team to start a season 12-0, joining the 1934 Bears, 1972 Dolphins, 1985 Bears, 1998 Broncos, and 2005 Colts. All of those teams went on to win the NFL title except the '34 Bears, who were tripped up by the Giants in the league championship game, and the '05 Colts, who were upset by eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh in the Divisional Playoff round.

The team trying to shatter the Pats' 16-0 dreams this week is one that has fallen on hard times one year after recording a 13-3 mark and AFC North title.

A franchise-worst five-game losing streak has placed the Ravens at 4-7 and sunk them to the bottom of the AFC North, in addition to all but eliminating the club's postseason chances.

Last Sunday, Baltimore was a 32-14 loser in San Diego, with the Chargers ranking as the first of five division leaders the team will take on its final six games.

After facing New England on Monday, Brian Billick's squad must take on Indianapolis (12/9), Seattle (12/23), and Pittsburgh (12/30), in addition to a road trip to Miami (12/16).

The Ravens need one win over their final five contests to avoid matching their worst mark in franchise history, a 4-12 showing in the club's inaugural season of 1996.

SERIES HISTORY

The Patriots lead the all-time series with the Ravens, 3-0, winning home matchups with Baltimore in 1999 and 2004 and taking a 46-38 road decision at Memorial Stadium in 1996. New England was a 24-3 winner in the most recent matchup, in Week 12 of the '04 campaign. A Baltimore-based NFL team last defeated in New England in the 1983 campaign, when the then-Baltimore Colts swept a home-and-home with the Patriots.

Ravens head coach Billick is 0-2 in his career against the Patriots, while New England's Belichick is 1-0 against both Baltimore and Billick as a head coach. Belichick, who grew up in Annapolis, MD, got his first NFL job as an assistant with the Baltimore Colts in 1975.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL

The New England offensive machine motors on. The Patriots are No. 1 in the NFL in total offense (434.4 yards per game), scoring offense (40.2 points per game), and passing offense (310.2 yards per game), and have committed the fewest turnovers in the league (9). Quarterback Tom Brady leads the NFL in passing yards (3439), touchdown passes (39), and passer rating (127.9), and his top wide receiver, Randy Moss (71 receptions), paces the league in receiving yards (1095) and touchdowns (16). Slot receiver Wes Welker (7 TD) has 81 receptions, just off the NFL lead, and running backs Laurence Maroney (467 rushing yards, 2 TD) and Heath Evans (118 rushing yards, 2 TD) both scored touchdowns on the ground against Philadelphia. New England, which hasn't scored fewer than 24 points in a game this season, must average just 22.8 points over its final five contests to break the NFL single-season record for scoring, set by a 1998 Minnesota Vikings team who counted Billick as their offensive coordinator. All that, and the Pats added one more weapon to the arsenal when they activated Troy Brown (knee) from the Physically-Unable-to- Perform list on Tuesday. The 36-year-old Brown is No. 1 in New England franchise history with 557 catches in 14 seasons.

Though the Ravens boast six former Pro Bowl honorees on defense, a once well- regarded unit has not done much to help the team's cause in 2007. A Baltimore defense that had 60 sacks last year, second-best in the NFL, has 22 this season, tied for 20th in the league. A unit that had 40 takeaways in 2006 (including a league-high 28 interceptions), also second in the league, has just 17 this year, tied for 23rd. Injuries to cornerbacks Chris McAlister (18 tackles, 1 INT) and Samari Rolle (18 tackles, 1 INT) have been a major component in the club's regression, and McAlister could miss his sixth game in the last seven due to a lingering knee problem on Monday. Last week, Baltimore allowed Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to complete 25-of-35 passes for 249 yards with three touchdowns and neither a sack absorbed nor a turnover committed. San Diego scored on six consecutive drives during a stretch of the second and third quarters. The strength of the Baltimore defense this year has been a run-stopping group that has allowed a league-low 2.8 yards per rush thanks in large part to nose tackle Kelly Gregg (51 tackles, 2 sacks) and middle linebacker Ray Lewis (99 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack). The team held LaDainian Tomlinson to 77 yards on 24 carries last Sunday.

