Patriots Home Opener: is it a Must Win?

Patriots
. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

The New England Patriots are getting ready to play their first home game of the season after opening up the first two weeks on the road. New England is 1-1 but has played like a team that should be 0-2. The Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens who are looking to rebound after blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead to the Dolphins last week. But is this game a must-win?

PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES

The Patriots have been sputtering all season. Mac Jones has put up pedestrian numbers at quarterback in the first two games. But Tua Tagovailoa put up some amazing numbers against this Ravens defense last week. While it’s unreasonable to expect 450+ yards passing and six TDs from Jones, it’s not unreasonable to believe he will exploit the same weaknesses that Tua did. The Patriots receivers are nowhere near as explosive as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, but I expect to see some openings they didn’t have against either Miami or Pittsburgh the first two weeks. The Ravens, statistically, have the worst defense in the NFL. They are giving up 463 yards and 25 points a game. This would’ve sounded crazy just three years ago, but this defense may be the one to allow Mac to have a breakout game.

DEFENSE FAVORS PATRIOTS

While the Patriots are struggling offensively, the defensive side of the ball is clicking on all cylinders. New England is giving up 275 yards a game, good enough for fourth in the league. The Ravens’ offense has scored a lot of points so far, but they are middle of the pack in yards. That suggests that field position is very important to Baltimore’s offensive success. I can easily see some big plays from this Patriots defense that keeps the Ravens in check. Don’t get me wrong, Baltimore will score in this game, but I’m expecting them to score less than they did against both the Jets and Dolphins.

PATRIOTIC HISTORY

All of the past history in this series favors the Patriots. Since Gillette stadium opened, the Patriots are 17-3 in home openers. They lost last year’s home opener to Miami but last won the home opener in 2020, also against Miami. Since the Ravens came into the league in 1996, these two teams have faced each other 15 times; eleven in the regular season and four in the postseason. New England has won 11 of the meetings going 9-2 in the regular season and 2-2 in the postseason. The biggest change, of course, is that Tom Brady isn’t under center anymore. That’s a big loss, but, if Mac Jones is going to be a long-term option, he needs to show up in games like this.

PREDICTION

Fortune favors the brave and even though the eye test tells me Baltimore is the better team, I’m picking New England to win. I think the Raven’s defense is too much of an Achilles’ heel for them and this will be Mac’s turnaround game for this season. Mac will never have the game Tua had against Baltimore last week, but I don’t think the Patriots will need it as the Dolphins did. I think the Patriots are in a must-win situation and I expect them to cash in on Sunday.

Patriots 21 Ravens 17

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