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Ravens/Patriots Q&A Session

I recently answered a few questions from Derek over at a New England Patriots blog, Foxboro Blog. Here is their questions followed by my responses. Feel free to add your comments below if you either agree or disagree with my opinions. Also, feel free to click on the link above and head over to their site to see their latest NFL Power Rankings with the New York Jets and New England Patriots ranked #1 and 2, ahead of the Baltimore Ravens (what!?)

1. What were the main things (positive/negative) you took out of Baltimore's 31-17 win over the Denver Broncos last week?  The balance of the Ravens offense was featured, with the run game opening up the pass and vice versa. Moving the ball on long time consuming drives that kept the Broncos high-flying offense off the field, which would be a plus in facing the Pats and Tom Brady.

2. How do you think the secondary has played without Ed Reed for the first five games of the season?  Surprisingly well, but still with issues. I've said forever that the secondary's success was mainly based on the pass pressure the front seven put on the opposing QB. While the Ravens do not have the sacks to look at, the pressures have been there and the return of Ed reed after this week's game will certainly help the lack of great play from the safeties, who have been slow to get over to provide deep coverage help.

3. Before the Week 2 loss to the Bengals, I heard Bob Holtzman say that Joe Flacco told him that there is not one go-to receiver in this offense? Do you think that has a negative impact on this passing attack or is it something Flacco can develop over the course of the season?  Most Ravens fans believe and certainly hope that go-to guy is Anquan Boldin, who has looked every bit the beast we thought he was. However, with Derrick Mason being Flacco's go-to guy last year, it's hard to label just one of Flacco targets the main guy, as we also have TE Todd Heap who has made critical catches and Flacco's favorite check-down option, Ray Rice, who caught 70+ balls last year.

4. What do you make of Joe Flacco's progression over his 3 year career? Do you think he can become an elite QB within the next five years?  Before the Steelers win a couple of weeks ago, I had said that Flacco was a decent QB who could beat the weaker teams and pad his stats but not the tough games. The win over Pittsburgh changed that for me and combined with the playoff win in New England, gives me hope that the combination oft he players around him will make Flacco one of the top 10 QB's in the league, and perhaps even higher.

5. As of right now, is this the best team in the AFC? Are they the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year?    That is such a tough and almost worthless topic, but we all love to discuss it. The Ravens should be ranked as one of the top three teams in the AFC, along with the Jets, Steelers and Pats. With Baltimore beating the Jets and Steelers, shouldn't we be rated higher than them and if the Jets beat the Pats, then shouldn't we be rated better than them as well? This weekend will prove a lot and if the Ravens can get out of Foxboro with a win, that makes three wins on the road at NY, Pittsburgh and New England, which would certainly be worthy of putting the Ravens at the top of the AFC, much less the entire NFL.

6. What is your prediction for the Patriots the rest of the season? What are your thoughts on the Randy Moss trade to Minnesota?  New England plays in a real tough division, having to face both the Jets and 'fins twice a year, but to us Ravens fans, not nearly as tough as facing the Steelers and Bengals twice a year. The Pats will win their share of games and should be in the mix with NY to win the AFC East or perhaps a WC spot. The Moss trade should limit the big play potential for NE, as we know a bunch of Brady's TD passes to Randy were just thrown up for Moss to out-wrestle for the reception. However, the dink-n-dunk potential of what remains will give opponents fits and as they creep up to limit the short throws is when Brady goes long to make them pay for their indiscretions!

7. How much do you think revenge plays a factor in this game after Baltimore's 33-14 win at Gillette Stadium last year in the Wild Card playoffs?  Probably a lot to the fans but BB and the players have pretty much moved on from that. It does give the Ravens confidence that they can win there, tough.

8. Who wins this game on Sunday and Why?  Prior to the season and a few weeks ago I would have put this down as one of the few losses the Ravens will suffer this season. However, their recent balanced play plus their top ranked defense gives me hope that Flacco's ability to win the big games on the road is real and not fleeting. I think the Ravens will move the ball on the Pats and put points on the board. While I expect Brady to do close to the same against Baltimore, the Ravens offense is much more balanced and our defense is much better, which will turn the game in the Ravens favor as the fourth quarter progresses and turns the tide for a Ravens victory.