Jason Whitlock certainly had the grounds to gloat Monday.
While Whitlock has incorrectly bet against the Patriots several times in the past, he hit the nail on the head in the lead-up to New England’s Week 9 showdown with Baltimore. The “Speak For Yourself” host was confident Lamar Jackson and Co. would be able to run wild on the Patriots, and that’s precisely what the Ravens did en route to a 37-20 win at M&T Bank Stadium.
But instead of basking in the glory of a spot-on prediction and/or handing out “I told you so’s,” Whitlock offered a surprising reaction to this battle between AFC powerhouses.
“My next statement will be more shocking than anything I said last week about the Patriots and the Ravens,” Whitlock said on FOX Sports 1. “Drum roll, please. I was more impressed by the Patriots last night than the Ravens. If there’s a postseason rematch, the Patriots will win. The Patriots climbed out of a 17-0 hole and early in the third quarter were driving toward a go-ahead touchdown when Julian Edelman fumbled the football. Ravens defensive back Marlon Humphrey scooped up the ball, raced 70 yards for a score and gave Baltimore back its double-digit advantage. If Edelman doesn’t fumble there, Tom Brady and the Patriots win the game. You can argue the Ravens gave the Patriots a path back into the game with two second-quarter fumbles. That’s accurate, but my belief is Belichick and his defense figured out how to slow Lamar Jackson and Baltimore’s plus-one offense after the first quarter. After taking a 17-0 lead, Lamar ran for just 24 yards on 11 carries. It took one quarter for Belichick to remove the plus from the plus-one offense. Now that he has the plus-one offense on tape versus his personnel, I’d expect Belichick’s defense to do even better in a rematch.
“Just as important, I believe Brady and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu found a rhythm and comfort that will serve the Patriots well the rest of the season. Sanu caught 10 passes and a touchdown last night. No doubt the 8-0 Patriots were overvalued. Their previously unblemished record a byproduct of a soft schedule. But Belichick-coached teams are known for their season-long improvement. The Patriots haven’t peaked. My suspicion is the Ravens’ romp will be the highlight of Baltimore’s season. Playing at home and with Ed Reed and Ray Lewis on the sideline cheering, Baltimore’s performance was rather predictable.”
The Sunday night shellacking might have been exactly what New England needed. The Patriots, as Whitlock touched on, tremendously benefitted from a light early-season schedule and had yet to be truly battle-tested. Baltimore, fresh off a Week 8 bye, provided New England with a wake-up call and then some. The Ravens opened the heavyweight bout with a direct punch to the mouth, and the Patriots showed quite a bit of fight as they nearly completed what would have been an impressive comeback.
Nothing should be taken away from the Ravens, who played one hell of a game and proved they’re one of the AFC’s top teams. But for the reasons Whitlock listed and more, the Patriots shouldn’t have left Baltimore with their heads completely down.
Thumbnail photo via Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY Sports Images