Patriots - Ravens: Matchups

The (3-0) Baltimore Ravens take on the (2-1) New England Patriots. News, notes, matchups and injury news

PATRIOTS

GAME PLAN: The Patriots need to be careful with Baltimore's defense, which is still among the best in the NFL. Safety Ed Reed causes problems in the secondary, so the Patriots might want to soften up the Ravens' front seven and pull Reed closer to the line of scrimmage before they take a few shots deep down the field.

On defense, the Patriots should be able to keep up the momentum they built in the second half of last week's win over Atlanta. The Ravens have never been a strong team offensively, even though quarterback Joe Flacco is a player to watch.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots RB Laurence Maroney vs. Ravens S Ed Reed. Every now and then, the Ravens will send Reed in on a blitz to disrupt the opposing quarterback. While his coverage skills may be his best attribute, it's important that the Patriots keep him off Brady's back, too, so they'll need help from Maroney on blitz pickups.

Ravens DE Haloti Ngata vs. Patriots LT Matt Light. Ngata is one of the more underrated players on Baltimore's defense and Light is often targeted as the weak link of New England's offensive line, so this matchup makes perfect sense. Light has been so-so thus far, but will need to be on top of his game against this speedy edge-rusher. The Patriots will have enough problems with Baltimore's defense even if they keep Brady clean, never mind if he gets sacked repeatedly.

Ravens LB Ray Lewis vs. Patriots RB Fred Taylor. In the past two games, Taylor has emerged as the Patriots' No. 1 threat at running back. Lewis is still a solid player, but he's a bit older now and no longer in his prime, so it'll be interesting to see if the Patriots can attack him and soften up the Baltimore front seven. This would allow Brady to take some shots down the field against the secondary.

INJURY IMPACT: Losing NT Vince Wilfork would be a major blow to a defense coming off a strong second win last week and looking to build momentum heading into Sunday. Likewise, they need to get Wes Welker back on offense to give the Ravens one more dangerous player to account for. They've managed fine thus far without Jerod Mayo, but losing the centerpiece of the 3-4 scheme would be tough to absorb. Having a healthy offense would help even out the loss.

RAVENS

GAME PLAN: The Ravens' defense has to pressure Tom Brady like the New York Jets did a couple of weeks ago. Brady isn't as sharp when he is moving laterally. That's why the Ravens' inconsistent pass rush needs to step up.

Offensively, the Ravens will have to attack through the air. New England has the 10th-best run defense and shut down Atlanta's Michael Turner last Sunday. Joe Flacco has to make the most of his shots downfield.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Ravens red-zone defense vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady. The Ravens are tied atop the NFL with the best defense inside the 20, holding teams to two touchdowns in eight red-zone possessions. Last Sunday against Atlanta, Brady was 3 of 10 in the red zone for 10 yards and no touchdowns.

Ravens K Steve Hauschka vs. Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski. This game could come down to a late field goal. Hauschka, who has replaced Matt Stover, hasn't had to make a clutch kick this season. Gostkowski, a Pro Bowl kicker, has made nine of 10 field goals this year.

Ravens cornerbacks vs. Patriots WR Randy Moss. After struggling against San Diego's big receivers, this game will tell a lot about the Ravens' undersized corners, Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington. The challenge doesn't get any tougher than Moss, who has 26 receptions this season (the most he's ever had after three games).

INJURY IMPACT: DE Trevor Pryce (illness) didn't practice but he is expected to start.
--QB Troy Smith (illness) didn't practice but he is expected to be the primary backup.
--LB Ray Lewis (head) is feeling the effects of a stinger and is expected to start.
--LB Tavares Gooden (head) said he has a mild concussion and will start.
--LB Jarret Johnson (shoulder) is still dealing with a shoulder injury and will start.
--TE Todd Heap (back) was limited in practice but is expected to start.
--WR Kelley Washington (groin) was limited in practice but is expected to start.
--DT Justin Bannan (knee) is still dealing with a knee injury and will be the top backup at defensive tackle.

 


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