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL

A turnover-prone Ravens offense will have to avoid the big mistake against New England. Baltimore has lost a league-high 19 fumbles on the year, and its turnover margin of -11 is worst in the league. Quarterback Kyle Boller (1242 passing yards, 5 TD, 5 INT) has given the team something of a spark since replacing the ineffective Steve McNair, but led just two scoring drives in San Diego last week. If the team can get tight end Todd Heap (23 receptions, 1 TD) back from a hamstring problem this week, it should open things up for a receiving corps led by the steady Derrick Mason (79 receptions, 2 TD). The strength of the Baltimore offense this year has been running back Willis McGahee (910 rushing yards, 33 receptions, 7 TD), who is just 90 yards from becoming the third 1,000-yard rusher in team history, joining Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis.

One of the major storylines on Monday will be the return to Baltimore of New England linebacker Adalius Thomas (49 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT), who made two Pro Bowls as a member of the Ravens between 2000 and 2006 and will be meeting his former team for the first time. Thomas will have to help pick up the slack left by the placement of fellow linebacker and top pass rusher Rosevelt Colvin (27 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 INT) on season-ending injured reserve with an undisclosed injury earlier this week. Second-year pro Pierre Woods (14 tackles) stands to get a great deal of time with the first unit in Colvin's absence. The New England secondary has played well this season, with cornerback Asante Samuel (24 tackles, 6 INT) currently ranking in a tie for the league lead in interceptions along with the Chargers' Antonio Cromartie. Samuel led off the scoring against Philadelphia with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown. New England ranks fifth in the NFL against the run (86.2 yards per game), sixth against the pass (195.4 yards per game), and leads the league in turnover margin (+16).

FANTASY FOCUS

There is no need to worry about matchups when you own Brady, Moss, Welker, tight end Benjamin Watson, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, or the New England defense. If you own them, you start them, end of story. Patriots that have been hit-or-miss such as Maroney and Donte' Stallworth are always capable of a breakout game in this offense. As for Baltimore, there are more fantasy starters than one would expect on such an offense-starved team. Mason and McGahee have been consistent if not spectacular this year, Heap will be a major part of the game plan if healthy, and kicker Matt Stover has piled up a number of four- and five-field goal games over his career. For the first time in a long time, however, you shouldn't get within a country mile of the Ravens defense, which hasn't made many big plays this year and is unlikely to begin doing so against the New England attack.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Patriots' Week 12 near-miss against the Eagles had to elicit mixed emotions from the Ravens. While the fact that a mediocre team using a backup quarterback stayed with New England for four quarters might have provided some hope, it also might have sounded a wake-up call for the Patriots to get off to a quicker start and come out with more focus than they did a week ago. Inasmuch, Baltimore looks to be a team in major trouble on Monday. The defense had fits stopping Philip Rivers, so Tom Brady figures to have a field day. On the other side, Boller and the turnover-prone Baltimore offense can't help to match the Patriots' proficiency. The most decisive home loss in Ravens' history was a 35-8 defeat against Kansas City in 1999, and that mark could be severely challenged on Monday.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Patriots 38, Ravens 7

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What bettors need to know: Patriots at Ravens
COVERS.com 

Ravens ‘D’ strongest against wrong threat

Baltimore’s defense is supposed to be formidable.

It has allowed a fourth-best 291 total yards per game this season. That success, however, doesn’t translate to a more important team stat. The Ravens are leaking 22.1 points per game, a mediocre number that seems to rise every game. Over the last four contests they’ve let opponents pile up an average 31 points.

Now this defense must contain uber-powerful New England. Baltimore is a 20 ½ -point home underdog.

“That’s just like a boxer wanting to go against a champion,” Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said in a press conference this week.

The motivation should be there, but does Ryan’s unit have a chance?

Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss is coming off a rare bad game. Last week, Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown kept Moss to just 43 yards receiving and no touchdowns. Baltimore safety Ed Reed will need to stay deep and do the same Monday. The Ravens’ Pro Bowler has five interceptions this year and certainly boasts the skills to pull it off.

"He's a ballhawk. He covers so much ground back there,” Pats quarterback Tom Brady told the Sun Chronicle on Saturday.

Reed will need a big game if he’s without teammate and cornerback Chris McAlister, who is listed as questionable.

Another area of optimism is Baltimore’s success at stopping teams when its back is against the wall. The club has allowed touchdowns from the red zone just 34 per cent of the time. And Baltimore’s run defense remains stifling, allowing just 77 yards a game.

The Patriots hold the ace however. With so many passing weapons, Brady & Co. can just skip the ground game. Baltimore’s strongest hand may not even factor.

