BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 15: Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates during the third quarter of the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on January 15, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
1) Ravens Pass Rush
The New England Patriots have been built around one player, Tom Brady. It is imperative that Baltimore is able to get him out of his comfort zone this weekend using primarily their front four. Cory Redding, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody will have to find ways to collapse the pocket and keep Tom Brady guessing as to where the pressure will be coming from. There will be times to blitz and times where these four players will be counted on to do the job.
The Patriots have so many weapons on offense, the Ravens will need to keep as many defenders as they can in coverage. Over the years Brady has had the luxury of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. This will be one of, if not the most important areas of the game for Baltimore. If Brady has enough time he will pick them apart.
2.) Get Ray Rice Going Early
Ray Rice is the engine that drives the Ravens offense. He will be counted on to move the ball and eat up clock, keeping Tom Brady and company on the sidelines.
Last time these teams met in the playoffs it was the Ray Rice show. Let's hope the Ravens stay true to form and do not try to get in a passing contest with New England. That would be a contest Baltimore would surely lose. If Rice is effective early it will set up the play action and force the defense to bring an extra man in the box. This will help get things going for Torrey Smith down field and Anquan Boldin over the middle. Once the defense is stuck trying to stop the run, Flacco can take some shots deep to Smith to keep them honest and hopefully get some points on the board.
3.) Force Turnovers
The Ravens have always been good at scoring on defense or at least getting good field position for their offense. This will be huge in this game. If the Ravens can get Brady flustered early and make him turn the ball over it will take away a lot of what the Patriots want to do. Brady is fired up for this game, as he should be. Maybe Baltimore can use that to their advantage and get his emotions involved early. We have all seen the videos of him yelling and carrying on on the sidelines during games. Wouldn't that be a great sight this Sunday?
Strip sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions will be the name of the game for Baltimore. Usually if you can win the turnover battle you can win the game. That holds true for the most part but facing as dynamic of an offense as their is in the NFL it will be imperative that Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense turn these situations into six points if they happen. A turnover and a punt will do nothing but prolong the inevitable.