Oh boy. You know what’s coming. You know the faces. You know the storylines. And you better freakin’ remember what happened last time these two teams squared off.
Just epic. Another chapter in this, honestly, brilliant rivalry. There’s just no love lost. T-sizzle still won’t say Tom Brady’s name. You can bet your last dollar John Harbaugh heeded Tommy’s advice to “study the rules” for this one. Flacco. Steve Smith. If there’s a team that can come to Foxboro and punch the Pats square in the mouth, it’s the Ravens. And this weekend night, Belichick, Brady, and co. better be ready to punch back.
Ravens. Pats. Monday night. What more can you ask for?
You just have to love it.
Let’s take it around the table and see what the BBS Staff thinks of this massive AFC division leaders showdown…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 310 yards passing?
Niko: Although the last time these squads played was over a year and a half ago, as mentioned above, many of the same faces/principles/strengths and weaknesses remain. Brady attempted 50 throws in that one, and the Pats as a team threw for 408 (Brady’s 367, plus Edelman’s 51!). This should be a spread ‘em out game. OVER here for #12.
Pete: The Ravens feature one of the best rushing defenses in the entire league. If the Patriots are smart, they will spread it out, toss Brady in shotgun, and let him go to work. If we see a steady dose of LeGarrette Blount, James White, and Dion Lewis running the ball, I think the Patriots will be in some serious trouble. The good news is Tom Brady came off the injury report this week and looks to be fully healed from that nasty hit from Kam Chancellor in their huge showdown with Seattle. For the Patriots' sake, I hope OVER.
Jordan: Considering the fact that Baltimore's run defense has been really good thus far, you would have to think this game is in the hands of Tom Brady. I could see Brady having a really good game, considering he's finally back at 100%. OVER for the winningest QB in NFL history.
LeGarrette Blount: Over/Under 67 yards rushing?
Niko: See my Brady bit above. In that same game, Brandon Bolden led the team with 7 rushing yards. LGB had 1 yard on 3 carries. UNDER here for the big man, although it certainly won’t be that drastic.
Pete: UNDER. Look at my take on Brady above. LeGarrette Blount is a fine running back for the Patriots and fits this system almost perfectly. He isn't all that elusive or dynamic, but he runs hard and can move a pile. He doesn't demand a bunch of carries, but when he gets the rock he can usually move the sticks. In this game, however, there is no reason for him to get 20-30 carries, unless the Patriots are up BIG in the fourth quarter.
Jordan: UNDER. Like I said before, Brady is going to be heavily relied upon to lead the charge on Monday Night. I could see Blount coming close to the 67, but he won't go over unless this is a surprise blowout.
James White: Over/Under 44.5 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: James had 7 touches (3 runs, 4 receptions) last Sunday, but failed to break one long, only managing 35 yards on the day. With Lewis now in the fold, White’s days as the only 3rd down back are numbered. We could see him split out wide more often than usual without Amendola. Someone needs to step up behind Edelman, Hogan, and Mitchell. White will be involved, but may fall just short of this prop on Monday. UNDER.
Pete: For some reason, I think the Patriots are going to get funky and try to confuse the Ravens in the passing game. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the Patriots spread out their three running backs and run some weird play. I think James White will be on the receiving end one of these big plays. OVER.
Jordan: UNDER. Dion Lewis has become the go-to check-down guy for TB12. Unfortunately for James White, because he was having a great season before Dion came back. You could expect him to be involved, but not much.
Dion Lewis: Over/Under 44.5 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: As alluded to with White, I expect McDaniels to get even more creative with his receiving backs moving forward for the rest of the season. Dion is a bigger threat to run than James however, which gives him the higher chance of hitting this mark. OVER.
Pete: UNDER. While I respect Niko's opinion (not really, though), I think the exact opposite is going to happen. i think we are going to see Dion Lewis stay in a more conservative role until the playoffs, then Belichick is really going to let him loose. In the meantime, James White will be the featured back, especially in the run game.
Jordan: Barely OVER. It's apparent that Dion is back as Brady's scapegoat, so the touches will definitely be there for the back. However, the front seven of Baltimore is just too good to allow a massive game to Dion Lewis. All depends on the tackling, though, because Lewis is a tough guy to bring down.
Julian Edelman: Over/Under 7.5 receptions, 72 receiving yards?
Niko: Jules has had no fewer than 8 targets since week 4, and that won’t change this weekend, especially with the additional absence of #80. OVER on both these marks for #11, who will most likely be force-fed early and often.