My old stumping grounds

Adalius Thomas was a key component of the Ravens defense for six seasons before signing a lucrative deal with the Pats last offseason. When he enters M&T Bank Stadium he’ll suit up in the visitors locker room for the first time.

The multi-talented defender couldn’t wait until Monday night to start hitting his former teammates. He suggested in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated that the Ravens are more interested in personal honors than team goals.

Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis took exception and called Thomas a “coward” on his radio show.

Thomas could be in store for a strong finish to the season. He’ll assume the outside linebacker role now that Rosevelt Colvin is done for the year. Thomas’ pass-rushing abilities have mostly been underused thus far so this is a great opportunity for Thomas to show why he’s worth all the money.

Fumbling through the season

The good reputation the Ravens built up last year with a +15 turnover ratio is in tatters so far this season. Baltimore’s current turnover ratio (minus-11) is the league’s worst. Its 19 lost fumbles – by far the most of any NFL team – is costing the team wins.

Ravens head coach Brian Billick said turnovers could be especially costly against New England.

"The Patriots certainly don't need a short field to continue to do what they're doing, and that's been our nemesis,” Billick told the Boston Globe.

Billick’s quarterbacks are responsible for many of the gifts. Kyle Boller, expected to start Monday, has tossed five picks and fumbled away the ball three times.
It is his task to beat a New England defense that has 25 takeaways this year. The Patriots own a league-leading plus-16 turnover ratio.

Whatch you talkin’ ‘bout Jaworski?

There’s a reason Tom Brady is highly respected in the New England locker room, and it’s not just because he gets all the hot women. Brady has never said a bad word about any of his teammates. This past week was no exception.

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski accused Pats wideout Randy Moss of taking multiple plays off during Monday night’s near loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

“When I went through the tape, it was the first time that I was personally disappointed in a Randy Moss performance,” Jaworski told reporters. “I did not see the same energy on every single play that I had seen so far this season.”

Brady doesn’t agree.

“I don’t think that’s true at all,” Brady told the Boston Herald. “He’s never taken any plays off. He’s everything we hoped he would be. People have said the most negative things about him, and they continue to bash him. He’s just a very mature man that goes about his business and works extremely hard.”

Sounds like Brady and Moss are best friends forever.

As if the Pats weren’t enough

The Ravens face four first-place teams in the final five weeks of the season. After New England, they host 9-2 Indianapolis. Their last two games of the year are against Seattle and Pittsburgh.

Baltimore’s only relief may be a Dec. 16 visit to Miami to play the Dolphins.

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Another week, another whopping spread for Pats

- Baltimore has lost five straight and get a monster 20 points at home from oddsmakers who don't think they can hang with the Patriots. They gave 30+ to San Diego and Cleveland ? how many will Brady drop on them? New England got a major scare at home against the Eagles, but the Ravens don't have the personnel to attack the Pats in the same way.

Oddsmakers currently have the Patriots listed as 19-point favorites versus the Ravens, while the game's total is sitting at 48.

Laurence Maroney ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter in Week 12 to give the Patriots a 31-28 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Pats didn't come close to covering the 24.5-point spread in that contest, while the combined score went OVER the posted total (51.5).

Willis McGahee ran for 59 yards and a score in Baltimore's 32-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers in Week 12.

The Chargers had no trouble covering the 8.5-point spread at home in that contest, while the combined score went OVER the posted total (38.5).

Current streak:
New England has won 11 straight games.
Baltimore has lost 5 straight games.

Team records:
New England: 11-0 SU, 9-2 ATS
Baltimore: 4-7 SU, 1-10 ATS

New England most recently:
When playing in December are 9-1
When playing on turf are 10-0
After outgaining opponent are 10-0
When playing outside the division are 9-1

Baltimore most recently:
When playing in December are 7-3
When playing on turf are 5-5
After being outgained are 4-6
When playing outside the division are 7-3

A few trends to consider:
New England is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
New England is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 6 of New England's last 7 games
New England is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Baltimore's last 6 games when playing New England
Baltimore is 14-4 SU in its last 18 games at home
Baltimore is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games when playing at home against New England
Baltimore is 1-3-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing New England

Next up:
New England home to Pittsburgh, Sunday, December 9
Baltimore home to Indianapolis, Sunday, December 9

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Monday Night Football Preview

The visiting New England Patriots will be looking to run their winning streak to a dozen games Monday when they head to M&T Bank Stadium to take on the Baltimore Ravens.

