Ravens-Pats Showdown Headlines Week 3 in the NFL

Emotions will be running high when New England makes the trip to Baltimore on Sunday night.

Earmarked as a huge showdown between unbeaten teams before the season started, New England and Baltimore may both have been on the losing end of the stick in Week 2 but this Sunday’s matchup still serves up as the NFL’s marquee Week 3 matchup.

The contest marks the first time the two teams have met since last year’s classic AFC Championship game, which saw Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff miss a game-tying field goal which led to New England winning and Cundiff ultimately heading out the door.

New England (1-1, 1-0 road) now knows how tough a missed field goal can feel. Stephen Gostkowski’s miss last week gave the Arizona Cardinals an upset victory over the team that was favorite to take the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Baltimore (1-1, 1-0 home) suffered a painstaking loss as the Eagles came from behind to win.

Historically speaking, New England has ruled over Baltimore. While every clash tends to be a close one, the Patriots have gone 6-0 against the Ravens in the regular season, and 1-1 in the postseason. Baltimore’s only win over New England came in January 2010 in an AFC division playoff game.

Separating the teams on the field is tough. There’s a parity to both team’s offensives that you might not have expected.

Traditionally a defense-first team, Baltimore is averaging 377.5 total yards per game. Compare that to New England’s 388.5. Baltimore has passed for an average of 261 yards while New England has compiled 262.5 yards through the air. Baltimore averages 116.5 yards per game on the ground, compared to 126 for New England. It would take an industrial strength shoehorn to separate those figures.

New Patriots running back Stevan Ridley has looked like a step up over BenJarvus Green-Ellis – who made his way to Cincinnati in the offseason – and is averaging 98 yards per game, more than Baltimore’s Ray Rice (83.5 YPG) who was a favorite to take the league rushing title this year.

New England does face the prospect of being without TE Aaron Hernandez on Sunday. The impressive third-year man injured his ankle in last week’s loss and looks to be out somewhere between four and six weeks.

New England signed Kellen Winslow to a contract midweek. Winslow – who had 75 catches for 763 yards in Tampa Bay last season – won’t be a featured tight end but he’ll get the opportunity for some catches, as will Wes Welker, who remains a little maligned at not receiving a big contract this summer (more on that later).

Nothing might separate the offensives, but there is certainly separation on the defensive side of the ball. And it’s not what you’d initially expect either.

2011 saw Baltimore’s defense run rampant while New England had one of the worst defensive records in the league. Fast forward nine months and there’s been a serious case of role-reversal.

New England is giving up 264.5 yards per game. Opponents are throwing for 202 yards and running for a paltry 62.5 yards. Those are numbers that you’d expect Baltimore to post. The Ravens meanwhile are giving up 404 yards per game, including 129 on the grounds. Part of this may be to do with the faster-paced offense the team is operating, but still, those are very non-Ravens like numbers.

All of this combines sees Baltimore enter the game as three-point favorites. Those three points account for homefield advantage, and that’s about it. Undoubtedly this will be a close one, and a game that could be a harbinger of what’s to come in January.

The over/under is set at 50, but it could easily go under that if Baltimore decides to refocus on rushing the ball.

Both teams have taken a battering in terms of Super Bowl odds this week. New England dropped from 5/1 to 13/2, but remains the current favorites to win it all. Baltimore dropped from 11/1 to 14/1. Both teams are still favored to take their respective divisions.

If you’re looking for a bit of side action on Sunday night, Bovada has a couple of specials relating to the disgruntled Wes Welker. The over/under is set at 5½ for number of receptions Welker will have against the Ravens. Over is -130; Under is Even. If you’re thinking long term, odds of Welker being a Patriot next season stand at +110 (yes) and -150 (no).

Week 3 Schedule

Thursday: NY Giants 36-7 Carolina

Sunday: (1 PM ET) Tampa Bay @ Dallas | Jacksonville @ Indianapolis | Buffalo @ Cleveland | NY Jets @ Miami | Kansas City @ New Orleans | Cincinnati @ Washington | St. Louis @ Chicago | Detroit @ Tennessee; (4:05 PM ET) Atlanta @ San Diego | Philadelphia @ Arizona; (4:25 PM ET) Pittsburgh @ Oakland | Houston @ Denver; (8:20 PM ET) New England @ Baltimore

Monday: (8:30 PM ET) Green Bay @ Seattle