Jan 13, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (85) scores a touchdown past Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph (24) during the third quarter of the AFC divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens vs. Pats 3 Early Keys


1. Contain Ray Rice

This one is obvious – no matter how great Joe Flacco and his receivers looked against the Broncos on Saturday, Rice is the number one option in the Raven offense. He is one of the best running backs in the NFL and easily the Ravens best offensive player.  His frame alone makes it extremely tough for defenses to contain him. He is a very short player, built solid and low to the ground, and his ability to get through the smallest holes and burst out of them is unparalleled in the NFL. He is not only a great runner, but he can catch the ball coming out of the backfield. He has to be the Pats number one priority on defense.  If you let Rice get going, it is going to be tough to stop the Ravens.

2. Brandon Lloyd and the running game

With the loss of ‘Gronk’ there will be pressure on some of New England’s other weapons to step up and help Brady and the offense. Brandon Lloyd headlines these other weapons. Welker and Hernandez will receive extra attention by Baltimore’s secondary, which will most likely leave Lloyd in a one on one matchup on the outside. He has to take advantage of this, especially considering that Baltimore has no true great cover corner.  He needs to make some plays outside of the numbers to help Welker and Hernandez in the middle of the field.  Another group that will need to step up is the Pats running game. Towards this end, Steven Ridley has been great all year.  He has helped balance out the offense and make Tom Brady’s passing attack even more lethal.  Ridley will once again have to be effective against the Ravens because we all know that if you become one dimensional against a Raven defense, then your QB will be under a lot of pressure. The emergence of Shane Vereen in the divisional win against Houston may be huge for the Pats.  He is another weapon that can not only run the ball, but split out and win matchups against linebackers in the passing game.  Danny Woodhead’s health will be something to watch going into this game, as he is a very good 3rd down back that has a knack for making big plays.

3. Baltimore’s receivers vs. Pats corners

The Ravens showed on Saturday against the Broncos that they have a multitude of weapons on the outside that they can deploy. When the Ravens want to spread you out, they can do it and do it effectively.  Anquan Boldin is a big physical guy that has great hands, and Torrey Smith is flat out fast. Between the two of them the Ravens have a great outside duo that is tough to stop. Torrey Smith can stretch the field with the best of them, and I think he is severely underrated when it comes to going vertical – he can go deep with the best of them. With Smith going vertical, it opens up things in the intermediate-to-short routes for Anquan Boldin, and he has shown throughout his career that he can produce. The Pats corners are going to have to step up and play the game of their life if they hope to slow this dynamic combination. Pats cornerback Aquib Talib arguably had his best game of the year on Sunday against one of the best receivers in the game in Andre Johnson.  Talib is a big aggressive corner that can matchup with Boldin well.  He will need to be physical and aggressive with him to try and make some plays. Torrey Smith will most likely be matched up with Alfonzo Dennard, who is a very good rookie cornerback. However I don’t think he will be able to handle Smith by himself, and I think that is where Devin McCourty comes into play, as he will need to help Dennard contain Smith.

 

Tags: Alfonzo Dennard Anquan Boldin Aquib Talib Baltimore Ravens Brandon Lloyd New England Patriots Ray Rice Shane Vereen Steven Ridley Torrey Smith

  • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

    Lloyd presents a huge advantage for the Patriots, since Ravens CB Cary Williams fits right into Williams’s strong suit which is allowing receivers a lot of space. That will allow Lloyd to work his finesse game to a high degree.

    • Cyrus Geller

      Lloyd has to be big welker will be doubled a lot on Sunday

  • http://www.facebook.com/Danglybits9.11 Dan Gleebitz

    I heard AD was going to be on AB and AT on TS.

    • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

      As long as McCourty is bracketing Smith, I’m fine with any combination of Dennard or Talib on Baldin and Smith.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Danglybits9.11 Dan Gleebitz

        Dennard missed practice today, hope he is ok

        • http://www.facebook.com/liam.mcknight.35 Liam Mcknight

          uh-oh. i hope so too. his size and coverage ability make him alot better matchup as our 2nd corner than Arrington. Arrington is a slot corner, nickel backer. he’s actually a strength at that position due to his versatility and nack for interceptions (remember bill had him play de in 2010? he led the league in int’s that year!)

          • http://www.facebook.com/Danglybits9.11 Dan Gleebitz

            AD is good to go, non injury related!

  • http://www.facebook.com/liam.mcknight.35 Liam Mcknight

    i’d put talib on smith due to his speed and length and flatout experience, i dont think he’ll let smith beat him deep, i know smith is unreal and was beating champ bailey but champ bailey is 34 years old, talib is what? 26? Talib has 4.38 speed and i think can do the job on smith.
    I’d put Dennard on Boldin. You would think Talib due to size but Dennard is a fighter, he has good luck against bigger recievers (look how he frustrated alshon jeffery in college! the dude tried to fight over it!), Dennard is good guarding short to intermediate routes and likes staying in their jerseys, tight coverage, he’s got 4.5 speed to Boldins 4.6 and i know he’s outsized but he’ll fight for the ball and you still got McCourty over the top to help him out and Gregory too (damn i wish it was chung!)….
    Dennard gets beat deep sometimes, look at the 49ers game, he’s better off guardeing boldin and fighting with him all day, talib is the man with the speed and confidence and experience to limit smith, keep him in front of him and light him up whenever he does make a catch…
    I could see our CB’s coming up huge on sunday. If the passrush and front seven do their job getting to the QB and stoppign the run, our secondary will be just fine. The talent is there, they have what it takes this time. Legitimately. (DAMN I WISH CHUNG PLAYED OVER GREGORY!)

    • Cyrus Geller

      All solid points but my thinking is that smith can get deep on both of them so you should put dennard on him with safety help over the top

    • Cyrus Geller

      Then have talib one on one with boldin

  • Hal Bent

    As long as Kyle Arrington isn’t covering Smith I’m fine. Did you notice Houston seemed to be trying to get Johnson away from Talib in the second half? He had one first down reception where the Pats had Arrington on him and I was cursing and throwing things at the tv. I’d expect that Talib will match up Smith early on. Belichick isn’t going to hesitate to change up the coverage if it doesn’t work.