Tom Brady and company were almost tagged with their first loss of the season last week when they had to come back to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles by a final score of 31-28 at home. New England was up just 24-21 at halftime in that contest, went down by four points in the third quarter, then rallied for the victory with a TD in the final frame.

Brady went 34-of-54 for 380 yards passing in that game, with just one touchdown strike and no interceptions. Randy Moss was held to just five catches for 43 yards on the day, while Wes Welker led the receiving corps with 13 catches for 149 yards. Laurence Maroney rushed for only 31 yards on 10 carries, but he did score the fourth-quarter TD.

New England had been favored by 24 points at home against the Eagles, and obviously they didn't come close to covering that spread. The Patriots are now 9-2 against-the-spread on the season, but they've failed to cover in two of their past three games. The 31-28 result was an OVER play, and high-scoring New England is now 9-2 on the OVER/UNDER through 11 games this year, putting up 30 or more points in 10 contests.

The Ravens lost 32-14 on the road to the San Diego Chargers last weekend, which put their losing streak at five games and dropped them into the basement of the AFC North division. The Chargers scored 22 points in the second quarter of that contest, and cruised from there to the easy win. Baltimore managed just one touchdown each half.

Baltimore QB Kyle Boller completed 21-of-33 pass attempts for 191 yards against San Diego, with one touchdown strike and no interceptions. Le'Ron McClain had the TD catch for the Ravens in the third quarter, while Derrick Mason had seven catches for 99 yards on the day. Willis McGahee rushed for 59 yards and a score on his 17 attempts.

That loss put Baltimore at 4-7 straight-up on the season, and a miserable 1-10 against-the-spread. The only time the Ravens have covered this year was when they beat the St. Louis Rams 22-3 as 9-point favorites back on October 14. The 46 points put last weekend's combined score OVER the posted total of 38.5 points; Baltimore is now 6-4-1 on the OVER/UNDER so far this year, with three OVER plays in their last four games.

The oddsmakers haven't put too much stock into the Patriots' near-miss last weekend - they're still favored by a huge 20-point margin on the road on Monday night. The OVER/UNDER for the game has been pegged at 49 points. New England is 5-1 against-the-spread on the road this season, and Baltimore is 1-4 ATS on their own field.

The last time the Patriots and the Ravens met in regular-season action was on November 28, 2004, when New England rolled to a 24-3 home victory. The Pats covered the 7-point spread in that contest, while the combined score fell UNDER the posted total of 34.5 points. In their last meeting in Baltimore in October of 1996 the Patriots came away with a 46-38 victory as 3-point favorites; that contest was an OVER.

Here are the official injury reports for both New England and Baltimore for Monday . . .

New England Injuries
Tom Brady QB Probable Week 13 (right shoulder)

Baltimore Injuries
Steve McNair QB Out Week 13 (left shoulder)
Demetrius Williams WR Out Week 13 (ankle)
Todd Heap TE Questionable Week 13 (thigh)
Chris McAlister CB Questionable Week 13 (knee)
Gerome Sapp S Questionable Week 13 (thigh)
Justin Bannan DT Probable Week 13 (ankle)
Jared Gaither T Probable Week 13 (illness)
Jarret Johnson LB Probable Week 13 (thumb)
Willis McGahee RB Probable Week 13 (ankle)
Gary Stills LB Probable Week 13 (knee)
Daniel Wilcox TE Probable Week 13 (foot)

After playing in Baltimore on Monday night the Patriots will head back home to host the Steelers in Week 14. The Ravens will be getting a visit from Indianapolis next weekend.

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Belicick, Patriots focus on business against underdog Ravens
ASSOCIATED PRESS

BALTIMORE -- When Bill Belichick visits Baltimore, it's usually to see old friends or watch a sporting event that has little to do with his job as head coach of the New England Patriots.

Belichick, who was raised in nearby Annapolis, is more fond of old Memorial Stadium than the current home of the Baltimore Ravens.

''Memorial Stadium will always hold a special place for me because that's where I started,'' Belichick said. ''Going up there to 33rd Street to watch the Orioles and the Colts play, when you grow up, you kind of get weaned onto those two sports. That sticks with you (for) a lifetime, and it always will with me.''

Belichick played lacrosse in high school, and had a seat in the Ravens' home earlier this year for the NCAA Lacrosse championship.

