The Baltimore Ravens have won 17 consecutive preseason games, 18 if you want to count last week’s regular season opener against the Miami Dolphins in a contest that the home team still looked like they were playing a preseason squad. The Ravens won that game, 59-10, but it wasn’t that close.
This week, the Ravens get another soft spot on their schedule, they host the Arizona Cardinals and rookie first pick in the draft quarterback Kyler Murray. Last week, in his first professional start, Murray engineered a late surge that overcame a 24-6 fourth quarter deficit and earned the Cardinals a 27-27 tie against the visiting Detroit Lions.
That result answered a lot of questions. First, the Lions are probably bad again. Second, Murray has a bright NFL future. Third, after a furious comeback, the Cardinals may have done just enough to inspire the Ravens to prepare for them this week. It is my contention, that if the Cardinals would have gone on and lost a lopsided result to the Lions on their home field last Sunday, the Ravens would have had a lot of trouble finding a motivational sprocket to get ready for this week’s game.
Big wins, 59-10 qualifies as such, followed by an easy opponent, spells trouble for last week’s big winner in preparation for their next game.
Like the Dolphins opponent this week, the New England Patriots.
They come off a 33-3 win over the highly regarded Pittsburgh Steelers that had to come a lot easier than New England expected. Now they head to Miami, a team that is reported to have their players begging their agents to find a trade for them.
In a year that promises parity in the NFL, this is a mismatch of monumental proportions from almost every angle. Add to the Patriots obvious talent, organization, coaching and history advantages, the fact that the Dolphins got a win last December over New England, 34-33, one can expect another easy romp for Bill Belichick’s squad here.
You know it, I know it and the books know it. That is why the Patriots are favored by the largest NFL point spread since 2013. Tom Brady and company are currently favored by 19 points, a spread more commonly found in a college football mismatch.
So, if all points to the Patriots, why don’t we just all gather the kids and head for the bank to put their college funds on a sure thing?
Well, sure things don’t really exist … but the odds say some come pretty close. Like the Patriots winning this one straight up. There have been 62 games with spreads of 18 or more points in the NFL since 1970. The favorite in those games is 59-3 straight up, but have a losing mark against the point spread. Five times teams have been favored on the road by 18 points or more, and in those games the underdog has beaten the point spread 80% of the time.
The last NFL game to have a visitor favored by this many points involved the Patriots. During their perfect 2007 regular season, New England was favored by 19 points over the Ravens in a December game, and eked out a 27-24 win.
Although home teams getting 18 or more points on the spread have done well against the number, they have never treated their home fans to a straight-up win.
Here is why this is not a sure thing. Because the Patriots know it is.
How do they get motivated to play the pitiful Dolphins after they just pummeled the more talented Steelers, 33-3?
How do the Dolphins do anything but prepare for a full assault on their talents and manhood in the wake of being embarrassed last week in such one-sided fashion on their home field?
Do you see that? One team preparing while owning all the weapons and expecting to dominate with ease while their opponent is on full alert.
For me, I would be on the Dolphins in this motivational mismatch except for two reasons; that New England loss last December is what Belichick will use to motivate his troops, and, in case you haven’t noticed, this really is the best versus the worst.
But not a sure thing.