NFL Game of the Week: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
It’s Week 9 in the NFL, and the marquee matchups in the league have increasing implications for the playoff hierarchy. This week, we have a showdown between two of the top teams in the AFC. The NFL game of the week is the New England Patriots at the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football, so without further adieu, let’s preview this primetime game.
This game could very well be an AFC championship game preview. The host Ravens are arguably the best offense in the league, standing at second in total offense and first in rushing offense. The Ravens are able to combine a traditional lead halfback like Mark Ingram with solid production from the backup Gus Edwards for a two-headed monster in the ground game. On top of those two backs, Lamar Jackson has dynamic ability both as a passer and as the team’s leading rusher, with 576 yards on the ground. Baltimore’s NFL-best 35 minutes per game in time of possession can help the Ravens control the pace of the game, but they face a massive challenge from the Patriots.
The Patriots are a clear-cut Super Bowl favorite at this point in the season, and it’s easy to see why. New England possesses one of the best defenses in the NFL, second only to the San Francisco 49ers in total defense. The Patriots are elite at defending both aspects of offense and have given 2018 draft class quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield fits in recent weeks. Both teams excel at defending the run, as both New England and Baltimore sit firmly in the top five of rushing yards allowed per game, but in terms of actually rushing the ball, the Patriots are more versatile, thanks to a backfield consisting of Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden.
This is a somewhat difficult game to forecast, but some trends are noticeable. The Patriots have cruised to 8-0 start, but it is worth noting the weakness of their schedule to this point. In addition to an always weak AFC East, the Patriots drew the NFC East this season, which is ripe with teams that range from middling to poor. They’ve played the Jets twice, as well as the Dolphins, Browns, Steelers and Redskins: all teams with losing records. They grinded out their best of the season, 16-10, against a 5-2 Bills team that is frankly a bit confusing, having lost to the Eagles last Sunday. The point is that this is New England’s first real showdown with a playoff contending team in 2019. The Ravens, however, have already had a game against a quality opponent and stepped up to the challenge, defeating the Seattle Seahawks, 30-16.
The winner of this game will need to control the pace. It’s expected to be a fairly low-scoring, defensive game, as the over/under sits at 44.5 points. With both teams able to defend the run well, the team that find the most success through the air stands a good chance of winning. The question is, if it’s Lamar Jackson who has to sling the Ravens to victory, can he get it done? And if it’s Brady who has to put New England on his back, can he pull out a vintage performance like has so many times in his Hall of Fame career? Tune in Sunday night on NBC to find out.
Prediction: New England 21, Baltimore 17
Jeremy Ganes is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.