NFL Divisional Playoffs Betting Preview: Ravens at Patriots

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1c/Terrell_Suggs_2011_stadium_practice.jpgBaltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-7.5, 49 o/u)

The weekend’s first Divisional Playoff game will pit the Baltimore Ravens against the New England Patriots (Saturday at 4:35 p.m. Eastern on NBC).

The Ravens are fresh off a Wild Card round victory over their arch-rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Baltimore didn’t leave much doubt at Heinz Field. Though the Ravens came in as 3.5-point dogs, they controlled the entire game and emerged with a 30-17 win.  They now move on to face another hated rival in Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

“There’s experience against this team,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels of the Ravens.  “We know a lot of their players and some of their schemes, but I think each time we’ve played them our team has been different, their team has been different.”

Brady and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco have been two of the steady presences for each team over the years.  And Flacco is one of the few players in the league to have a good track record in Foxborough during the postseason, winning two of the three games he’s played at Gillette Stadium.

Though Flacco struggled a bit late in the regular season, he was back on form against Pittsburgh, leading Ravens head coach John Harbaugh to call him “the best quarterback in football.”

“At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what everybody wants to think,” Flacco said.  “It obviously means a lot for a head coach to stand up in front of everybody in the whole world and say those kind of things.  Whether it really means anything, I don’t know.  But it definitely means a lot to me.”

On Saturday, Flacco will be facing an improved New England secondary, which boasts freshly minted All-Pro Darrelle Revis at one corner and the bruising Brandon Browner on the other side.  After a relative cake-walk against a depleted Pittsburgh secondary, Baltimore wide receivers Torrey Smith and Steve Smith, Sr. will have their hands full against the Patriots’ dynamic duo.

If the Ravens are going to pull the upset, another dominating performance from the offensive line and running game is in order.

New England is currently a 7.5-point favorite in this one with the over/under at 49.

(Photo credit: Thibous (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)

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