The day Vince Wilfork takes his rightful place in the Patriots Hall of Fame, they will open their home slate against a Baltimore Ravens squad coming off a fourth-quarter collapse against the Miami Dolphins. 28 points given up in just about 12 minutes on the dot is not how you want to typically do things, but that aside, this is a massive test for the Patriots this early in the year. Especially now considering the incoming competition should be on their A-game.
It would be a stretch to say either one of these two squads falling to 1-2 would be devastating. However, both have big games in Week 4 as well, Green Bay for New England, and Buffalo for Baltimore. The Ravens have historically struggled in Foxborough, but the Patriots were not a good home team last season. How do things ultimately shake out in this 2022 matchup?
Date: Sunday, September 25th
Start Time: 1:00 EST
Location: Foxborough, Massachusetts
Stadium: Gillette Stadium
TV Info: FOX (Joe Davis and Daryl Johnston on the call)
The Secondary feels like a good place to start with Baltimore seeing how they lost last Sunday. Despite the nature of the collapse, this is an elite unit with multiple Pro-Bowl caliber guys on it. None of which may be better than Marlon Humphrey, who was not on the field for the Dolphins' game-winning drive with a groin issue. Ironically, that was the drive where his value was the most on display, as the Dolphins' yards for play nearly doubled on that last drive. Savy vet Marcus Peters joins Humphrey in the corner room, along with Brandon Stephens, and rookies Damarion Williams and Jayln Armour-Davis.
Safety is also a strength for this Ravens unit despite a rough outing last week. Marcus Williams unfortunately may always be the ‘Safety who missed a tackle on Stefon Diggs in the Minneapolis Miracle’, but he can flat-out play. Alongside the former New Orleans Saint is arguably the best Safety prospect in years in the form of Kyle Hamilton. Not a particularly great game for him either last week, but he is someone the Patriots shouldn’t take lightly.
Now to the Ravens’ front seven, which carries two veteran game wreckers. One of these is Calais Campbell, along with Justin Houston, both of whom got multiple rest days this week. Those would have been notable losses up front, but Baltimore would still be in a solid spot. A group of Odafe Oweh, Michael Pierce, Travis Jones, Justin Madubuike, along with linebacker Patrick Queen is still formidable. Did I also mention the Ravens just picked up JPP off the streets?
The Lamar Jackson can’t throw crowd is in shambles, as the fifth-year QB has been lights out to begin 2022. Through two games, six touchdowns, one interception, and 531 yards, the latter being good for ninth best in the league. On top of that, Jackson has 139 yards on the ground through two games, including a 70-plus-yard touchdown against the Dolphins. Now that wouldn’t be so bad, if not for the fact that no one else on the Ravens has passed the 40 yards rushing mark yet. J.K. Dobbins has yet to see the field this year, in addition to Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill not doing a whole lot on the ground. Granted, the yards-per-carry numbers looked good against Miami.
The admittedly good Ravens offensive line is also missing a key piece so far in 2022, left tackle, Ronnie Stanley. That will officially be the case once again via Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, as he continues to work his way back from an ankle injury midway through last season. The guy to watch on the offensive front for Baltimore is rookie center Tyler Linderbaum out of Iowa. He’s been as advertised for the most part, but his lack of size can/will get him in trouble. Look for New England to exploit that.
Mark Andrews, arguably a top-three tight end in the league, once again is the premier pass-catching threat for these Ravens, but the group in addition to him is better than in years prior. That starts with second and third-year wideouts Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay. The pair picked up a pair of massive scores over the weekend, on the opening kick for Duvernay, and a 75-yard catch and run for Batemen. Both guys have track speed and should be treated accordingly by the opposition on a weekly basis. The Ravens also trot out rookie tight end and the pride of Cambridge, Massachusetts Isaiah Likely who is no joke himself either. Shoutout to Justin Tucker as well, who is still going strong in the kicking game.
