Wes Welker was already the go-to receiver before Randy Moss was dealt.
The New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady begin the post Randy Moss era when they host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon.
Bookmaker.com has New England as 2 ½-point favorites with a total of 45 points. Baltimore is plus 120 to win the game outright.
The Patriots are 3-1 straight-up and 2-2 against the NFL spread and coming off a bye week. The trade of Moss to the Minnesota Vikings came over a week ago, so coach Bill Belichick has had time to get his team mentally ready.
Moss is one of the greatest receivers of all-time and still a legitimate deep threat at 33-years-old. New England only got a third-round pick in return, so this trade wasn’t based on talent. Moss had become a distraction in the locker room due to his impending free agency and Belichick is never afraid to cut the cord.
Brady has the highest quarterback rating in the NFL (109) and is completing 69.7 percent of his passes. He has 85 completions over four games with only nine going to Moss. The leaders in receptions are Wes Welker (26), rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez (18) and second-year wide-out Brandon Tate (11).
Top NFL Betting Odds at Easy Street Sports.
Former Patriot Deion Branch was just acquired from Seattle on Monday. He was a Super Bowl MVP with New England and still has something left in the tank at age 31. Branch also has a great repertoire with Brady and knows enough about the offense to contribute on Sunday.
The Patriots have the NFL’s 13th ranked rushing attack and will need to be balanced against the stout Ravens’ defense. Running back Fred Taylor (toe) is questionable after missing last game, which means BenJarvus Green-Ellis may have to carry the full load again.
New England is 2-0 SU and 1-1 ATS at home this year. It went 8-0 SU (5-3 ATS) at home in the regular season last year before getting demolished by Baltimore (33-14) in the playoffs. The Ravens rushed for 234 yards and forced Brady into three interceptions.
The ‘over’ is 4-0 for New England this year and 9-4-1 in its last 14 home games.
The Ravens (4-1 SU, 3-2 ATS) have a three-game winning streak. They’ve played three tough road foes already, beating Pittsburgh (17-14) and the NY Jets (10-9), while losing to Cincinnati (15-10). The ‘under’ is 3-0 in their road games and the ‘over’ is 2-0 in their home games.
Last week’s game was a 31-17 home win over Denver. That was a good warm-up as Denver coach Josh McDaniels came from the Patriots and runs a similar offense. The Ravens’ pass defense allowed Kyle Orton to throw for 314 yards, but they dominated time of possession (36-24 minutes) and rushed for 233 yards.
The Ravens have the 18th ranked passing attack (214.2 YPG), the same as last year, but can have success on Sunday. They added receiver Anquan Boldin in the off-season and he’s still a player opposing defenses fear. He leads the team in receptions (28), yards (363) and TDs (3).
New England’s pass defense ranks 28th in the league (272.3 YPG) with a very young secondary and an anemic pass rush (seven sacks). Baltimore can move the ball through the air as long as quarterback Joe Flacco avoids interceptions.
Baltimore will bring defensive pressure and try to force Brady into mistakes last year. That won’t be easy against New England’s offensive line (five sacks allowed this year). Baltimore has the NFL’s second-ranked pass defense (156.6 YPG), but some of that is due to the competition.
Baltimore is 3-1-1 in its last five games a road ‘dog, including getting 3 ½-points at New England last January.
Baltimore defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee) is probable this week. Cornerback / kick returner Josh Wilson is questionable with a hamstring injury. Safety Ed Reed (hip) is eligible to return in Week 7.
Kickoff is at 10:00 a.m. (PT) on CBS. Weather should be sunny and in the 50s.