LAST MATCH UP: The last time the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens met, it was in the AFC Championship game. While Joe Flacco outplayed Tom Brady, the Patriots walked away with a Super Bowl bid when former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff missed a kick that would have sent the game into overtime.
Coming into Week 3 both teams had similar outcomes in Week 1 and Week 2. In Week 1 both teams looked dominate and primed to be mentioned among Super Bowl contender for the rest of the season. Joe Flacco looked as if he was prepared to enter Matthew Stafford/Tony Romo status while the Tom Brady and the Pats offense looked eerily similar to the successful renditions of the previous year. Week 2 both teams took steps back as the suffered close loses.
It will be interesting to see how Josh McDaniels revamps his offense after looking un-Patriot-like against the Arizona Cardinals last week. With Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis lurking, how recently-signed free agents Kellen Winslow Jr. and Deion Branch affect the game could be the difference between a win and a lose for the Patriots. Wes Welker‘s presence will be a key factor for how the Patriots offense runs also.
A huge part of the game will be watching the “new and improved” Patriots defense face off against Flacco and Ray Rice in their no-huddle offense, which has showed promise over the first two weeks of the year. In the first two weeks, the Pats defense hasn’t faced a quality offense (Tennessee Titans/Arizona Cardinals), but this will be different in week two. Ray Rice has been good in his first two outings (83.5 yards per game & two touchdowns), but Vince Wilfork and company have been even better at stopping the run (62.5 yards allowed). This means the game will likely come down to whether Joe Flacco can a) outplay Tom Brady as he did in the AFC championship game and b) not turning the ball over.
Key Match-Up: It would be painfully obvious to say the key match-up is between the Patriots pass offense and the Ravens defense. The field that could dictate the outcome of this game the most will be the Patriots run offense versus the Ravens run defense. In the first two weeks, the Ravens are allowing 129 yards per game. On the other side, the Patriots are ninth in the league in rushing yards with 126 yards per game with second year back Stevan Ridley at the helm. If the Ravens can slow down Ridley and the running game, it’ll force the Patriots to play in their predictable spread offense.
Key Injuries: Tight-End Aaron Hernandez (ankle) will miss Sunday’s game and will miss four to six weeks. Defensive-End/Line Backer Terrell Suggs (knee) is out until week six (P.U.P.) due to an ACL-injury suffered this summer. Bernard Pollard (rib), or most know as the “the Patriots killer”, and Ed Reed (hamstring) are expected to take the field this Sunday.
Predictions: Ravens 20 – Patriots 14