The Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots are set to square off in NFL playoff betting action this week at Gillette Stadium. But before you make your NFL picks for the big game on Sunday, check out some of the great NFL betting trends that we have for the duel!
Baltimore Ravens Notes: It wasn’t the prettiest game in the world for the Ravens, but they found a way to get out of their first playoff game when they beat the Houston Texans 20-13. The offense didn’t play all that well, but it proved to be opportunistic, turning three Houston first quarter turnovers into 17 points. Head Coach John Harbaugh is going to be challenging his men to do more offensively in this game. RB Ray Rice just never really got going in the entire game, and the team only scored a field goal in the final three quarters of the game. Included in there was a goal line stand in which the team was stood up at the one-yard line and the fact that the squad couldn’t convert a first down from 2nd and 1 with less than two minutes to play in the game. Still, this is a tough, tough team, and it is that toughness that is going to end up being the reason that the Ravens win if they do get the job done in Foxboro.
QB Joe Flacco just has to be better than he was against the Texans. Granted, this time around, he is going to be playing against secondary that is shoddy and not ranked in the Top 5 in the game like Houston’s secondary, but still, he hasn’t exactly always had the prettiest numbers in the second season. Flacco is the first quarterback in NFL history to start in a playoff game in his first four seasons in the league, but going 14-of-27 for 176 yards as he did against the Texans won’t cut it against the greatness of QB Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Most of the notable injuries coming into last week’s game were put aside. WR Anquan Boldin’s foot seems to be totally healthy once again, while all of DB Jimmy Smith, LB Jameel McClain, and S Tom Zbikowski were in the lineup, and all of them had their impact on the game against the Texans. The question mark from last week’s game is S Ed Reed. Reed played a huge game, picking off the pass that should have sealed the game and having a hand in on the one that did effectively end it. That being said, from that last game, he had to be carried off of the field, and if his ankle turns out to be a huge problem going forward, it could be a huge loss for one of the nastiest defenses in the league and make life that much easier for the Brady Bunch.
New England Patriots Notes: If there was any thought that the Patriots were in some sort of trouble in their first playoff game this year, that doubt was squashed on the opening drive of the AFC Divisional playoff game when they marched down the field and scored a TD to start the romp of the Baltimore Ravens. It was a game in which there were 35 points on the board at halftime, and New England just never looked back. Now, it is a heavily favored side to win the AFC at home, and the expectations are as high for this team as they have ever been. We have to remember though, that this has been an easy, easy road this year. The only two truly legitimate teams that the Pats faced this year were the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers (before all of their injuries), and they were beaten by both teams, so don’t think that Head Coach Bill Belichick isn’t reminding his team of that fact. In fact, if you want to go backwards to last season, the Patriots have lost three straight and failed to cover four straight against teams that finished off the season above .500. The team that it beat was the Green Bay Packers, and though the Pack did go on to win the Super Bowl, that particular week, they were playing with QB Matt Flynn, not QB Aaron Rodgers.
The men of the hour, as usual, in the win last week were QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski. “Gronk” became the first tight end in the history of the NFL to catch three TD passes in a half or in a playoff game, while Brady set the record for the most TD passes in a half in the playoffs (5) and in a full game (6). Brady went 26-of-34 against an overmatched Denver defense for 363 yards, while Gronkowski finished the day with 145 yards on 10 receptions. Add in as well, the fact that TE Aaron Hernandez had 61 yards rushing and 55 more as a receiver, including a TD as well, while WRs Deion Branch and Wes Welker both found the end zone as well.
It definitely wasn’t a week without some injuries for the Pats, though. They lost Hernandez to a concussion in the fourth quarter, and if he doesn’t pass the NFL mandated tests over the course of this week, he won’t be in the fold, which would be a huge, huge loss. DE Mark Anderson hurt his leg, while OL Sebastian Vollmer sat out for a seventh straight week with a back injury. All of these players are considered questionable at the start of the week for the Patriots, and they are injuries to continue to watch as the week wears on.
Head To Head: These two teams have met seven times since 1995, and the Ravens only have one victory and two covers. That being said, the one victory they had came right here at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs two seasons ago. Don’t think for one second that Baltimore can’t get the job done again even though it is a huge underdog in this game.
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.