Keep it here all day long as the Baltimore Ravens fight for even more respect as they go into New England to face the Patriots in what should be a statement game for both teams. Use this story to post your thoughts and comments as the Ravens-Patriots game progresses to what we Baltimore Beatdown fans hope to be another victory to keep us on the unbeaten path and atop the AFC North standings at 4-0.
While the Ravens are picked to lose this game by the Las Vegas Oddsmakers and a loss will still leave them at least tied for first place int he AFC North, a win would let the entire league know that this team is poised at a run to the Super Bowl while a loss could easily be chalked up to just a tough game in enemy territory. On the other side, if the Patriots win, it will solidify their return to prominence and signify their franchise QB, Tom Brady, is back to 2007 form. However, a Patriots loss and many will say that New England is not up there with the contenders as they have now lost to both the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens.
Which will it be today, as one of the above story lines has to play out one way or the other? While a majority of the local Baltimore and New England media are picking the Pats to defend their home turf, the national guys are pretty well split evenly on both. However, their opinions really don't matter to anyone here on Baltimore Beatdown, as only our opinions are the ones that truly count, and are usually dead on!
(Read more on "Ravens @ Patriots: Prediction & Open Thread" after the 'Jump')
The Patriots are always playing the game off the field, refusing to let us know who is out and who is playing until the last minutes before gametime. On the field the Ravens will try to establish their running game against what might be a less than 100% front seven of New England. When the ball is in the air, the Ravens Joe Flacco does not seem to have a favorite receiver, although Derrick Mason is still his go-to guy. However, he has thrown to seven or eight receivers each game, so New England just can't double down on any one, which gives a huge advantage to Baltimore if they can give Flacco the time he needs to find the open guy. The Ravens offensive line has opened huge holes for their three RB's and protected Joe real well so far and the team is especially thrilled with the play of rookie RT Michael Oher.
Defensively, the Ravens need to keep the ball in front of them, bending but not breaking, which has been a successful philosophy so far for them. Keeping Randy Moss from making the big play and not letting TE Ben Watson exploit their matchups in the secondary will limit the long scores. If Wes Welker is on the field, he will create problems for our DBs in the open field with his slashing and crossing patterns. Look for our LB's to make him pay early for his transgressions across the middle. Pressure on Tom Brady is a must but if we constantly blitz him, he'll find a way to make us pay. We will need to find a way to make him hurry his throws while only rushing four guys on most plays and blitz when he leasts expect s it. Ray Lewis will be ready for the chess match and he usually makes the right moves.
I see the Patriots as a softer team than they have been in past years. The Jets beat them on the scoreboard and the field and the Ravens play that same style of physical, intimidating play. They will need to do that in addition to executing their gameplan and limit the turnovers while at the same time disrupting the timing of the Patriots offensive gameplan. If they can get Brady to throw off his back foot, get him out of his comfort zone and continue their trend of shutting down the running game, then their chances of winning increase dramatically.
The turnovers will probably decide this game as much as anything else does. Limiting the chances to score by making mistakes while creating those same opportunities have been the heart and soul of the Ravens success. However, this is not the Ravens offense of years past. They can now move the ball down the field in time consuming drives or throw it up for their wideouts to grab and run into the end zone, scenes not seen up until this year. Teams have not been able to stop our scoring pace, nor match it stride for stride. The Patriots have the offense to do it but supposedly so did the San Diego Chargers. The defense decides this game and while both offenses are solid, the Ravens have the edge in the run game and that combination should make the difference. The ability to ram the ball down the opponents' throat then throw over the top makes it tough to stack the box to stop the run and dare Flacco to throw. If teams do that, they will be burned early and often.
While the Ravens secondary was burned themselves in the Chargers game, that was a very unique set of receivers and while the Patriots receivers are very good, they just don't present the physical matchups man for man that the Chargers did. I fully expect Tom Brady to get his yards and stats, but it is in the Red Zone that I expect the Ravens to continue to defend and prevail on both sides of the ball. I just see our defense as the better squad and our offense can definitely compete with theirs. That combination of an offense that can put points on the board against anyone and a defense that will always keep us in the game gives me the confidence to think that if we can go into San Diego, where they'd won 20 of 24 homes games before we beat them, why can't we do the same in a place that has had the NFL's best home record since 2000?
I like the Ravens to play a tough, physical game for four quarters that the Patriots cannot match and Baltimore comes out of Gillette Stadium with new found respect from the naysayers both in the national media but perhaps even more so here at home and prevail to the disappointment of a lot of New England fans.