''I haven't had an opportunity to come there for any football games,'' he said.

That will change Monday night, when Belichick brings his unbeaten Patriots (11-0) to town to face the Ravens (4-7).

''It will be good to come back, but, on the other hand, it's really a business trip,'' he said. ''We're really coming down there for one reason, and that's to try to play our best against the Ravens. That will be a handful. We know that.''

The oddsmakers don't think so. The Patriots are a 19-point favorite, making Baltimore the largest home underdog in history for a game not involving replacement players.

''We could have been 100-point underdogs. It doesn't matter to me,'' Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said. ''I know a lot of people figure we should just pack it up and not go out there and play. But we're a football team just like they're a football team. I feel that if we go out there and do what we need to do and don't turn the ball over, then we have a good shot of winning this game.''

The Patriots are averaging more than 40 points a game and have been accused of running up the score, but beating Baltimore by three touchdowns is not a priority. After squeezing past depleted Philadelphia 31-28 at home last week, New England would be content to beat the Ravens by any margin.

''The goal is to win. That's what we approach every week as and, whether you win by 30 or you win by three, you're trying to win the game,'' Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. ''Everyone was happy we won this last game and it's really going to be a challenge for us to get to 12-0.''

Many of the Ravens consider this to be their Super Bowl, because unlike New England, they have no shot at playing in the real thing.

''We have a great opportunity to play the best team in the NFL,'' Baltimore quarterback Kyle Boller said. ''If you can't get fired up for that and get ready for that, I don't know what's going to get you going.''

It's been a miserable season for the Ravens, who expected to be playing in January after coming off a 13-3 season in 2006. Baltimore got off to a 4-2 start, but a franchise-record five straight defeats have left the Ravens with little to play for except ruining New England's bid to become the first team to go unbeaten since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Baltimore linebacker Bart Scott has never played in the Super Bowl, but he knows enough to realize this game isn't it.

''If I was getting a ring, I would approach it like that,'' he said. ''I'm looking at it as an opportunity to get a win and not feel (lousy) on Monday or Tuesday morning.''

The Patriots' chances of running the table has been a hot topic around the league, but Belichick won't let it become a distraction to a team with one overlying goal: another NFL championship. Beating Baltimore will move the Patriots closer to that objective.

''Our focus is the Ravens,'' Belichick insisted. ''Whatever anybody else wants to focus on, or talk about, we don't really have any control over that.''

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Patriots at Ravens
VegasInsider.com

The Week 13 Monday Night Football matchup between New England and Baltimore isn’t quite A Tale of Two Cities, but it’s close. This is the best of times for the Patriots who remain undefeated, and are seriously threatening to join the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ unblemished run through the season.

Baltimore entered this season expected to be serious contenders for the AFC North crown, but the team is tied for last place while going 0-5 inside the division. The Ravens are also searching for their first victory since mid-October, but continue to struggle behind a turnover-prone offense.

“Baltimore has talent, but the team has repeatedly shot itself in the foot with turnovers all season,” stated VegasInsider.com handicapper Scott Pritchard who specializes in NFL totals. “The Ravens are conservative in their play calling, but their defense remains extremely tough even though the offense continues to struggle.”

Caesars Palace installed New England as a decided 20 ½-point road favorite over Baltimore, with the total set at 51 1/2. The total has remained constant throughout the week, while the line opened at 20. ESPN will provide coverage of Monday Night Football beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.

New England (11-0 straight up, 9-2 against the spread) slipped past Philadelphia last weekend as a huge 25-point home ‘chalk,’ 31-28, marking the second time the past three games that the Patriots failed to cover. The combined 59 points eclipsed the 51-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 9-2.

“New England was undervalued at the beginning of the season, but I think the lines have finally caught up with the team,” said Pritchard. “It’s hard to consistently cover a couple-touchdown spread each week.”

Quarterback Tom Brady completed 34-of-54 passes for 380 yards with a touchdown, while the ground game mustered just 48 yards on 16 carries. Wideout Wes Welker enjoyed his best game by catching 13 passes for 149 yards.

New England finished the contest with advantages over the Eagles in first downs (25-22), passing yards (362-336), turnovers forced (3-0) and time of possession (32:11-27:49). The Patriots were in serious danger of dropping their first game of the year before scoring the deciding touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

Baltimore (4-7 SU, 1-10 ATS) is currently mired in a five-game SU and ATS losing skid after being roughed up by San Diego last weekend as a nine-point road underdog, 32-14. The combined 46 points toppled the 38 ½-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 3-1 the past four outings.