Pete: Danny Amendola's absence really hurts this team, but its not for the reasons one may think. Amendola hasn't had any monster games for the Patriots in awhile, but he is one of the most dependent players out on the football field. Need a huge first down? Toss to DA. In the meantime, you have to with Edelman is going to get even more looks, right? Couple that with the absence of Gronk, and Jules could be in for a huge rest of the season. OVER.
Jordan: OVER on both. Edelman has been slowly turning back into Brady's number 1 guy. And by number 1, I mean seeing the number of throws that you'd expect a number one to get. It would be hard to see Jules not having a big game, without Gronk or Dola.
Martellus Bennett: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 49 yards receiving?
Niko: Marty’s last three weeks combined are as follows: 6 receptions on 11 targets for 40 yards. Whether it’s game plan, injury, a combination of both, or something entirely different, statistic brilliance has been hard to come by for Bennett over the last month. I’ll go OVER on receptions, but UNDER on yards.
Pete: UNDER. Until we see a healthy Bennett, it is hard to bet with him or put him in your starting lineup on your fantasy team. But honestly, I don't even care. The biggest issue for the Patriots is getting everyone healthy for the playoffs, Bennett included. If the Patriots want to make a deep run and perhaps contend for Super Bowl 51, Bennett has to get healthy.
Jordan: OVER/UNDER. Bennett has been anything but reliable these past few weeks. I'm not going to complain too much. For starters, he's nursing an injury, and 2, it hasn't cost the Patriots any games yet. But until he's 100%, I don't expect him to have a big game.
Who has more yards: Mitchell or Hogan?
Niko: It’s tough to go against Mitchell based on his superb production over the last few weeks, but I’m going to roll with Hoges. Mitch more catches, Hoges hits a big one!
Pete: Malcolm Mitchell has turned into one of Brady's most reliable options. The rookie out of Georgia had a quiet start of the season but has really turned it on as of late and is making the loss of Amendola and Gronk a little easier. I will see Mitchell has the big game again. Side note, but has anyone ever noticed Chris Hogan's eyes? Those things are terrifying. Would not surprise me in the least if he is secretly a murderer, Friday The 13th style.
Jordan: Remember the last guy that wore number 19 for the Pats? His name is Brandon Lafell. If you remember correctly, Lafell was a very reliable target for TB12 throughout the season, and caught some very tough throws from Brady. Mitchell, newest number 19, is becoming that same type of player. So for that, I see Mitchell getting the number of targets that will give him ample opportunities to make something happen with his legs.
Joe Flacco: Over/Under 275 yards passing?
Niko: I expect the Patriot secondary to rise to the occasion. Get some pressure on Flacco, force him to make tight throws and sustain long drives. We’ll see if he can. He’ll be right around this mark, but I’m rolling with UNDER.
Pete: OVER, but just barely. I don't think Flacco is going to be able to throw for over 300 yards, but that is mainly due to the fact that he has ZERO weapons. Flacco with throw a couple rainbows, but if the Patriots are smart, they will make Flacco go to his more uncomfortable left side down the field.
Jordan: OVER. Flacco seems to have really good success against the Pats. Flashback to the 2014 playoffs, he was fantastic against the Pats at Gillette. However, this team isn't as good as they were in 2014. OVER, but not by much.
Terrance West: Over/Under 49 yards rushing?
Niko: The “starting” running back by name for the Ravens, but it’s really beginning to become more of a 50/50 timeshare. Dixon, the 5’10 215 4th round rookie out of LSU has come back from injury and cut into West’s work. I’ll go just UNDER here for T-West.
Pete: UNDER. Like Niko mentioned above, West has had his production cut because of the emergence of Kenneth Dixon, whom I have been infatuated with since he entered the league. I actually wrote a piece about the Pats drafting Dixon out of college. Oh well.
Jordan: UNDER. The Patriots run D has been fantastic of late, thanks to Malcolm Brown and Alan Branch, and Terrence West's numbers have gone down due to Kenneth Dixon's emergence.
Kenneth Dixon: Over/Under 49 yards rushing?
Niko: See the above bit on Terrance West. Dixon has run better than his complement of late. Just OVER for the rook.
Pete: OVER. I think the Ravens will try to have a balanced approach on offense, which means a steady dose of the run game. The Pats have been pretty stout against the run this season, so this may even work to New England's benefit.
Jordan: Barely OVER here. For the reasons I mentioned above, the Pats run defense has just been too good lately to allow a massive ground game, especially to a backup. However, I think Dixon will be more of the primary this week.
Mike Wallace: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 72 receiving yards?
