NFL Odds For Ravens vs. Patriots: Sunday Night Football Picks & Preview
Getty Images. Pictured: Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton
NFL Odds For Ravens vs. Patriots
A Bill Belichick-coached team is a touchdown underdog at home.
How many times has that happened? In our Bet Labs database, which dates back to 2003, zero. In fact, the Patriots have closed as a home underdog only three times over that span — none by more than four points:
- 2005 +4 vs. Colts: Lost 40-21
- 2014 +2.5 vs. Bengals: Won 43-17
- 2014: +3 vs. Broncos: Won 43-21
The last time New England was a touchdown home underdog came all the way back in 2001. Should you blindly back Bill here? I actually prefer the total more than the side, but let’s briefly catch up on where both teams currently stand before getting into my betting take.
Baltimore heads into Foxboro with a 6-2 record and owns a league-best 20-4 regular-season record since the start of 2019.
Its rushing attack remains one of the best in the NFL. The Ravens are one of four teams to average more than 5.0 yards per attempt this season. However, the overall offense just isn’t as potent as we saw in 2019 as a result of extreme struggles in the passing game — they rank 24th in passing yards per attempt and 26th in completion percentage.
That’s an ugly combination.
In fairness, the offensive line has been hit hard by losses. The Ravens really miss future Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda on the interior in addition to All Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who was recently lost for the season to injury. As a result, they moved the rock-solid Orlando Brown from the right to the left side. He’s a natural left tackle who should fill in admirably, but that means D.J. Fluker has to start on the right side. Fluker is much better in run blocking than in pass protection.
The passing game problems go much deeper than struggles in pass protection. Lamar Jackson has not played at a high level, ranking 28th in Adjusted Completion Percentage. And neither have the receivers.
Bottom line: The NFL has lots of film on how Baltimore wants to attack through the air, so the Ravens will need to make adjustments and Jackson needs to play better.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has been outstanding all season against both the run and pass. Baltimore has as good of a group of corners as any team, which is an enormous asset in today’s NFL.
The run defense was a liability last season, which ultimately helped contribute to its loss to the Titans in the playoffs. As a result, the front office really addressed the front seven through the draft and key offseason acquisitions. The results speak for themselves as the Ravens now boast one of the league’s best run defenses.
There are a few noteworthy injuries on defense: Calais Campbell will not suit up, while both linebacker L.J. Fort (who has been great against the run) and edge rusher Matthew Judon are listed as questionable. Additionally, Jimmy Smith, who has graded out as a top-five corner so far this season, is listed as doubtful after missing practice on Friday.
Lastly, you can’t talk about the Ravens without mentioning special teams.
Former special teams coach John Harbaugh once again has one of the best units in football. It’s no surprise that Baltimore ranks No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ special teams DVOA, led by Justin Tucker. Tucker — the most accurate kicker in NFL history and the only qualified kicker with a career field goal percentage higher than 90% — has been as automatic as ever in 2020.
New England Patriots
Not much has gone right for the 3-5 Patriots this season.
Let’s start on offense. Cam Newton has struggled mightily at times, but he also doesn’t have many weapons at his disposal. As a result, it’s been a bottom-five passing offense by most advanced metrics.
Despite dealing with a plethora of injuries and opt outs that has led to a constant reshuffling, the offensive line is the clear strength of the offense, ranking No. 4 in adjusted line yards, per Football Outsiders. It remains a very formidable unit, particularly when it comes to run blocking. New England ranks No. 4 in the League in adjusted line yards.
Throw in Newton’s rushing ability, and you do have a very formidable ground fame that ranks third in DVOA and sixth in yards per attempt. That said, this is still a bottom-10 offense from a statistical and talent perspective.
The more surprising drop-off in production for the Patriots has been on defense.
Look, most people already expected serious regression for New England’s defense one season after benefiting from an extreme amount of turnover luck and facing one of the league’s easiest schedules of opposing offenses and quarterbacks. But add in all of the key offseason departures and COVID-related opt outs, and this unit is now a shell of its 2019 self that finished No. 1 overall DVOA. Now — believe it or not — they rank 31st in DVOA, including a bottom-three ranking against the run and pass. Only Jacksonville’s defense has been worse.
Some might be perplexed that a Belichick defense be ranked as one of the two-worst units in the league. Well, it’s a completely rebuilt front seven that ranks 29th in adjusted line yards and a secondary that lost some critical pieces from last season.
The secondary’s struggles have been the most shocking to me. The Patriots rank 31st in explosive passing defense. Reigning 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore (who should suit up on Sunday night) has dealt with some injuries, but he’s also not getting any younger.
Also, the lack of pressure up front certainly doesn’t help the defensive backs — New England ranks 25th in the league in adjusted sack rate.
Belichick can’t just sprinkle magic dust on a rebuilt defense and make it all work in the first season. It’s not like we haven’t seen this before. In 2011, the Patriots had a horrendous defense that finished 30th overall DVOA. The difference is that team still went 13-3 in the regular season and lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants. How? They were carried by one of the best offenses in the NFL. Belichick doesn’t have that luxury this season.
It’s crazy to think how much things have changed in only a season: In early November of 2019, the undefeated Patriots strolled into Baltimore as a road favorite. Now, the Ravens are a touchdown favorite in New England against a Patriots team that sits in third place behind the Bills and a Dolphins team that didn’t pick up its first 2019 win until November.
I actually think the spread is about right, but I do see value in the under in a game that will feature two of the NFL’s most run-heavy offenses. The Ravens lead the league in rush attempts per game at 33.3 while the Patriots are not too far behind at 32.8, tied for second with the Chargers.
These are also two clubs that won’t play super fast. Baltimore ranks 27th in situation neutral pace (per Football Outsiders), while the Patriots rank 23rd. The clock should be moving swiftly throughout, much to the delight of under backers. Plus, the weather conditions are conducive to an under here.
In a matchup of two run-focused offenses, you have to give the edge to the Ravens, who rank No. 1 overall in rush defense DVOA. The Patriots rank 31st in that same category, which spells trouble against Jackson and Co.
I don’t expect Newton to have much success through the air, especially with Marlon Humphrey back in the lineup. Baltimore has three elite corners on the outside who should neutralize an underwhelming receiving corps that no longer has Julian Edelman. Even if Smith can’t go, Humphrey and Marcus Peters should put the cuffs on Patriots wide receivers Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Meyers.
With complete confidence in the matchups on the outside, Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale — who brings the blitz more than any other defensive coordinator in the league — should fire up the pressure packages all night on passing downs. That could end in disaster for Newton, who ranks 30th in QB rating (with no touchdowns and four interception) out of 34 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs this season.
And while the Ravens should have more success on the ground, I’m sure Belichick will have a good scheme cooked up to contain Jackson after seeing him last season. Plus, Baltimore’s passing attack just isn’t harding anybody right now.
I ultimately expect the Ravens to move to 5-0 on the road in 2020 on the shoulders of a superior rushing attack, defense and special teams unit. However, the play here is the under.
I bet under 44 earlier in the week, but would still play anything at 43 or above.
PICK: Under 43.5