Quarterback Kyle Boller was 21-of-33 passing for 191 yards with a touchdown, while running back Willis McGahee had 17 carries for 59 yards and a score. Wideout Derrick Mason enjoyed a solid effort in the setback with seven catches for 99 yards.

The Ravens finished the contest by trailing the Chargers in rushing yards (83-56), passing yards (249-154), turnovers forced (2-0) and time of possession (31:55-28:05). Baltimore was buried in this contest after surrendering 22 points in the second quarter.

The Patriots dumped the Ravens during the last encounter back in 2004 as a seven-point home favorite, 24-3. The combined 27 points failed to topple the 34-point closing total.

“This game will be between New England’s offense against Baltimore’s defense,” noted Pritchard. “The Ravens defense is forced to spend too much time on the field because of the lack of execution from the offense.

“The Patriots will post some points in the long term, especially if they are playing on a short field. I have a strong opinion on the total for this contest.”

New England defensive end Jarvis Green (ankle) and cornerback Randall Gay (back) are ‘questionable’ versus the Ravens, while wide receiver Troy Brown (knee) has been activated to play.

Baltimore quarterback Steve McNair is expected to miss this matchup with a shoulder injury, while tight end Todd Heap (hamstring), wide receiver Demetrius Williams (ankle), cornerback Chris McAlister (knee), linebacker Jarret Johnson (thumb) and free safety Gerome Sapp (thigh) are ‘questionable.’

New England follows this contest with a three-game homestand against Pittsburgh, the New York Jets and Miami. Baltimore hosts Indianapolis next weekend before traveling to Miami and Seattle.

Monday’s forecast for Baltimore, Maryland calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 49 degrees and a low of 35, with winds expected to be 15-25 miles per hour.

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New England (11-0 SU, 9-2 ATS) at Baltimore (4-7 SU, 1-10 ATS)

The undefeated Patriots take their pursuit of a perfect season to Baltimore for a nationally televised game against the struggling Ravens.

New England survived its closest game of the season last week, beating the Eagles 31-28, but failed to cover as an unprecedented 24-point favorite. The Patriots remained perfect thanks to a late fourth-quarter interception in the end zone by safety Asante Samuel.

After covering their first eight games of the season, the Patriots are just 1-2 ATS in their last three. New England has far-and-away the top ranked offense in the NFL, and it’s led by QB Tom Brady, who has a league-leading 3,439 yards, 39 TDs and 127.9 passer rating.

Baltimore has dropped five in a row SU and ATS, and has rarely been competitive during the skid. Last week the Ravens fell 32-14 in San Diego as nine-point underdogs. Two of the losses during this losing streak have come at home, including two weeks ago when Cleveland came into Baltimore and won 33-30 in overtime as a 1½-point underdog.

New England has won the last four meetings between these two (3-1 ATS) dating back to 1995. In each of the last two clashes, the Patriots’ defense held the Ravens to a single field goal, winning 20-3 in 2000 and a 24-3 in 2004.

The Ravens haven’t cashed in their last nine tries against AFC teams, and they are just 1-11 ATS in their last 12 overall. On the bright side, Baltimore is 3-1 SU and ATS all-time at home on Monday Night Football.

The Patriots show no mercy against bad teams, going 25-8 ATS in their last 33 against squads with a losing record. They’re also 8-2 ATS in their last 10 road games and 4-0 in prime-time games this year (3-1 ATS). However, they’re just 7-13 SU all-time in Monday night road games (10-10 ATS), and tonight they’re the biggest road favorite in Monday night history.

The over is 14-3 in New England’s last 17 overall and 11-3 in its last 14 against AFC foes, and the Ravens have topped the total in their last two. On the flip side, the under has been the play five of the last six times these two teams have met since 1994.   

ATS ADVANTAGE: NEW ENGLAND

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Ravens' Heap, McAlister are to be game-time decisions

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens will probably have to wait until the last minute before they'll know if cornerback Chris McAlister and tight end Todd Heap are going to play Monday night against the New England Patriots.

McAlister and Heap were held out of practice for the second consecutive day with knee and hamstring injuries, respectively.

At least McAlister, who has missed four of the past five games, was at practice Saturday morning even if he was dressed in sweats. Heap wasn't present, hinting strongly that it's nearly a lock that Quinn Sypniewski will start at tight end against the Patriots' third-ranked defense.

