It's still hard to believe, but the Patriots lost to the Cardinals in Foxboro last week. They face a much tougher foe this Sunday, when they travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens. Do we expect Tom Brady and co. to snap out of it, or do we side with Baltimore in our NFL picks?
New England Patriots
upset of the young season came last week when the 14 point underdog Arizona
Cardinals stunned last year’s AFC champs and came away with a 20-18
victory. The Patriots devotion to a
balanced attack came with a price as the playcalling revolved around Stevan
Ridley and the ground game instead of the Patriots vaunted
aerial attack. The Pats outgained the
Cards by 142 yards yet played a peculiarly cautious game, one in which Tom Brady threw
for only one touchdown pass in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
Hernandez was injured last week, which ushered in the return of trusted Tom Brady receiver Deion Branch; the Pats also signed Kellen Winslow to help fill
the void. The offense has not been the
laser show to which we’ve become accustomed even when they
methodically put up 34 points on Tennessee. Rumor has it that Wes Welker is being
phased out of the passing game because there is lingering acrimony surrounding
his unwillingness to sign an extension. Who knows, but the emergence of Welker clone Julian Edelman lends veracity to this assertion.
has been infused with young, raw talent as first round picks Chandler
Jones and Dont’a Hightower have provided a spark that had been missing for
years. The pressure from the edge has
manifested into a passing defense that ranks seventh and a run stop unit
that ranks fifth in the NFL. As
good as the young guys are playing, veteran All-Pro Vince Wilfork continues to
be the anchor in the middle.
new-look hurry-up offense, with Joe Flacco at the helm, worked brilliantly when they crushed the Cincinnati Bengals on opening day. The defense was stout, and the team as a whole looked eager
to atone for the AFC title loss to the Pats last year. Last week, however, the secondary was shredded by
Michael Vick, allowing 371 yards. The Ravens were nonetheless in the game until Vick broke the plane with only a minute and change remaining, giving the Eagles the win. Ray Rice remained the key offensive player, carrying the ball sixteen times for 99 yards
and catching six passes for 53 yards.
Despite forcing four turnovers in the game, the vaunted Ravens defense is still ranked 27th in the
league in overall team defense. That
number is certain to climb as the season progresses, but who knows how high. The secondary will need tight coverage on
Gronkowski, but the presence of depth threat Brandon Lloyd may stretch the field and spread the defense further than was required last
year when the Pats boasted no such threat.
Patriots realize that their tepid playcalling was the reason for their defeat last
week, or will they stay the course and
commit completely to establishing the running game with Stevan Ridley and Danny
Woodhead? I wish I knew because it would
make the choice much clearer. The Patriots
will bring much more pressure to Flacco than he has seen before, but the Patriots
offense appears to be disjointed. This
could be a game that goes down to the wire, but I will tentatively side with the
Ravens because their offense appears to be clicking while the Pats’ seems to be
Pick: Ravens -3 is the small play here