Today's posting comes compliments of Reebok Sports 'Zero Degrees' line of team clothing. Tonight at the Ravens-Pats Monday Night Football game in Baltimore, the gametime temperature is supposed to be sub-freezing, and possibly include a wintery mix of rain & snow. Sitting in the stands, most fans will be freezing their tails off, but not me. I'll be sporting the new Reebok line of sideline gear that you see on coaches on all the NFL sidelines and on sale at the NFL Shop. The 'Zero Degrees' line of gear that I'll be pimping includes a heavyweight jacket with all the Ravens logos, as well as a knit cap ('beanie). I'll also be sporting a thick, warm hoodie sweatshirt and will be warm and toasty inside my new duds. Check out Reebok's entire line of gear by clicking on the name to link you to their site.
Now, on to the game...
The Ravens have a chance, slim as it may be, to reach the records books in tonight's game. By upsetting the Patriots, who are a 20.5 point favorite, the Ravens could win a game as the biggest underdog ever since the Las Vegas oddsmakers began posting lines for the NFL games. Of course, that's never happened as teams who are that big of a 'dog rarely win these games, unless of course you are the 1969 Jets upsetting my beloved Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3 as 17 point underdogs (Damn you, Joe Namath!).
The weather is supposed to be rough, but certainly not as rough as it was in Pittsburgh last Monday night. It shouldn't be a factor, at least not to the Patriots, who are used to playing (and winning)in the tougher elements (see the "Tuck" game - Damn you, Tom Brady!). However, the Ravens, while a modest 10-13 in prime time TV games under Brian Billick, are 0-2 this year and haven't won on Monday night since December 2005. As said repeatedly in prior postings, Baltimore always seems to save its most embarrassing moments for the prime time stage. Hopefully, they will represent their city and as they always claim on the 'JumboTron' video screen in the stadium when questioned, "Will You Protect This House?" they answer, "We Will!"
My greatest wish, save for the fantasy of upsetting the Pats, will be to play a respectable sixty minutes, forcing New England to earn their 12th victory, while fighting until the clock says :00. The Ravens key to victory over the years has begun and end with their defense. Putting pressure on the QB through a variety of stunts and blitzes has led to sacks, fumbles and interceptions that the defense has created to assist the offense in getting the short field they so desperately need to put points on the board. Tonight, those points must be touchdowns, not the normal field goals they seems to play for. It will take a shootout for the Ravens to compete with the Patriots and the offensive line wll have to protect Kyle Boller to give him the time to find his open looks, as well as gouge holes in the Patriots front seven for Willis McGahee to wear down the aging New England defense.
Seeing Pats LB Adalius Thomas on the opposing sideline will bring back warm memories of the terror he put on the faces of the Ravens opponents in the past. After being lost in New England's defensive schemes while playing out of place as an inside linebacker in Bill Belichick's 3-4 defense, he will be returning to his natural outside position for tonight's game. Keeping AD out of tonight's highlight reel would be a moral victory for the Ravens.
The Ravens will have to pull out all the stops on their anemic offensive gameplan and release a torrent of long passes to compete with the same thing they should expect from Tom Brady, Randy Moss & Company. Sure, that might lead to a couple of interceptions, but could also lead to a surprise touchdown (or two!) for the Ravens. Trick plays, including a possible season-first appearance by the rookie Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, Troy Smith, are possibilities and should be reality as part of tonight's playbook. Playing straight up basic football will just not be good enough to win the war tonight.
The Patriots will be fired up to be on the national stage as well. They will be looking to prove that last week's close call against the Eagles was a fluke, based on the Eagles playing a great game for 59 minutes, while the Pats had an off night (yeah, only 31 points!). The combination of that happening again cannot happen if New England hopes to reach their goal of a perfect season.
Unfortunately, the more I watch this team, the more I am convinced that they will reach their goal. While the 1972 Dolphins will always be able to say they went undefeated, they wouldn't be able to hold a candle to the 2007 Patriots if they finish with a 16-0 regular season and then go on to win the Super Bowl with final record of 19-0 record. As far as I'm concerned, if this team runs the table, I would crown the New England Patriots as the "Greatest Team of All-Time!"
While the Ravens have the defense to at least slow down New England prolific passing attack, they just are not healthy enough to stop them tonight, especially with their substitute nickle and dime backs having to cover Wesley Welker, not to mention Moss, Stallworth and underrated TE Ben Watson. At the same time, the Ravens young offensive line will not be able to stop the bull rush of the Patriots defensive front. Together, this does not bode well for my Ravens, to say the least. I will be there in my Reebok gear, cheering for the home team, as difficlut as this game may be. However, I will never, ever boo my team, as I will remain a true fan (See article) through the good times, as well as the tough ones.
Patriots: 44-10 (ouch!)