NFL Week 14 Monday Night Football Preview: Pats vs. Ravens
Why, Gronk? Why must you do this to us so often? Why must you leave Tom to fend for himself in the playoffs basically every other season? It’s no coincidence that the one year you’re healthy throughout the entire postseason we won the Super Bowl. Our offense is going to put up points. We’re going to find ways to win. We’re going to get home field, and we’re probably going to win a playoff game. But when we need Gronk the most, he tends to be out of commission. And when we need Gronk the most is when we play against the tougher teams in our conference, teams like the Baltimore Ravens.
Make no mistake; we’re a better team than the Ravens right now. I’m extra skeptical of an offense whose best player is a 37-year-old WR, and despite the Ravens having the #1 ranked defense I don’t think I’m gonna see Ray Lewis and Ed Reed walk through that door. But Baltimore is the one team that doesn’t play scared when they come to New England. They’re not intimidated by us at all, and they shouldn’t be; they’ve proven that they can come to Foxboro and win, even in the playoffs. I’ll never forget that Divisional playoff game in 2010 where Ray Rice got the ball the very first play and took it 80 yards to the house. We got our ass beat that day, and from that point on I was no longer comfortable with just having home field advantage.
These two teams don’t like each other. Aside from Belichick calling the Ravens on Harbaugh’s behalf when they were still deciding who to hire as Head Coach, it’s been a pretty frosty relationship. Most people don’t know this, but the whole Deflategate saga was actually started by Baltimore. When we played them in the 2nd round of the playoffs 2 years ago, Belichick pulled out a bunch of crazy (but legal) formations where he had offensive linemen reporting as eligible receivers in an attempt to get a Tight End wide open on the other side of the formation. Harbaugh had his panties in a bunch after the game, TB12 told him to read the rulebook, and so the Ravens tipped off the Colts and told them to check the air pressure in our footballs for the AFC Championship game. The rest is history.
It’s a new year, but the Ravens find themselves in familiar position. That team whose record doesn’t jump out at you on paper, but you don’t actually want to see them when it counts. And they’re getting hot at the right time. This is an important game for both teams as the playoff picture starts to take its shape. Thanks to a win from the Chiefs on Thursday night, the Patriots are currently the #1 seed in the AFC and control their own destiny moving forward. Baltimore is throwing the hands with the Steelers for 1st place in the AFC North, and they better get that or else they’ll be struggling for a Wild Card spot. So we’re set up for another classic Monday Night Football matchup between two teams with playoff implications on the line.
The Patriots defense has picked it up as of late, which is always a good sign when the weather starts to get cold out. Part of it is because we’ve played the Jets, Niners, and Rams in that time span, but it was more encouraging than earlier in the season. Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy have teamed up to fill the void left by Jamie Collins, and Chris Long has been ballin like a veteran chasing his first ring should. The offense has certainly looked different with no Gronk and a hobbled Martellus Bennett, but rookie Malcolm Mitchell is breaking the mold of the WR busts drafted in New England. The three headed monster of Blount, James White, and a fresh Dion Lewis keeps our backfield diverse, and just look up Brady’s record against #1 ranked defenses at home, its good. The Ravens are hot right now, and they’ll keep it close, but Brady’s revenge tour still has work to be done.