NFL 2019 (Week 9): New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

Russell S. Baxter

NFL 2019 (Week 9): New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

By Jesse Pierson

Special to Pro Football Guru

Intro: The NFL’s most opportunistic defense takes on the top rushing offense in a Sunday night match-up that harkens back a bygone era. While the Patriots’ defense has been historically good through the first half of the season, this is not your father’s power running attack. No, the Ravens have adopted a modern twist on downhill running schemes, all of which are designed to accentuate quarterback Lamar Jackson’s strengths. It has worked beautifully so far, as Jackson is averaging nearly seven yards per carry, and running back Mark Ingram has punched in seven rushing touchdowns. Being one-dimensional against Bill Belichick’s defense will only bring pain, so offensive coordinator Greg Roman will have to dial up some creative runs and passes to keep things balanced. New England has shown no signs of weakness to this point, but a loss to Baltimore would open up a chance for late season excitement in determining playoff positions.

Patriots: This defense has pitched two shutouts and held two other teams to single digits. To be fair, though, none of the Pats’ first eight opponents has much hope for a postseason run, so how they play in the next six weeks will reveal much more of the truth in who this team really is. After Baltimore, New England has a bye week, followed by contests against Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City. Based on current standings, only Philly is not a playoff team at the moment. In roster news, New England has waived Josh Gordon after a brief stint on injured reserve and activated first-round pick N’Keal Harry after his own injury has been resolved. Tom Brady will certainly welcome the help, but the offense has not struggled despite a dearth of receivers. In fact, the rush offense has left something to be desired, but until Brady retires, the passing game will always be a threat.

Ravens: Baltimore is the only team in the league to average at least 200 yards rushing and passing per game, and they are one of only two teams to average at least 30 points per game. The other? New England. The Ravens rode a three-game win streak into their bye last week, capped by a 14-point road win in Seattle on October 20th. Like New England, their next six weeks feature a spate of playoff contenders, with only Cincinnati and the Rams on the outside looking in (Los Angeles is the seventh-seed going into Sunday). Jackson – the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner – has validated this organization’s belief in him by proving that he is more than a runner. After a 59-10 season-opening win in Miami, Jackson sarcastically claimed that his five passing touchdowns were “Not bad for a running back.” And while this defense has no Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, or Ed Reed, it still ranks third in the NFL at a paltry 84.3 rushing yards allowed per game. If they can take away the Patriots’ running ability, then they only have to focus on Brady and the passing game. Simple as that.

Prediction: A matchup of strengths goes Baltimore’s way for much of the first half, but Belichick and company respond with a score before halftime to stymie the home team’s momentum and take control of the game late.

New England Patriots 33, Baltimore Ravens 21

Jesse Pierson (@jessetpierson) is a former teacher and high school football coach who has written about the Colts for over a decade. He loves football, dogs, food, and comedy, and you can follow his work on his Facebook page, Jesse Pierson, Mediocre Writer.

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