Patriots

Upset win over Ravens puts Patriots right back in AFC playoff mix

Patriots

The New England Patriots aren't dead yet.

The Baltimore Ravens came into Gillette Stadium for Sunday night's Week 10 matchup as heavy betting favorites, but they were beaten by the Patriots in what can be defined as a season-saving 23-17 victory for New England.

The Patriots won the turnover battle, dominated on the ground, got key plays from their defense in the second half and had a helping hand from Mother Nature in the form of a steady downpour and fierce winds in Foxboro.

Here are four instant overreactions from the Patriots' win.

1. Patriots still have a shot at the playoffs

Back-to-back wins have the Patriots right back in the mix for a wild card playoff spot in the AFC. The Patriots are 4-5 through nine games and trail the Miami Dolphins (6-3) and Ravens (6-3) by two games for the last two wild card berths. The five teams (excluding division leaders) ahead of the Patriots in the standings are all 6-3. New England already has the head-to-head tiebreaker with Baltimore and leads its season series with Miami 1-0.

The Patriots should beat the 2-7 Houston Texans, the 2-7 Los Angeles Chargers and 0-9 New York Jets. The toughest games remaining will be against the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals, the Los Angeles Rams and the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills. 

WATCH: Best video highlights from Pats' win over Ravens

The Patriots probably need to finish 5-2 or 6-1 to make the playoffs for a 12th consecutive season. It will be a tough challenge, but it's now a doable one after an impressive upset win over the Ravens that few people predicted.

 

2. Just like 2018, Patriots should go all-in on a power run game 

Remember when the Patriots switched to a power rushing team in the second half of the 2018 season and won Super Bowl LIII? They should take a similar offensive approach for the remainder of 2020. Now, this team has almost no chance of winning the Super Bowl and the 2020 defense isn't close to the 2018 unit in regards to talent or depth, but there are some similarities between the two offenses.

Just like the 2018 team, this year's Patriots squad has a very good offensive line and plenty of depth at running back. Second-year running back Damien Harris beat up the Ravens with a career-high 121 rushing yards on 22 carries Sunday night.

Harris now has three 100-yard games this season and runs with an impressive amount of power and agility.

The Patriots as a whole tallied 173 rushing yards on 39 attempts. They rank fourth in the league in rushing yards per game and are one of six teams that have averaged 4.9 or more yards per carry.

With Harris, veteran running back Rex Burkhead and quarterback Cam Newton leading the way, New England should go heavy on running the football over the final seven games. It's the team's best option to win games down the stretch and sneak into the playoffs.

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3. The Patriots defense made a statement

The Patriots defense has taken a lot of criticism this season, and much of it has been fair. But this unit deserves a lot of credit for holding Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the reigning MVP, mostly in check. 

WATCH: Jakobi Meyers throws TD pass on trick play

New England's pass defense limited Jackson to 243 yards, two touchdowns and one interception through the air. The Patriots gave up just 17 points -- 11.4 less than Baltimore's season average -- and did a better-than-expected job against the league's No. 1 rushing attack. 

Overall, it was a step in the right direction for a Patriots defense that will need to give similarly good performances the rest of the season for this team to make the playoffs.

4. The Ravens are not an elite team

The Ravens' 6-3 record to start the season isn't bad by any means, but this team does not have the look of a top Super Bowl contender right now.

Injuries are a major factor for Baltimore. The team's depth has been tested all season, and that was the case again Sunday night when nose tackle Brandon Williams (ankle), cornerback Terrell Bonds (knee) and tight end Nick Boyle (knee) left the game early. 

Cam Newton accomplishes rare feat with latest rushing TD

The Ravens offense entered Week 10 leading the league with 170 rushing yards per game and ranked third with 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. And yet, Baltimore managed just 115 yards (4.1 per carry) versus a New England run defense that has been carved up several times in 2020. The Ravens rank 23rd in total yards per game after finishing second in that category last season.

 

Jackson is now 1-7 (including the playoffs) when trailing at halftime, and he's 0-5 in games where the Ravens have trailed by 10 or more points. It's hard to have confidence in this group unless it has a solid lead late in the game. 

Baltimore is a very good team, let's not forget that, but this squad does not belong in the upper echelon of the AFC right now. It's the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Kansas Chiefs and then everyone else.