|NFL Football Week 13: Patriots at Ravens Preview, Matchup, Picks & Odds|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Sunday, 02 December 2007 15:30|
No Plans to Slow Down
The 11-0 Patriots continue their quest for the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history when they travel to Baltimore Monday night to play a Ravens team mired in a five-game losing streak.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made New England –20.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Monday's game, the over/under has been set at 51 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 75% of bets for this game have been placed on New England –20.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
"Records don't mean anything," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "The only thing that matters on Monday night is how well they play and how well we play."
New England - already the AFC East champion - is a 20 1/2-point favorite on the road, but the spread was even bigger last week when the Patriots hosted Philadelphia. The Eagles gave them all they could handle, even threatening to take a late lead before Asante Samuel's interception in the end zone helped seal a 31-28 win.
It was the first time a team other than Super Bowl champion Indianapolis gave New England a fight all season, and it may have changed the way the Patriots are viewed around the league.
"We know that this is the National Football League and it's a copycat league and a lot of things that Philly did good this past week, a lot of teams will dissect that and try to come up with their own scheme," defensive end Ty Warren said.
The Eagles managed to pressure quarterback Tom Brady and lock down receiver Randy Moss, sacking Brady three times and holding Moss to a season-low 43 yards receiving. That was a tough task in a season where Brady has been sacked just 13 times and Moss has caught 71 passes for 1,095 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Last year, the Ravens (4-7) might have been the most likely defense to hold down the Patriots. But while it still has the fourth-ranked unit in football, allowing 291.4 yards per game, Baltimore is giving up 22.1 points - tied for 17th in the NFL. The Ravens have allowed 28.6 points during their losing streak, which is the longest in franchise history.
One possible factor has been the loss of linebacker Adalius Thomas, who signed with New England as a free agent in the offseason and will return to M&T Bank Stadium for the first time Monday. Thomas was third on the Ravens in tackles (106) and second in sacks (11) last season.
He'll be an even more important member of the Patriots' linebacking corps for the rest of the year after Rosevelt Colvin went down for the season with what appeared to be an arm injury against Philadelphia, though it was reported as a foot injury. Colvin's absence will likely also lead to heavier workloads for 38-year-old Junior Seau and 34-year-old Tedy Bruschi.
New England's defense struggled at times against the Eagles, allowing a season-high 391 yards, including 336 through the air.
"You guys expect that if it's not a blowout or anything like that there's something wrong," Thomas said. "You have good teams in this league. Philadelphia's a good team. And so there's going to be more games like that."
Baltimore has not been a good team in recent weeks. The Ravens started 4-2, but have slid out of playoff contention. The offensive line has failed to protect quarterback Kyle Boller the last two weeks, and Boller has taken 10 sacks while compiling a 74.7 passer rating. The running game has also scuffled, failing to gain 70 yards in three of the past four games, including a 56-yard effort in a 32-14 loss to San Diego last week.
"The sad part is Monday night is probably our Super Bowl, and it's the 12th game of the season," cornerback Samari Rolle said.
The Ravens have struggled with injuries, with quarterback Steve McNair (shoulder) still out and cornerback Chris McAlister (knee) missing his fourth game last week. Tight end Todd Heap has missed five of the last seven games with a bad hamstring, and linebacker Jarret Johnson suffered both a concussion and a broken thumb last week.
Another problem for Baltimore has been turnovers. The Ravens are second in the NFL with 28 giveaways, and have a minus-11 turnover differential.
Their defense has just four takeaways in the last five games, and the Patriots have a league-low nine turnovers.
The top-ranked New England offense is looking to rebound from arguably its worst game of the season. It was the first time Brady didn't have at least three touchdown passes (he had one) and the second time Moss was held out of the end zone. With Moss covered, Wes Welker had career highs in receptions (13) and yards (149).
This week, the Patriots activated veteran receiver Troy Brown, though it remains to be seen how big a role he'll have.
Against Philadelphia, the offense also matched its lowest point total of the season with 24, but was aided by an interception return for a touchdown by Samuel. New England was also held to a season-low 48 yards rushing.
"The goal is to win the game and we did that," Brady said. "I wish we could have played better. I wish everybody could have played better. We won so we can be happy."
Brady, who had season lows in completion percentage (63.0) and passer rating (90.0), still threw for 380 yards and his 39th touchdown pass. He's on pace to break Peyton Manning's single-season record of 49 TD throws.
He was just 15-of-30 for 172 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions the only time he's faced the Ravens, a 24-3 home win for New England on Nov. 28, 2004. Boller was even worse in that game, going 15-of-35 for 93 yards and an interception.
These teams have played three times since the Cleveland Browns fired Belichick and moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens for the 1996 season, with the Patriots winning all three. The Ravens have scored a combined six points in the last two meetings.
This is Baltimore's third Monday night game of the season and the Patriots' third consecutive night game.
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