Sunday Night Football Betting Preview: Will the Patriots Cover as Underdogs Against the Ravens?
Sunday Night Football brings us a matchup of two teams that appear to be headed in different directions, as the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens travel to Gillette Stadium to face the 3-5 New England Patriots. Betting against a Bill Belichick-coached team in what looks like close to a must-win game has been a losing proposition in the past, but the Ravens posses the superior roster and also need a win to stay close to the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North.
Bettors are all on board with the Ravens in Week 10, though the spread has gotten closer as the week has progressed. After opening on FanDuel Sportsbook with the Ravens favored by 7.5 points, the spread now favors the Ravens by 6.5. Our oddsFire betting tool shows 92% of the bets and 90% of the money coming in on Baltimore, so the public certainly sees this as a lopsided matchup.
The Ravens moneyline of -310 has caused some of the casual bettors to shy away as the Ravens are only attracting 65% of the bets there, but the money continues to back Baltimore as 85% of the money is taking them to win outright. The point total opened at 41.5, but has been bet up to 43.5. Interestingly, 62% of the bets are siding with the under, while 61% of the money is chasing the over.
At first glance, it is hard to find many positives with this Patriots team, especially against a loaded Ravens roster. Can Cam Newton play the role of Superman and keep New England in playoff contention? Let's check our projections for some betting angles.
Passing Game Preview
When the Ravens are passing, we will see two mediocre units faceoff. Baltimore ranks as the NFL's 18th-best passing offense, producing 0.16 Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back through eight games. Meanwhile, the Patriots' pass defense ranks 16th in the league, allowing 0.15 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back -- a far cry from their dominance in 2019.
The status of Stephon Gilmore is worth monitoring as we approach kickoff, as he returned to practice Friday and is questionable for Sunday night after missing the last two weeks. He would be a much-needed boost to a unit that just allowed Joe Flacco to throw for three touchdowns last week, while Breshad Perriman turned seven targets into 101 yards and two touchdowns.
This matchup may not be the primary one to watch, however, as the Ravens are the least pass-happy team of the 2020 season. Their 0.89 pass-to-rush ratio is the lowest in the NFL, so don't expect much volume here. We often look to Marquise Brown for the receiving production in Baltimore, but he has struggled thus far in 2020, as he ranks fourth among Ravens pass-catchers with 0.71 Reception NEP per target. His 61% catch rate trails only tight end Mark Andrews' clip among the primary options, and while Brown does lead the team with 49 targets, that number would not lead most NFL teams through eight games.
Much of the struggles can certainly be placed on Lamar Jackson's inaccuracy this season, as he has, at times, looked uncomfortable in the pocket, but fellow receiver Willie Snead has clearly out-produced Brown with 1.04 Reception NEP per target and a 77% catch rate, albeit on just 26 targets.
After the wide receivers, Andrews is the clear top option at tight end, and he ranks second on the team with 44 targets and 0.81 Reception NEP per target. As mentioned earlier, he has struggled with his connection with Jackson, as his 59% catch rate ranks last among the Ravens' primary receivers. As for the running backs, they aren't much of a factor in the passing game, totaling just 17 receptions on the season,
Newton is at the helm of the NFL's 29th-ranking passing offense, as New England has produced a miserable 0.00 Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back. Baltimore's defense, on the other hand, ranks as the league's second-best pass D, allowing -0.02 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back. While a start from Brian Hoyer certainly doesn't help the Pats' passing game numbers, Newton himself has frequently struggled to move the ball through the air. With the injuries to Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry, Newton has been lacking options at receiver. With Calais Campbell already ruled out and Jimmy Smith doubtful, the Ravens' defense may not be at full strength this week, though they are as deep as any defense in the league.
Much like the Ravens' offense, this Patriots passing game is among the lowest-volume units in the league. New England's 0.97 pass-to-rush ratio is third lowest, with only the Ravens and the Minnesota Vikings turning to the run game more often. Finding promising numbers from the Pats' receivers has been an exercise in futility this year, but Jakobi Meyers has been a revelation lately.
Logging 98% of the offensive snaps each of the last two weeks, Meyers has garnered 24 total targets in that span, including his breakout game last week against the New York Jets, when he went off for 12 receptions on 14 targets for 169 yards. With Harry questionable to play coming off of a concussion, there's a chance Harry could eat into Meyers' workload if he suits up, but Meyers has flashed more than Harry ever has in his young career. Meyers leads all Patriots pass-catchers with 0.79 Reception NEP per target this season, and with Edelman still out, there is a large gap between Meyers and the Pats' next-most efficient receiver.
