2. Don’t be afraid to air it out with all the new toys
These aren’t your father’s Baltimore Ravens anymore on defense.
In terms of both yards and points allowed, this is a unit that usually ranks top-five at best, top-10 at worst in the NFL. So far in 2019, the Ravens are No. 16 in both metrics… meaning they’re perfectly mediocre in the two major defensive categories that matter most.
A deeper dive with this defense reveals that it’s really good at doing one thing and really bad at doing another. The Ravens against the run are tied for the second-best ranking in the NFL (one spot above the Patriots, by the way). The Ravens against the pass have the seventh-worst ranking in the NFL.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a statistician to see where this is going. When New England is on offense, it would behoove head coach Bill Belichick and coordinator Josh McDaniels to let Tom Brady and the boys air it out a bit on Sunday night. Even if Sony Michel does end up turning his disappointing second season around at some point, chances are it won’t happen this week against the Ravens, who are allowing less than 85 yards on the ground per game.
Conversely, this Baltimore secondary is getting dive-bombed for about 265 yards through the air every week. Help might be on the way soon with the anticipated return of stud cornerback Jimmy Smith from injury, but even that good news has a bit of bad news connected to it, as the Ravens’ big free agent acquisition this past offseason, Earl Thomas, is battling a knee injury that makes him questionable to suit up against the Pats.
Thomas and Smith will probably both end up toughing it out for a chance to take on the champs under the bright lights, but even if they’re both out there, this Baltimore D can be broken. The Ravens rank fifth-worst in sacks this season, and their defensive front hasn’t shown any ability to consistently get after and pressure the quarterback – which, as we all know well by now, is the only way to beat Brady.
Especially with Mohamed Sanu more fully-integrated and comfortable with the New England offense – and perhaps with the addition of first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry – the Patriots’ pass-catchers should create mismatches all night against the Ravens. Brady could also see the return of one or both of his injured tight ends (Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo), meaning this Patriots arsenal might be as healthy as it’s been all season at the skill positions.