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Baltimore Bids to Upset New England

The Baltimore Ravens will look to follow up last weekend's upset of Denver with an upset victory over the New England Patriots in Sunday's AFC championship game.

For the second straight weekend, the Baltimore Ravens will hit the road looking to cover a large spread. For the second straight weekend, few expect the Baltimore Ravens to do exactly that.

Baltimore (12-6, 5-4 road) will head north to Foxborough, Mass., to take on New England (13-4, 7-2 home) in the AFC championship game on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 PM ET from Gillette Stadium.

The game marks the second straight year the two sides have met with a place in the Super Bowl on the line. Last year, New England edged a 23-20 victory thanks to a missed field goal by Baltimore’s now departed kicker, Billy Cundiff.

The Ravens went some way to settling the score with a 31-30 victory over the Patriots back on Sep. 23, but everyone knows that retribution in full will only be achieved with a playoff win on Sunday evening.

Few expect that win to come. When the line opened last Sunday, New England was a 7.5-point favorite at home. Bettors have been jumping on the action, which has seen that figure rise to 10. A 10-point spread is significant though.

Last weekend, the Ravens traveled to the Mile High City to take on a Denver side that was considered a 10-point favorite. It took overtime, but the Ravens not only covered that spread but upset the Broncos straight up. Doing the same this weekend would go down in playoff folklore.

Of course, doing the same won’t be easy.

New England is 24-16 all-time in postseason play, a record that equates to a 65 percent winning advantage. That in itself isn’t all that worrying for a Ravens side that has gone 12-7 (.632) in its relatively short existence.

However, New England is 7-1 in conference championship games, and 4-0 in those played at home. Those numbers loom over the Ravens like the dark clouds of a Poe story. The Ravens will hope to follow the lead of the Indianapolis Colts, who following the 2006 season defeated the Patriots to advance to the Super Bowl. Of course, Manning and Co. had the advantage of playing at home.

Baltimore itself is 1-2 in conference championship games. The Ravens defeated the Oakland Raiders following the 2000 season, going on to lift the Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl XXXV. After the 2008 season, the Ravens lost to Pittsburgh in the championship game, before losing to New England in last season’s installment of the game.

If things looked bad for the Ravens, they take a turn for the worse when you consider that New England is 7-2 all-time against the team from Maryland.

But, Baltimore is a resilient team and bettors should beware of writing the team off entirely.

Behind the return of talismanic linebacker Ray Lewis, the Ravens have gone from stumbling into the playoffs – losing four of its last five regular season games – to lighting it up during the postseason.

In two games, the Ravens have averaged 459 yards per game, scoring an average of 31 points along the way. Those numbers are a marked improvement on the side’s regular season figures (352.5 YPG and 24.9 PPG respectively), and the sort of numbers that will be needed to keep the team in Sunday’s game against the Patriots. New England’s game against Houston last weekend saw the Patriots exceed their own regular season numbers.

Whether the Ravens have the capabilities to score a second win over the Patriots this season remains to be seen, but smart bettors will certainly be looking at the team favorably in terms of covering the spread.

Baltimore’s record against this spread (8-9-1) may not be superior to that of New England (10-6-1), but the Ravens hold an advantage historically here. In both playoff meetings between the sides, the Ravens covered the spread. First in 2010, upsetting the Patriots straight up and against the spread (+4), and then last year, when the side covered a seven-point spread in a loss.

And then there’s a little matter of last weekend’s result.

The total in the game has risen from 51 to 52 as bettors favor the over. New England went 12-5-0 in favor of the over, while Baltimore was 9-8-0, again in favor of the over.

Last weekend saw the total go over in all four divisional matchups, after wild-card weekend served up four doses of the under.

In addition to the betting lines, Bovada has a host of prop bets for both the teams and players ahead of the game, as well as the earlier NFC championship game between Atlanta and San Francisco.

Baltimore currently has odds of 15/2 to win Super Bowl XLVII, making the side the least favored of the four teams that remain.

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