This Sunday Baltimore prepares to host AFC rival the New England Patriots in a game that has playoff implications for both teams. If the Patriots (10-4) can escape M & T with a victory they can clinch yet another AFC East Title while if the Ravens (8-6) win they would continue to hold on to the sixth seed with the possibility of playing for a division title in the regular season finale next week.
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These teams have had some thrilling battles in the past and as of late the Ravens have gotten the best of Bill Belichick’s team, beating the Pats in their last two meetings.
Can Baltimore push it’s regular season consecutive win streak to five? Let’s take a look at some of the key match-ups for tomorrow’s game:
Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco vs. Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady
They don’t match on the field but it’s clear over the past few games these teams have played usually the quarterback that has the better game often takes home the victory. In the past Flacco has been able to find success through the air against the New England secondary coupled with strong pass protection. Of course a huge question is the health of Flacco’s knee and just how much it will impact his effectiveness this Sunday.
Brady hasn’t been the dominant player of old but is still dangerous if given time to scan the field. He is a rhythm passer that relies on short throws and quick routes and the Ravens will need to find ways to make him uncomfortable in the pocket.
Ravens Offensive Tackle Eugene Monroe vs. Patriots Defensive End Chandler Jones
The much maligned offensive line may have turned it’s best performance of the season last Monday night in Detroit especially in pass protection. Monroe has led the way among the lineman and must come up with another strong game against the Patriots top pass rusher.
Jones has become a versatile defender and has 10.5 sacks in 11 games in his second season. He has continued to develop quickly and can play multiple positions in New England’s scheme. He’s almost coming off being named AFC Defensive player of the month in November. Baltimore must be sure account for him in the pass rush.
Ravens Running Back Ray Rice vs. Patriots Defensive Front Seven
Rice put together a good effort last Monday going for 54 yards on 12 carries. He could be used a lot more this Sunday with Flacco’s health in question. The Patriots have one of the league’s worst run defenses mainly due to the losses of Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and Jerod Mayo. That means the Ravens could use Rice and Bernard Pierce much more in the offensive attack to set up play-action.
However there is also a question about Rice’s health as well. He was limited in practice most of the week before taking snaps this Friday.
Ravens Defensive Secondary vs. New England Wide Receivers Julian Edelman/Danny Amendola
Without Rob Gronkowski the Patriots have used a variety of players to spread the ball around to in their short passing game. As pointed out by our BSL colleague, Dan Bryden the Ravens will need to pay particular attention to the slot as nearly half of Brady’s targets have gone to either receiver.
After a very good game this past week against one of the game’s best in Calvin Johnson the corners must continue to play physically to throw off the New England timing routes.