I’ve gone back and forth on this one. On one hand, some of the reasons I didn’t like the Patriots last week are still true. They’re still a terrible post-season spread team, going 2-7 ATS in their last 9 post-season games and 4-8 ATS all-time as favorites of more than 4 in the post-season. Last year, they were favored by a similar amount in a similar situation here against Baltimore and they failed to cover.
These two teams always play close. They’ve met 6 times since 2007 and only one game was decided by more than 6 points and that was in the Ravens’ favor. The Ravens have endured 4 losses by exactly a field goal to the Patriots in that time period, while the Patriots lost by 1 earlier this year. Joe Flacco matches up perfectly with a New England secondary that can’t defend the deep pass as Flacco goes deep more than any quarterback in the NFL. The Patriots also may be overconfident after scoring so many points last week. Teams are 3-14 ATS since 2002 off a post-season game in which they score 38 or more, though the Ravens did the same thing last week, albeit in less convincing fashion.
On the other hand, Joe Flacco has put together two straight good post-season games, but he’s incredibly inconsistent and might not be able to come through a 3rd time. He’s actually 7-4 in the post-season in his career, but he only completes about 53% of his passes as he’s always relied on a strong defense until this year. This year, he doesn’t have a strong defense, but he’s stepped up. He’ll have to do it again this week if the Ravens are going to compete. Tom Brady will get his and if Flacco doesn’t play well, they won’t have much of a chance. Flacco generally struggles on the road, where he’s just 4-6 SU (4-6 ATS) in his career off a road win.
They may also be exhausted after last week’s double overtime marathon. Teams are just 1-7 since 2002 on normal rest in the post-season off an overtime game when their opponent is not coming off an overtime game. Meanwhile, the Patriots play very well in same-season revenge games, going 11-3 ATS in this spot under Bill Belichick, though 9-0 ATS in the regular season inside their crappy division and just 2-3 ATS in the post-season.
Finally, the Ravens are a publicly backed underdog. Publicly backed underdogs rarely cover because it creates a slighted favorite. The Patriots might not be getting their true respect this week and have plenty of bulletin board material. Besides, something fishy may be going on with publicly backed teams this post-season, as both the Broncos and Patriots had several borderline calls go against them last week. The odds makers didn’t do as well as they normally do this season, so a conspiracy theorist might say they are trying to make up for it this post-season.
At the end of the day, I’m taking the Patriots. You’ve heard the old adage, when in doubt, take the points. In the post-season, I prefer, when in doubt, take the better quarterback. I especially like that when it means fading a publicly backed underdog. I’m definitely not confident about this one though. I’m just looking forward to a great game.
New England Patriots 31 Baltimore Ravens 20
Pick against spread: New England -8 (-110) 1 unit