Baltimore, MD. One of the most stunning results in recent NFL regular season history occurred on Sunday. The New England Patriots, who were heavily favored in their home opener against Arizona, laid an egg and lost, 20-18. Although both teams did head into that game at 1-0, nobody outside of the Cardinals locker room thought they had a chance to upset the Patriots in week 2. Throughout the entire game, New England never really looked like themselves, as countless mishaps and mental errors led to the stunner in Foxboro. Even a last minute gift-wrapped fumble by Arizona couldn’t give the victory to the Pats, as Stephen Gostkowski butchered the game winning field goal attempt, hooking it about 20 yards wide left. The Baltimore Ravens were also involved in a tight one out in Philadelphia, as the Eagles came back to scratch out a one point win. Philly tried numerous times to give that one away, with multiple turnovers from beginning to end. The Ravens played very tough in a hostile atmosphere, but it just wasn’t in the cards for whatever reason. So two of the favorites in the AFC, the Patriots and the Ravens, both now sit at 1-1 after very difficult losses. They are now on a collision course in week 3, as it will be the eagerly anticipated rematch of the 2011 AFC Championship game. Many feel Baltimore should have come out on top in that one, but with a dropped pass in the end zone and then a missed field goal, they fell just short. Obviously, the loser this weekend will be at 1-2 and having to climb out of a hole of sorts. Each team should have plenty of motivation to win it, but all signs point to the Ravens getting the job done. Here are the 7 reasons why Baltimore will defeat New England in week 3……
1 – Revenge - This one is simple. The Ravens played well enough to win the AFC title on the road, but a few random, fluky things happened. They will have to answer questions all week about how they lost that game, so motivation to avenge that loss will be on their minds.
2 – Home Field - This time, it’s in Baltimore, where the Ravens rarely lose. It’s a tough environment for any visitor, and the fact that it’s a night game on national TV will only get the fans more amped up. That place will be plenty loud, and will not be fun for the visiting Patriots.
3 – New England’s Offensive Line - The line is a mess right now, and that is not a great situation heading into a game against one of the best defenses in the NFL. Haloti Ngata must be licking his chops thinking about what he may do this Sunday. Tom Brady had been running for his life during the first two weeks, and it should be even worse for him against Baltimore. If the Patriots don’t shore up this line quickly, they could get #12 hurt.
4 – Shell-Shocked Patriots - How stunned does New England have to be after losing at home against the bad Cardinals? A franchise that is so consistent and sure of itself has to be wondering what the heck happened. A lack of confidence to a certain degree and questioning if they are really as good as they thought may very well fill the locker room this week. This could be a slight distraction heading into an important game against one of their rivals.
5 – Not Trusting Tom Brady? - The thing that got me in week 2 was why the Patriots didn’t try to score a TD with roughly 45 seconds left and deep in Arizona territory. They had plenty of time, and one of the best QB’s ever at the helm. So instead, they didn’t try to get any closer, and left it up to the kicker to win it. Gostkowski is very good, but very few kicks are a sure thing. Does this move by Belichick and playing it conservative linger with the team at all? I think it may do just that.
6 – The Weak AFC East - Every team in this division is 1-1, and it may be the worst division in the NFL. New England knows they are the class, and should win it easily even if they lose to the Ravens. The sense of urgency to win in week 3 just isn’t there for this team, as it showed it could bounce back after a somewhat slow start last September. Everyone remember the Patriots losing at Buffalo early last year, and the Bills hysteria that followed? Well, Buffalo would soon fall apart, and New England won the East and quite easily too. The same thing can happen this year. Baltimore, on the other hand, is in a much tougher division, and every win will be huge come December. Simply put, this game on Sunday is much bigger for the Ravens.
7 – Ravens Physicality - Baltimore has always given the Patriots fits, and it’s their physical nature which has been a thorn in New England’s side. The Patriots usually win with finesse, and the accuracy and timing from the offense. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed bring a tough and rugged style to the field every week, which typically gives New England problems. Baltimore will want to turn this into a street fight, which is their specialty. Although the Patriots will rebound in future weeks, they will get beat up a bit on Sunday. Baltimore will come out on top, 31-23.