Rushing Game Preview
Baltimore brings the NFL's fourth-best rushing offense into this matchup, producing 0.15 Adjusted Rushing NEP per attempt, making them almost as efficient on the ground as through the air. On the other side of the ball, New England ranks as the 20th best rush defense, allowing 0.11 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry.
Mark Ingram looks set to return from an ankle injury after missing the last two weeks, giving the Ravens their full complement of rushing options. Ingram's 0.09 Rushing NEP per carry has been better than Gus Edwards' mark of 0.05, and the two veterans provide between-the-tackles volume for this Ravens offense. J.K. Dobbins has clearly been the most explosive running back on the roster, racking up 0.19 Rushing NEP per carry on 52 attempts, and he saw an increased workload of late with Ingram missing time. Dobbins often plays third downs, which isn't a lucrative role on this Ravens offense, so it will be interesting to see if the running backs return to their typical roles with Ingram back in the fold. Regardless, expect all three to share the load.
The running game is paced by Lamar Jackson, of course, and his 0.35 Rushing NEP per carry on 73 attempts leads the team. The Ravens have actually looked reluctant to fully unleash Jackson on the ground so far this year, but his volume has trended up recently. After logging double-digit rushing attempts just once in the first six games, Jackson has totaled 29 rushes in his two games since the Ravens' bye week. Those games came against stout defenses in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts. If Jackson receives that kind of rushing workload against this struggling Patriots defense, he could be in for a monster day on the ground.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Patriots' running game grades out better than the Ravens', ranking third in the league racking up 0.16 Adjusted Rushing NEP per attempt. Unfortunately, New England doesn't get to face a below-average rushing defense, as Baltimore owns the toughest run defense in the league, holding opponents to -0.09 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry.
While Newton paces the offense with 0.37 Rushing NEP per carry on 62 attempts, New England has a surprising amount of options who have been efficient when given the opportunity. Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead should both split the rushing work, and they have produced identical marks of 0.13 Rushing NEP per carry this year. Harris is questionable with a chest injury but did practice in a limited fashion this week. James White, however, has struggled mightily on the ground, holding an ugly clip of -0.35 Rushing NEP per carry into Week 10 on 16 attempts. White is best used in the passing game, so look for Harris and Burkhead to split the ground work until Sony Michel returns from injury.
Of the 10 most comparable games to this matchup, the favorite has won outright in 9 of 10 matchups, but the spread has been a different story. The underdog has managed to cover half the time, so while the trends point towards a Ravens win, this could be a closer game than the spread indicates. As far as trends with the point total, the over has hit 6 of 10 times, so nothing strong to chase there. In the games where the under hit, it was an even split on which team covered, so there isn't a correlation to point to there, either.
Game Projections and Props
Our algorithm gives the Ravens a 76.6% chance of winning outright, so at -310, we project a miniscule 1.4% return on investment (ROI) on betting the moneyline. We like the Ravens' side of the spread a little more, projecting a 7.5% ROI on Baltimore -6.5, but that's not a strong play regardless. With a 2.7% projected ROI on the over (43.5) not looking especially enticing, either, we are going to have to turn to player props for a decent return.
I love this matchup for Lamar Jackson, especially on the ground, so I'm surprised to see his rushing yards prop at just 52.5. Jackson has hit that number in all but two games this year, and his rushing volume has increased lately, as I mentioned earlier. But that isn't an exciting payout, so let's look to a same-game parlay for some better odds. On FanDuel Sportsbook, you can pair the over on Jackson's rushing yards with the +140 odds for Jackson to score a rushing touchdown, giving you a +318 payout if both hit. A long rushing touchdown on this suspect Pats defense, and you are almost all the way to hitting this bet.
The Ravens' defense deserves respect as the top-ranked unit by our numbers, so let's take a shot on them scoring a touchdown at +450. But those odds aren't quite high enough for my liking, so let's parlay that with the over on Cam Newton's passing yardage (197.5). That would fit a game-script where Newton falls behind and has to put the ball in the air, and while the Ravens' pass defense is intimidating, reaching 200 passing yardage while playing from behind doesn't feel too unrealistic. The payout (+927) is exciting and should keep you interested all the way to the end of this game, even if it turns into a bit of a snoozer.