Last weekend, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski once again broke his forearm leaving the Pats dynamic tight end duo missing half of its act. The Patriots will not suffer without Gronk, it’s not like they didn’t beat the Houston Texans quite handily without him during the divisional playoff round. However, this does mean that the Baltimore Ravens will have have seen what a Gronk-less offense will have in store for them tonight, making Tom Brady and friends just that little bit easier to defend.
With Aaron Hernandez now the main tight end threat for the Patriots, it all comes down to how the Ravens allocate their defensive resources around the field. I believe that Dean Pees can now shade coverage and help towards Wes Welker in the slot, which will help cut down a little on those yards after the catch, which he so loves to rack up when he drags under coverage across the middle. Pees, having been on the Patriots defensive staff for six years (three as defensive coordinator), has spent a lot of practice time challenging Tom Terrific and his knowledge clearly helped out the Ravens in last years AFC Championship game, giving many Ravens fans hope that his insight might once again prove invaluable.
From what I’ve seen of the Patriots offense, I am fairly confident in saying that I don’t see any defense completely shutting down the Pats, but can only really hope to contain them and let their offense keep up on the scoreboard. This makes one aspect of the game absolutely critical for the Ravens, and that’s having a positive turnover margin, if they lose the turnover battle then the Patriots will be clinical enough to put the game to bed and propel themselves to the Super Bowl.
Even though I am an eternal Ravens optimist, I can only see this game going one of two ways; either it’s a close nail-biter that comes down to the final drive or, the Patriots quickly get up by 20+ and close the game out with ease and for entertainments sake, I hope that the former occurs tonight in Foxborough.