It's game day Ravens Nation and that means it's time for our Five Key Matchups to Watch For and today the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots renew their rivalry. In a rematch of the last two AFC Championship games, the Ravens and Patriots both find themselves in similar situations as they both are vying for postseason spots and need a victory today.
As is the case in any game, there are always several key matchups to watch for, but we dive through all of them to bring you the absolute five most crucial to the Ravens success.
Ravens Pass Rush vs Patriots O-Line
The Ravens have one of the best pass rushes in all of football and have made life for opposing quarterbacks pretty miserable this season, and if there is one quarterback other than Ben Roethlisberger that the Ravens like to hit it would be Tom Brady. Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and company are going to have to apply some pressure on Brady to make him uncomfortable in the pocket if they wish to slow down the potent New England offense. If Brady gets time in the pocket he will pick you apart no matter who his receivers are.
Lardarius Webb vs Danny Amendola/Julian Edelman
It is no secret that the Ravens like to move Webb inside to cover the slot on three or more wide receiver sets and the Patriots have made it a habbit of finding dangerous slot receivers. Brady loves throwing to his slot receivers and Webb is going to have his hands full with Amendola and Edelman today. If Webb can keep whichever guy he is covering on certain plays from getting open, it is going to vastly help the pass rush as well as the rest of the secondary. On the flip side, if Brady realizes he can exploit Webb, it could be a long day for the Baltimore defense.
Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce vs Patriots Rush Defense
The Patriots allow the second most rushing yards per game in all of football, and despite their struggles this season, both Rice and Pierce are going to have to find a way to get going against the struggling New England rush defense. As is the case with practically every team in football, when you are able to effectively run the football, the passing game is helped out tremendously, especially with the play action. In Baltimore's case, not only would the play action be a big benefactor of a good rushing performance, but the deep ball immediately becomes and even more dangerous weapon for Joe Flacco. If Baltimore is running the ball well, New England will be forced to bring more men in the box and thus create some mismatches on the outside.
Neither Flacco nor Brady seem to put forth extremely poor performances when their teams need them the most, but today is huge game for both teams as the Patriots are still trying to lock up the AFC East and perhaps a first round bye, while the Ravens are trying to force a defacto AFC North championship game in week 17 as well as keep their wildcard hopes alive as well. In this rivalry, it almost seems that whichever quarterback ends up playing the best game, their team ultimately wins the game and that could once again be the case today.
Both teams come into the game with fantastic field goal kickers and very serviceable punters, but we believe that whichever team makes an impactful play on special teams may end up being the winner of the game. Jacoby Jones is likely the most feared returner in the game today and if he can find a way to break one, or at least continue to give the Ravens great starting field position, it will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Those are our five key matchups to watch for today as the Ravens host the Patriots, what are yours? Did we miss an obvious one? Let your voice be heard by posting a comment!
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