The New England Patriots (10-2) face the Baltimore Ravens (7-5) for the first time since the 2014 postseason. The Ravens are looking for revenge, after the Patriots stole what should have been their third win in Foxboro.
Despite their record, the New England Patriots should not and likely will not overlook the Baltimore Ravens.
If they want to come away with a win, and improve their chances of securing home field advantage, they will need to be sure they make these four keys to victory highlights of their gameplan, both offensively and defensively.
Over the years, the Ravens have been able to put consistent pressure on Tom Brady, making him look human.
In Brady’s career, excluding teams he has not played more than five times, Brady’s worst quarterback rating (83.6) and worst completion percentage (58.3 percent) have come against the Ravens. In fact, some of Brady’s worst games have come against the Ravens.
It also doesn’t help that defensive coordinator Dean Pees knows a thing or two about what makes Brady uncomfortable.
If the Patriots offensive line (that has performed well against some of the best defensive lines in the league) can give Brady enough time in the pocket, Patriots’ receivers will eventually get open against this up and down Ravens’ secondary.
Spread ‘Em Out
The last time the Patriots played the Ravens, they had just14 yards on 13 carries. The offense did not run the ball once in the second half of the game. During this game, it may not be that different.
The Ravens have the best rush defense in the league, allowing just 3.4 yards per attempt and 73.8 yards per game. Expect offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to install a game plan that will involve getting the ball out quickly to neutralize the Ravens fierce pass rush.
This could very well be a game for both James White and Dion Lewis to have a breakout game — together.
Pressure Joe Flacco
During the last few games, the Patriots defense has been able to reignite their pass rush. They may only have just five sacks in the last 3 games, but the defense has been able to create pressure.
As great as it would be for New England to sack Joe Flacco, it’s more important for the defense to constantly put pressure on him. The more pressure, the more likely they are to force him into making a mistake.
There is also the chance that the Patriots will “mush rush” to allow more defenders to drop in coverage. Don’t be surprised if they elect to go in this direction based on their matchup.
No Self-Inflicted Wounds
If the Patriots want a chance at winning this game, they will need to make sure they have few penalties that will set them back in field position on offense or give the Ravens free yards.
While the Patriots average 6.2 penalties per game (5th in the league), the Ravens have average 8.2 per game (30th in the league). If there is an area of concern for the Patriots to tighten up, it will be on offense were more than half of their 74 penalties have come.
It has also been announced that Ed Hochuli and his crew will be referees of this game. Patriots’ fans are well aware of Hochuli (Since 2010, the Patriots are 3-5 when Hochuli and his crew work as referees).
Keeping these points in mind, the most important key is health. The Patriots cannot afford another injury, especially with this tough stretch to end the season. Should they lose this game, they still have the opportunity to keep the #1 seed, should Oakland drop another game.