There’s a lot on the line in this game — literally and figuratively
Patriots guards Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason and James Ferentz vs. Ravens DTs Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce: The key to slowing the Patriots’ passing game is getting pressure on quarterback Tom Brady up the middle. Brady is excellent at taking a step sideways or up to avoid the rush but doesn’t move well outside the pocket. Williams and Pierce have to move him to offset his rhythm.
Ferentz could be a major weakness. He isn’t a regular starter, so the Ravens might go after him. Williams had his best game of the season two weeks ago against Seattle, so it will be interesting to see if he can match that effort again following the bye week. Pierce has 21 total tackles this season, and sometimes he subs for Williams or is in the same lineup depending on the situation. When both bring their A game, the Ravens are hard to beat.
What’s at stake
The Patriots are defending champions and haven’t lost a game this season. They are the elite team of the league, the model franchise with perhaps the NFL’s best coach and quarterback ever. If the Ravens can beat New England, it will show that they have arrived.
The Ravens made a strong statement two weeks ago by winning in Seattle, but nothing gets everyone’s attention more than a victory against New England.
What’s on the radar
Only the Los Angeles Chargers were able to slow Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in the playoffs last season, doing so by using a slew of defensive backs and winning key battles on the inside against the Ravens guards.
It will be interesting to see how Patriots head coach Bill Belichick plays Jackson. If he succeeds, it will be hard to duplicate that success because another team has to have similar personnel, but at least there will be another blueprint. Jackson won a big game against Seattle, but the stakes are higher in this one.
Ravens defensive end Brandon Williams will try to replicate last week’s performance against Seattle, his best this year.