Well in case anyone needed evidence, the New England Patriots are not tanking this year. After falling behind to the hapless Jets, the Pats were able to fight their way back and snatch the win. This of course after Joe Flacco made some horrendous decisions and some extremely poor clock management. More importantly though, New England has kept their outside shot at a playoff berth alive.
This week however, don’t count on getting help if they fall behind in a similar fashion. This week the Baltimore Ravens come to Foxborough and it’ll take a much better effort for 60 minutes to win. Fortunately for Bill Belichick and that defense, the Baltimore offense has struggled this year (more on that later). However the Patriot offense has struggled just as much, meaning you may have to win this game in the teens if you have a shot.
Because of that the New England defense will be more important than ever, needing a game similar to their performance against the Chiefs earlier this season to make the game competitive. If they don’t step up it could be a long night for everyone.
Here is what’s happening in week 10:
First Down: As mentioned above the Baltimore offense has not been the potent attack we saw last year. They are not having a bad year, but with what we saw last year, it is fair to say they have not been as impressive. Currently the Ravens rank 23rd in yards per game averaging 347 yards each game. That average is down 60 yards per game from their average last year when they were second in the entire league.
Despite that drop in yards, they have not lost a ton of ground on scoring. They currently sit seventh in the entire league in points per game with 28.4. That is still down from last year when they put up a league-high 33.2 points per game, but still impressive.
So where is the difference coming from? Well a few other areas. The Ravens are still first in the league in rushing yards per game, as they were last year. However their passing attack is a different story. Last season they were 27th in the NFL in passing, a true bottom tier passing attack. This season they are even worse. They currently sit 31st, ahead of only the Jets in passing yards per contest. Moreover they are averaging about 25 yards less per game from last season.
Simply put the Ravens have not had a good passing attack this year. In fact neither part of their offense has been as good, despite their point totals.
Second Down: Some might be wondering, if the yards are down to that degree why are the points still that high? One massive reason for the Ravens success has been their defense. This year only the Colts (5) have scored more defensive or special teams touchdowns than the Ravens who have four.
Although it doesn’t seem like much the Patriots are also in the top 10 with two defensive or special teams touchdowns.
As far as turnover margin, the Pats better have secure handle on the football. The Ravens leads the league with 10 fumble recoveries. Interestingly enough, New England and Baltimore have both forced 14 turnovers, with the Patriots forcing 10 interceptions to the Ravens four. The difference between the two teams though is that Belichick’s team has given the ball away 15 times, while Harbaugh’s has given it away just 10 times.
Third Down: One area that Belichick needs to drive this week is playing the edge more firmly, taking on blocks better and being more physical. All of those areas contribute to a solid run defense. That is something that has alluded the Patriot defense this season as they currently sit 25th in the NFL against the run.
Unfortunately as mentioned above, the Ravens just happen to have the top rushing attack. Because of that the Pats will need to do a better job of taking on blocks, setting a firmer edge, and being more physical. However, the current roster as constituted combined with injuries, this seems like a tall task.
Last season the defense was tops in the NFL. That defense allowed Baltimore’s offense to churn out 210 rushing yards in the 37-20 beatdown last year.
Look for the Patriots to get as many run stuffers in there as they can. If they can make the Ravens pass, that is their best chance.
Fourth Down: One interesting stat is how much depth the AFC has this year. The AFC currently houses the top five teams in point differential thus far. However the five may surprise you.
- Chiefs +103
- Ravens +85
- Steelers +74
- Colts +65
- Dolphins +61
The top team in the NFC in point differential is actually the Arizona Cardinals, who sit at +54.
The Patriots unfortunately are down the list a ways. They currently sit 23rd in the NFL at -28 points. In fact if you take a closer look, it gets even gloomier. After week three the Pats point differential was +21 and they sat at 2-1 with wins over the Dolphins and Raiders. They also had the close loss to the Seahawks. Since then however, they have a -49 differential and a 1-4 record.
Prediction: Ravens 31, Patriots 17
This seems like an obviously tough matchup for the New England defense. They have struggled all year against the run and the Ravens run it better than every team in the NFL. This is a game where you truly miss Dont’a Hightower in the middle of the defense. Unfortunately this offense doesn’t feel like it can carry that extra weight right now, and I don’t trust them to keep the ball long enough to get the defense some rest. Because of that I think the Ravens control this game from the start and wear them down with the run. It is going to be a long day at Gillette as the Ravens run for over 170 yards and dominate.
–David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani