3. Ravens CBs vs Patriots WRs- The Patriots have looked thinner at WR this year than they have in years past. Wes Welker is being mysteriously under-utilized which has led to a plethora of trade rumors. Aaron Hernandez, while technically playing tight end, has been the Patriots best receiver this season, but he has been ruled out due to an ankle sprain. The Patriots re-signed Deion Branch this week to help compensate for the loss, but he looked finished at the end of last season. The Ravens have a great secondary, they should be able to handle this group.
2. Haloti Ngata vs. Patriots OL- Haloti is a matchup nightmare every week against every team. This week he might have an even better edge than usual. The Patriots OL is in flux after losing several key players. Last week Tom Brady was under duress constantly and the Cardinals pass rush was almost unstoppable. Expect the Patriots to devote quite a bit of attention to Ngata which will create miss-matches and one on ones for other rushers.
1. Joe Flacco vs. Patriots Secondary- The Patriots secondary on the whole isn’t very good. Devin McCourtey is a near Elite corner, but he has a tendency to gamble and jump routes which can create deep opportunities. Flacco should be able to find open receivers all day long, expect a repeat of the AFC championship game, but this time perhaps without the heartbreaking finale.
Honorable Mention- Ed Reed vs. Tom Brady- When the Ravens and Patriots get together, Tom Brady writes an extra sentence on his Wrist band. “FIND #20 ON EVERY PLAY”. That is the effect Ed Reed has on teams and that is why, for the third straight week, Ed Reed is one of the Ravens top match-ups. Reed, by presence alone, will cause Brady to limit his field on every play just to avoid a tipped ball interception.
3. Patriots Front 7 vs. Ravens OL- The Patriots D isn’t all that much improved from last season overall, but their front 7 has definitely gotten better. Rookie Dont’a Hightower has looked good and rookie Chandler Jones is already easily the teams best pass rusher. If the Patriots really turn up the heat and dial up the blitz, the Ravens might have trouble protecting Flacco.
2. Rob Gronkowski vs. Ravens LBs- The Gronk is arguably the top tight end in the NFL right now. When the Patriots game-plan is focused on getting him the ball, he is nearly unstoppable. As a general rule, Bernard Pollard is as good a TE covering strong safety as there is in the game, he is also having the best season of his career. That said, Pollard is playing hurt and may be less effective than usual.The Ravens will need to find a way to slow down Gronkowski and force the Patriots receivers to beat them instead.
1. Tom Brady vs. Ravens D- This has more to do with Brady than it does with the Ravens. Brady is a first ballot hall-of-famer and arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game. Any given week he can go off for hundreds of yards and enough touchdowns to bury even the best of offenses. The Ravens will need to be sharp and hit Brady early and often to keep him from finding his groove and getting in the zone.