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NFL Week 16 Game Preview: Ravens vs. Patriots


When the Baltimore Ravens (8-6) and New England Patriots (10-4) last met, a trip to the Super Bowl was on the line. This week, the stakes won’t quite be that high, but both teams could still really use a win.

For the Pats, a victory would not only serve as sweet revenge for their bitter AFC Championship game defeat to the Ravens a year ago, but it would also inch them closer to a first round playoff bye. Considering New England is 7-0 at Gillette Stadium this season, that bye and home field in at least the divisional round would increase their odds of taking one step closer to a title this year significantly.

For the Ravens, a win today would keep them in prime position for a wild card berth and a shot at a repeat championship, while a loss would open the door for the Miami Dolphins to slip into the postseason. Fortunately for Baltimore, this level of pressure is very familiar.

Also familiar to the Ravens this time of year are the Patriots, whom they’ve faced in the postseason three times in the past four seasons. Baltimore defeated New England on two of those occasions, but without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed or Anquan Boldin this time around, the Ravens will need to rely on new stars to score another major victory in the rivalry.

Surprisingly, one of those emerging stars this season has been place kicker Justin Tucker, who scored all of Baltimore’s points in last week’s thrilling 18-16 win over the Detroit Lions. After draining six kicks – including the game-winning 61-yarder – in that contest, Tucker extended his streak to 33 straight made field goals, which is the longest such streak since Matt Stover hit 36 in a row for the Ravens from 2005-06.

Tucker’s streak also helped improve the team’s winning streak to four. During that span, the Ravens’ offense has continued to struggle, but their defense has been stout, allowing just 65 total points. In fact, that defense – despite losing its two veteran leaders from last year, Lewis and Reed – has remained the strongest and most consistent area of the team, as the Ravens have held all opponents under 30 points since week one’s loss to the Denver Broncos.

In taking on the offensive-minded Pats, the Ravens will certainly need another inspired defensive effort. However, considering they won’t have to worry about matching up against star tight end Rob Gronkowski – who suffered a season-ending ACL tear two weeks back – the Ravens have an even better chance of limiting New England’s point total today.

The Patriots will definitely be looking to bounce back from a loss to the Dolphins last week, but they don’t seem to match up very well against Baltimore’s defense without Gronk and they haven’t played very well on the road, where they are just 3-4 this season.

Expect a low-scoring game today and a Ravens win. Take Baltimore to cover -1 in this one.

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