Lamar Jackson
© Joe Nicholson | 2019 Oct 20
Lamar Jackson © Joe Nicholson | 2019 Oct 20

New England (8-0; 6-2 ATS) at Baltimore (5-2; 2-5 ATS) (Sunday night)

Early line: Patriots (minus-3.5 points). Total: (44.5)

NE 16TH OFF; BAL 16TH DEF

NE 23RD RUN; BAL 3RD vs. RUN

NE 7TH PASS; BAL 26TH vs. PASS

NE 1ST PTS; BAL 16TH PTS ALLOWED

BAL 2ND OFF; NE 2ND DEF

BAL 1ST RUN; NE 4TH vs. RUN

BAL 18TH PASS; NE 2ND vs. PASS

BAL 2ND PTS; NE 1ST PTS ALLOWED

NE 1ST TO/TA; BAL 14TH TO-TA

Patriots lead all-time series 10-3-0 and won last 3 games in series, most recently beating Baltimore 30-23 at Foxborough Dec. 12, 2016. Over-under of 44.5 points for what should be a very watchable prime-time Sunday-night game seems WAY out of line, considering that Pats and Ravens are ranked first and second in scoring offense with 31.2 ppg and 30.6 ppg, respectively.

Coming off decisive 27-13 Week Eight home win over Browns that moved their record to 8-0 for first time since 2015, PATRIOTS head into a much tougher schedule in the second half of the season, beginning with this game vs. well-rested AFC North-leading Ravens.

After playing just one team with a winning record in the first half of the season, five of the PATRIOTS' final eight opponents currently sit above .500, and three of their remaining opponents — the Ravens, Cowboys and Chiefs — currently lead their divisions.

PATRIOTS offense has made strides over the past two games. The offensive line has settled in after having to adjust because of injuries. And RB Sony Michel (21-74 rushing in Week 8) has rediscovered some of his rookie mojo.

The most welcomed developments, though, have been in the PATRIOTS receiving group, which had one of its best performances of the season vs. Cleveland. QB Tom Brady (20-36-259-2 TDs-0 INTs-96.9 QB rating in Week 8) completed passes to seven different receivers, with WR Julian Edelman leading the way with eight catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns.

Brady also completed a fourth-quarter pass to WR Mohamed Sanu, acquired last week in a trade with Atlanta, and another to TE Ben Watson, who was playing in his second game since re-signing with PATRIOTS Oct. 15.

Coupled with another strong performance by WR Phillip Dorsett (three catches, 43 yards), who is seizing the role as PATRIOTS’ deep threat on offense, they are all signs that Brady has found trust in a core group of receivers.

PATRIOTS’ defense, meanwhile, continues to have an uncanny ability to force turnovers. It had two FRs — one returned for a TD by LB Don’t’a Hightower, and an INT by DLE Lawrence Guy — in Week 8 win and is on pace to register a mind-boggling 50 takeaways.

PATRIOTS also have a league-leading plus-17 turnover differential, which is tied with the 1983 Vikings for the fifth-highest turnover margin by a team through eight games since 1970.

As good as PATRIOTS defense played in Week 8, it allowed four plays of more than 20 yards to Cleveland, including a 44-yard run by RB Nick Chubb. So, look for limiting opponents' big plays to be a big point of emphasis going forward.

In addition, while the rainy and windy conditions played a role, PATRIOTS’ kicking game suffered in Week 8. PK MIke Nugent had a 29-yard attempt blocked and missed another wide left from 34 yards. Since signing with NE Oct. 3 after Stephen Gostkowski was placed on IR, Nugent is just 5-of-8 on FG attempts and has a missed extra point.

Through their first eight games, the PATRIOTS have a plus-189 point differential, tied with the 1942 Chicago Bears for the third-highest point differential through a team's first eight games in a season in NFL history.

Check status of PATRIOTS TEs Ryan Izzo (concussion; DNP in Week 8) and Matt LaCosse (knee; DNP in Week 8).

Combining the versatility of QB Lamar Jackson with an opportunistic defense, the RAVENS charged into their Week 8 bye with a 3-game winning streak and a healthy lead in the AFC North.

Head coach John Harbaugh has given RAVENS players a complete week off leading up to prime-time showdown with Pats, a decision he said was made even before Baltimore’s impressive Week Seven 30-16 road win at Seattle.

"As a coach, you just have to make that determination," RAVENS’ Harbaugh said. "I just don't feel like any practice this week is going to improve us more than rest is going to improve us, both physical rest and emotional rest. The coaches will be working, though, like we always do."

A week of rest should enable RAVENS to get back WR Marquise Brown (ankle), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) and CB Jimmy Smith (knee) for Week 9 Sunday-nighter (check statuses).

Baltimore certainly didn't need those three injured starters in Seattle. RAVENS took charge in the second half during a 30-16 victory that extended their AFC North division lead to 2 ½ games over Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

RAVENS’ bye week didn't exactly begin in uplifting fashion. LB Pernell McPhee, who started all seven games and had three sacks, will likely be lost for the season after tearing his triceps in Seattle.

RAVENS’ special teams also took a hit when the team released Justin Bethel in order to receive a 4th-round compensatory pick. A 3-time Pro Bowl ST standout, Bethel had six tackles and a FR in seven games with Baltimore. Harbaugh said Bethel was cut "because of a funky rule the NFL has with these compensatory picks."

Jackson emphatically carried RAVENS offense in Seattle with 14-116-1 rushing. He averaged 8.3 ypc and converted several third-down plays with slashing, zig-zag runs into the secondary. He also scored from the 8 on a 4th-and-2 after asking Harbaugh to eschew a FG try.

RAVENS’ Jackson, who entered Week 8 action ranked 6th overall in the league in rushing (more than the combined total of 7 teams), has 576 rushing yards (82.3 ypg) in 2019 and had 695 yards as a rookie in 2018. That makes him the 2nd QB in NFL history with at least 500 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons, joining Cam Newton, who did it in 2011-12.

TE Mark Andrews, who came into Week 7 game as RAVENS’ leading receiver, dropped the wet football three times in Seattle — including once in the end zone. He was targeted 8 times and finished with two catches for 39 yards. Harbaugh dismissed the poor performance as an aberration.

For decades, the RAVENS relied on their defense to win. This year, the unit is playing a supporting role to an offense led by a slashing, dashing quarterback.

RAVENS’ defense allowed Seahawks to convert 10-of-17 3rd downs while gaining 347 total yards but came up big with 2 difference-making TDs — a pick-6 from newcomer CB Marcus Peters, and the clinching score on an 18-yard FR return by CB Marlon Humphrey.

RAVENS’ pass rush managed only one sack in Week 7, by WLB L.J. Fort, giving Baltimore a total of 12 sacks in seven games. Only five teams had fewer sacks entering Week 8 action. Baltimore finished with 43 last year.

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