The difference of a week, huh? So much for the picks being unanimous like they were last week against the Cardinals. A-hem.
This week’s prediction roundup:
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Ravens 27, Patriots 23. “How can two teams be closer? The Pats have won the last two meetings by identical 23-20 scores, and hearts around the Inner Harbor will not be fully mended until the Ravens wipe away the stink of the 32-yard shanked Bill Cundiff missed field goal, and the pass Lee Evans had knocked out of his hands. I’ll tell you how the Ravens win this one — with better play-calling than last week, when, in the second half, they had five third-and-short plays and Ray Rice touched the ball on none of them. Rice has had 35 touches in the first two weeks, averaging 7.0 yards per touch. He needs more.”
ESPN.com staff: Only one out of 12 picks the Patriots.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports.com: Patriots 24, Ravens 20. “What happened to the Patriots last week against Arizona? The offense was sloppy. But the Ravens defense wasn’t exactly stellar against the Eagles either. So which unit gets it going? My pick is the Patriots. I can’t see that offense with Tom Brady bogging down again. It’s tough to win on the road at night in a venue like Baltimore with the Ravens in revenge-mode, but I can’t see Brady losing again.”
CBS Sports.com staff: Only one out of eight picks the Ravens.
Baltimore Sun staff picks: Peter Schmuck and three other reporters go with the Ravens, while three writers have the Patriots winning a close one in Baltimore.
Boston Globe: Greg Bedard, Chris Gasper, and Scott Thurston all go with New England on the road while Shalise Manza Young and Jim McBride pick the Ravens.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Ravens 24, Patriots 23. “The Ravens, for a change, have more versatility and arguably a little more pop in this matchup. Even without Suggs, they will find a way to get in Brady’s face several times by rattling New England’s pass protection. Flacco wants to be considered an elite QB, and finishing business vs. Brady is a good step in that direction.”
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Ravens 20, Patriots 17. “Last year’s AFC title game notwithstanding, the Ravens have had the Pats’ number lately. With a suspect offensive line in New England and an improving offense in Baltimore, that continues on Sunday night.”
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: Ravens 17, Patriots 16. “Both of these teams had disappointing losses to NFC opponents last week, but to me the Patriots’ loss raised far more questions. Specifically, it raises the question of what kind of offense New England is going to have while Aaron Hernandez is out. The Patriots are going to have a tough time moving the ball against a good Baltimore defense, and New England is going to have a losing record for the first time since they were 0-1 at the start of the 2003 season.”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 27, Ravens 24. “It’s a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game and it’s worthy of prime time again. Four other games had the GOTW committee’s eye but it’s tough to ignore a mighty home team — Ravens have won 11 in a row in the BAL — against a league power out to rebound from an embarrassing (and rare) home loss. I can’t remember the last time I picked against the Crows at home and I might regret it here if they can get Ray Rice going. But Bill Belichick is 7-1 all-time in this series for a reason, and I see England’s loss to Arizona as an aberration, not the ominous beginning of a sharp decline as some suggest. Baltimore’s defense is not as vaunted as in years past, and Tom Brady does not lose two in a row. Upset!”
USA Today staff: Five out of seven pick the Ravens.
Yahoo! sports staff: Ravens across the board.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Ravens 34, Patriots 24. “After rewatching Week 2’s Cardinals-Patriots game on NFL Rewind, I’m convinced I jumped the gun crowning the Patriots the class of the AFC after their victory over Tennessee last week. This Patriots offense — especially without Aaron Hernandez in the lineup — has issues. Something is up with Wes Welker and the offensive line isn’t protecting Brady like it once did. He was sacked five times in Week 2. The Ravens defense will be foaming at the mouth in front of that fired-up home crowd on Sunday night — especially after the way they lost last week in Philadelphia — and the offense will get the job done. Lee Evans isn’t dropping any passes on Sunday and Billy Cundiff isn’t missing any game-tying field goals for the Ravens. Baltimore gets the win.”
How we see it: Ravens 20, Patriots 17. Josh McDaniels starting feeling some heat for his questionable play-calling against the Cardinals last week, and adjusting to life without Hernandez is either going to be a cinch with Deion Branch back in the fold, or an admission about just how much their offense depended on him. If I’m Belichick and Brady, I start Welker then throw him the ball 24 times, just to shut everybody up.