Niko: UNDER on both for Wallace. Belichick’s motto on defense: “Get the F back.” The rare time a Patriots D gets gashed for a long one, it’s because of a PI call. Expect safety (McCourty) help over the top.
Pete: OVER on receptions, UNDER on yards. The Patriots truthfully allow dink-and-dunk passes all day. They will wait for you to shoot yourself in the foot and, get ready for it, play bend-but-don't-break defense. I expect a lot more of that today.
Jordan: UNDER/OVER. Simply put, Mike Wallace is fast as hell... and Logan Ryan is at a disadvantage in that regard. Combine those two, you've got Mike Wallace making a huge play.
Steve Smith Sr.: Over/Under 5.5 receptions, 59 receiving yards?
Niko: OVER on both. I do think Butler gets the assignment, but you’d be a fool to go against this guy in a big game. We’ve seen it time and time before. He flustered Talib. He got the best of Revis. This dude can ball.
Pete: OVER on both. Steve Smith vs. Malcolm Butler. What a battle that is going to be. Butler isn't going to be made a fool of, but Smith will get his own.
Jordan: OVER/OVER. I love Steve Smith, and this is a perfect matchup for Malcolm Butler. Expect a lot of trash talking, and Steve Smith getting enough touches to get his yards. But it won't be a bad day at all for Butler.
Dennis Pitta: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 49 receiving yards?
Niko: OVER on both as well. Pitta is Flacco’s binkie. Check downs, third downs, and high percentage routes. He’s always given the Pats trouble.
Pete: UNDER on both. The Patriots really don't let tight ends beat them.
Jordan: UNDER on both. ^
Niko: Patriots’ secondary (Butler, Ryan, Rowe, Chung, McCourty) vs. the tough (Steve Smith), fast (Wallace, Perriman), and savvy (Pitta) Baltimore receiving core. I know that’s more than one matchup, but I expect Flacco (per usual) to try and push the ball down the field and for the Ravens to be aggressive offensively. Half of their offense is deep PI flags anyways. They won’t come in scared. Big test for the back 5 in this one.
Pete: It has to be the Patriots' three running backs vs. the Ravens D, right? The Patriots have utilized the three backs in various ways since Dion Lewis came back from his injury and have been extremely effective. If the Patriots want to win this game, then they need to be effective yet again.
Jordan: Butler vs. Steve Smith. Look, we all know Smith is going to get his, but Malcolm Butler cannot allow anything big for the vet. We all know Smith is an agitator, but he hopefully won't rattle Malcolm Butler. If he does? Watch out Pats Nation, it's gonna be a long night.
Niko: Tommy B throws up 350+ in a vintage performance. As impressive as Blount has been this year, I’m not confident the power running game is going to be a viable option throughout the course of this game. If you want to go really bold, look out for rookie running back/receiver DJ Foster, who may or may not be in the fold without Amendola.
Pete: I'm not sure if this counts for a bold prediction, but I say Blount gets less than 10 carries in this game. I just don't see them using him much.
Jordan: Griff Whalen, who the Pats just signed for the remainder of the season to return punts, takes one to the house. I'd say that's bold, because other than the fake punt, I don't know who the hell this guy is.
Game Total: Over/Under 45.5 points?
Niko: Jeez, Vegas is Vegas for a reason. Been going back and forth on this one since the beginning of the week, but I really like the progress the NE defense has shown. Their counterpart, Balty’s unit, is one of the few equipped to keep the Pats out of the 30s, and I do think Patricia’s unit can give Flacco and co. some trouble. I’ll go just barely UNDER.
Pete: UNDER. Surprisingly, I think we are going to see some decent defense in this game. Like Niko mentioned, the Patriots' defense has been playing better than expected over the past few weeks and I think they can force Flacco into some mistakes if they are able to generate some pressure.
Jordan: OVER, but barely. The Pats are usually good for 30, and despite the lack of targets Flacco has, he's still a pretty good QB and will generate offense. I don't think this will be an easy win for the Pats is what I am getting at.
Final Prediction (Pats -7):
Niko: Pretty generous spread here. Wouldn’t be surprised to see this creep down to 6.5 or 6 come game time. These teams know each other well, and the Ravens are coming in guns blazing. Let’s go 26-18 Pats. Pats cover because why not? Can’t. Wait.
Pete: 24-17 Pats. It ain't gonna be pretty, but the Ravens are one of the few teams that aren't afraid to come into Gillette Stadium.
Jordan: 32-24 Pats. This will be a slugfest, as it was in the playoffs a couple years ago. Look, neither team is the same as it was back then, but this should be a highly entertaining offensive game for the fans. Oh, and the Pats cover ;).