New England Patriots
This Patriots' defensive performance in Week 1 absolutely looks better now given what happened to Baltimore. And keep in mind Baltimore probably has a better unit than New England does. That will likely ring true this weekend if Kyle Dugger is not on the field. After suffering a knee injury in Pittsburgh, he only practiced this week on Friday in a limited fashion. Should he be inactive, that would certainly mean Josh Bledsoe is in line to make his NFL debut. The swiss army knife out of Missouri had a strong preseason. Devin McCourty spoke highly of him as a rookie last season as well.
Another potential loss comes in the form of linebacker Raekwon McMillan. The veteran missed Friday’s practice with a thumb issue but is officially listed as questionable for Sunday. McMillan only played 12 snaps last weekend, but that was more for gameplan reasons, with Mack Wilson factoring in more. That wouldn’t shock me if that is in the cards again.
The Patriots front meanwhile had another good outing, both against the run and pass. Specifically, Matt Judon, whose one sack and pass breakup didn’t really show just how good he was last Sunday. This weekend he faces his former team and has a chance to make some Patriots history all at once. So far Judon has two sacks through two games, should that continue against Baltimore, he’ll be the first Patriot to have a sack in the first three games of a season since NFL Hall of Famer Andre Tippett in 1986. With that said, Steve Belichick must be careful about dialing up pressure. Lamar absolutely shredded the Dolphins when they brought the heat. In total he went 13-of-16 for 213 yards and two TDs, not to mention touting a perfect passer rating as well.
It wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but the Patriots systematically bullying the Steelers on their final drive was exactly what they needed to do. Getting Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris going was exactly what Matt Patricia needed to do, hopefully, that can continue as we move along. The Ravens haven’t given up a ton of rushing yards so far but have faced the second least amount of running plays in the league so far at just 35. Their 4.8 YPC allowed ranks 12th highest in the league additionally. Might be worth testing that Baltimore defensive front early and often.
One of the few play-calling complaints at this stage of things is Patricia’s unwillingness to go with some play-action passing. Just seven times through two games have the Patriots gone to that well and that simply is unsustainable. However, Bill Belichick gave a detailed answer about why that has been the case a few days ago.
As for McCorkle Jones, there is a shot his top wideout, Jakobi Meyers, is out for this Sunday and that would be massive. Through two games he has easily been the Patriots' most dependable pass catcher, although Nelson Agholor hasn’t been too far behind. But Jones had the opportunity to have a much better game last week but failed to capitalize on some lapses by the Steelers' defense leaving guys wide open. It’s still early in the season, but I don’t think those lapses are going to happen in abundance as they did last weekend.
Points Spread: NE +2.5 (-105) | BAL -2.5 (-115)
Moneyline: NE (+124) | BAL (-146)
Over/Under: O 44.5 (-110) | U 44.5 (-110)
Baltimore is favored here for good reason, but there is one 2021 trend that could make you nervous about them. Last season they were favored on the road a total of five times. In those five games they went 2-3 outright, and 1-4 against the spread. Additionally, the Ravens have won zero regular season games in Foxborough in their existence. On the flip side, last year the Patriots were home underdogs twice, going 1-1 ATS and 0-2 outright.
As for the total, the over is 6-4 in the last 10 Patriots Ravens tilts, although the Patriots have seen both of their games go under so far. With that said, there are some better games out there, but I’d lean toward Ravens -2.5 and the over. However, if you can get the Patriots at +3 or better, that would be the preferred play. The historical trends for New England have been right on the money so far and might as well ride that until those trends buck.
Patriots-Ravens matchups never disappoint and here’s to hoping 2022 is no different. If this defense can hold Lamar and Friends in relative check, they will have a shot to pull off an upset as they did in 2020. Based on their opening two performances, that should hopefully be the case. The biggest thing they need to do is not let Lamar do what he did to Miami and just annihilate them on the ground.
Offensively, Jones must step up and get back to his 2021 form. Those mistakes he made against Pittsburgh will not work these next two weekends. Meyers being out would hurt things a bit, but Mac must be better, and he knows it. With that said, I think the Patriots play their best game so far but lose in close fashion to a wagon of a Ravens team. Find information leading to the arrest of Ravens' GM Eric DeCosta as a side note, he commits theft at the draft every year.
Final Score: Baltimore Ravens 26, New England Patriots 23