The undefeated leaders of the AFC East, the New England Patriots, head to Baltimore on Sunday to do battle with the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots are one of only two undefeated teams left in the NFL, with the San Francisco 49ers of the NFC West being the other. The 5-2 Ravens have won three straight, including a 30-16 victory over the Seahawks last week.
This game should be a dogfight, as the Ravens average the most points per game and are second in yards per game, while the Patriots give up the second-fewest yards per game and are tied with the 49ers in fewest yards per play at 4.1. The Patriots are currently three-point favorites in the contest, with the over/under set at 45.
Another Ring Chase
The 2019 Patriots look like, well, they look like the Patriots have basically always looked in the last 15 years, unstoppable. The rest of the NFL is growing quite tired of the never-ending Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. It’ll be 19 straight years of the Pats finishing above .500, and the third time Brady and Belichick have been 8-0 together (2007, 2015).
Unlike in years past, it’s the Patriots’ defense leading the charge in 2019. Brady and the offense haven’t exactly been bad either, but the defense has been fantastic. The Patriots defense has had 25 takeaways this season, while the offense has only turned the ball over eight times. That’s the best differential in the NFL. They also have their team-best point differential since the historic 2007 season.
Stephon Gilmore has led the way on the defensive side of the ball. The corner has already racked up three picks this season and has locked down everyone he has faced so far. The resurgence of Jamie Collins certainly hasn’t hurt either. Since his return to the Pats, he has terrorized opposing offensive lines.
Just Run the Ball
The 2019 Ravens have a similar identity as they’ve had in the past, but not a replica. While past teams have been led by the defense and complemented by the run game, this year’s squad has flipped the script. The Ravens’ rushing attack is ranked No. 1 in the NFL, is second in yards per attempt, and sixth in rushing touchdowns.
The attack is led by former Saints starter Mark Ingram, and, of course, starting quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson actually leads the team in rushing yards after seven games this season with 576, while Ingram has run for 470 yards. Jackson has rushed for over 100 yards three times already this season.
The Ravens‘ receiving attack is led by tight end Mark Andrews with 450 yards this season. Jackson and Andrews have developed a great rapport, while he and wideout Marquise “Hollywood” Brown have figured out exactly what to do when Jackson leaves the pocket.
It’s Gonna Be A Showdown
Brady is looking for ring No. 7. Jackson is looking for his first, and trying to prove doubters wrong in prime time. Sunday Night Football could be one for the ages this week.
Belichick has a tendency to shut down what an opponent does best as a team, meaning Jackson will likely be forced to stay in the pocket and throw the ball against a very good Pats secondary. Unless the Ravens can get some help from receivers outside of Andrews and Brown, I don’t think they have enough to beat Belichick, even at home. Look for the Pats to stay undefeated here, and cover the 3.