There’s a lot on the line in this game — lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - RAVENS -

Key matchup

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.

NICK WASS/AP

Ravens de­fen­sive end Bran­don Williams will try to repli­cate last week’s per­for­mance against Seat­tle, his best this year.

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