"Yep," Ravens coach Brian Billick replied when asked if Heap and McAlister are expected to be game-time decisions. "We're going to have to wait and see how they progress."

Meanwhile, cornerback Samari Rolle, who has had several bouts with epilepsy this season, was wearing sweats instead of the normal practice garb.

It's believed he was just being rested, though.

Wide receiver Derrick Mason returned to practice after missing Friday's workout for undisclosed reasons. Mason wasn't listed on the official injury report.

"No, he was fine," Billick said. "He made it through the day okay."

'ED BELICHICK'?: Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been acting as if he wants to adopt Ravens safety Ed Reed, praising him nonstop all week.

“Ed Reed is an awesome football player,” Belichick said. “To me, he’s one of the best football players in the league. He’s really, really good, as good as anybody I’ve ever seen.”

Belichick coached Reed at the Pro Bowl and came away singularly impressed with the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year's intellect, instincts and range.

So much so that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady joked that Belichick wants to adopt Reed.

“It’s going to be Ed Belichick,” Brady said.

A New England asked Belichick whether he planned to kidnap Reed on the Patriots' charter flight early Tuesday morning.

“I think Tom’s stretching it a little bit there,” Belichick said. “We can’t do that. We can’t do that.”

SIDELINED: Offensive tackle Adam Terry's ankle is getting better, but he's still not going to start on the right side over rookie Marshal Yanda.

Yanda replaced Terry in the starting lineup during last week's 32-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers and is now listed atop the depth chart.

"I'm moving around better and I'm ready to spell Marshal," Terry said. "I'll do whatever the team needs and stay ready. Marshal did a great job out there last week."

NOT YET: Offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel has been linked to several vacancies, including the Georgia Tech and SMU jobs along with heavy speculation about the UCLA post currently held by embattled Bruins coach Karl Dorrell.

However, Neuheisel said Saturday that all contact has been back-channel with no interviews currently scheduled. He acknowledged that his name has been thrown around considerably more than in past years, but emphasized that it's early in the hiring process.

NOT SCARED: Hard-hitting Patriots safety Rodney Harrison carries a reputation as an enforcer as one of the most heavily fined defenders in league history.

His intimidation tactics apparently don't bother Mason, who could be put in harm's way if quarterback Kyle Boller hangs his passes up in the air too long.

"I don't worry about it," Mason said. "The guy is a very, very good player. I've played against him six or seven times and I've never been intimidated going across the middle. Am I intimidated by him? No. Is he a very good player? Yes.

"You just got to be aware of what's going on. I've got enough faith and the other receivers have got enough faith in Kyle that he's going to put the ball on us so we're able to make a move and not take that vicious hit."

BALL-CONTROL: With 910 rushing yards to rank third in the NFL, running back Willis McGahee is on pace or a career-high 1,324 yards. He has scored a touchdown in each of the past six games.

"I'm going to try to make some noise," McGahee said. "I want to be the spark to get us going."

McGahee could play a pivotal role for the defense if his ability play ball-control keeps Brady and Co. off the field.

"When they get a good rest, they go out there and perform to their abilities," he said. "When we keep them on the field, it tends to get weakened. It doesn’t break, but it gets weak."

HONORING TAYLOR: The Ravens plan to wear No. 21 patches on their helmets to honor the memory of slain Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor.

"I left that up to them," Billick said.

QUICK HITS: With 442 points scored for a 40.2 average per game, the undefeated Patriots could break the 1998 Minnesota Vikings' NFL single-season scoring record of 556 points. Billick was the Vikings' offensive coordinator that year prior to landing the Baltimore job. "I think we had a tremendous broad base of talent in that '98 Vikings team," Billick said. "Randall Cunningham did a very good job. This team is very well-structured. Tom Brady, taking nothing away from Randall, he had a magnificent year, but you'd have to show me the film of a quarterback that played better in a given year than Tom Brady is playing right now." ... Linebacker Bart Scott said he was in a bad mood Thursday and wasn't doing an imitation of Belichick wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He's trying to avoid being in an even worse mood following the game.. When asked if he viewed Monday night as the Ravens' Super Bowl, Scott responded: "If I was getting a ring, I would approach it like that. I'm looking at it as an opportunity to get a win and not feel crappy Monday or Tuesday morning."

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