The New England Patriots are looking to bounce back by beating the Baltimore Ravens tonight, in a rematch of last year’s down-to-the-wire AFC Championship game. The Patriots will be traveling to M&T Bank Stadium in front of an estimated crowd of 71,000 in Baltimore, Maryland.
The game will start at 8:20 p.m. ET, and it will be broadcasted to a national audience on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Chris Collinsworth and the legendary Al Michaels will be calling the game, and the game can be watched on WHDH-TV Channel 7 in Boston. As always, you can listen in on 98.5 The Sports Hub. For those of you living outside of the area, James Lofton and Kevin Kugler will be calling the game on Dial Global Radio Sports.
Alfonzo Dennard, Brandon Deaderick, Justin Francis, and Aaron Hernandez are out for the Patriots, while nobody is out for the Baltimore Ravens. You can read the full injury report here, and there are many Pats players listed questionable.
Patriots Pass Offense vs. Ravens Pass Defense
I wrote a full breakdown here on this battle, which will pit a solid Ravens pass defense against one of the best passing attacks in the NFL.
The Ravens love playing Ladarius Webb in the slot, so he will be facing Wes Welker and Julian Edelman for the majority of the game, with RCB Cary Williams handling Brandon Lloyd on the outside. Williams doesn’t get burned easily, but he does play soft coverage and thus gives up a high amount of receptions. LCB Jimmy Smith is an extremely aggressive corner who gets burned easily, so the Ravens will likely turn to star free safety to help out Smith more often than Williams. However, Reed will likely help out both CBs to supplement whoever is struggling more. Expect Rob Gronkowksi to have a big game, especially if he is matched up against strong safety Bernard Pollard.
The Ravens pass rush features two top defensive linemen in Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee, with Ngata being well-known for his pass rushing prowess. The Ravens love to use him all over the place, and it will be interesting to see which side of the line the Ravens choose to place him on. Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer are still nicked up, while Nate Solder is the weakest of the starters and Logan Mankins is nicked up and has started the season slowly. Both McPhee and Ngata are forces to reckon with, and McPhee is one of the most underrated pass ruhshers in the NFL.
Patriots Run Offense vs. Ravens Run Defense
Ray Lewis isn’t what he use to be, but he’s still a solid linebacker against the run and in coverage. The Ravens are definitely missing run-stopping studs Terrell Suggs and Jarret Johnson, but second-year OLB Albert McClellan has helped pick up the slack against the run. He has been dominant this season, and that dominance was apparent last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Meanwhile, the Pats rushing attack is led by Stevan Ridley, who was solid against a tough Arizona Cardinals run defense last week. He opened up the season with a 125-yard outburst against the Tennessee Titans. With Pollard providing a solid presence in the box as a safety to supplement a still-solid front seven, Ridley will find it more difficult to run it against the Ravens than against the Titans. However, the second-year RB proved that he can grind out yards against tough run defenses, and I’m sure Ridley will find out that the Ravens run defense isn’t quite as good as the Cardinals run defense. It’s solid, but it definitely isn’t what it used to be with Suggs injured.
Continue Reading to read my final prediction on the game, as well as my thoughts on how the Pats defense stacks up against Ray Rice and the Ravens offense.