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Ravens at Patriots: 5 players to watch

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens will take on the New England Patriots on Sunday night. Last week, the Ravens bounced back from their loss to the Steelers with a 24-10 victory over the Colts, while the Patriots were able to stave off the winless Jets for a 30-27 win. That victory snapped a four-game losing streak by the Patriots.

Here are five players to watch:

Devin Duvernay

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore has missed the Patriots’ past two games with a knee injury, and he is still a limited participant in practice.

Without Gilmore, the Patriots’ secondary has looked beatable. On Monday night, Joe Flacco was able to turn back the clock and throw for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Prior to that performance, Flacco had just one passing touchdown in his two starts this season.

The regression of cornerback Jason McCourty has become a problem for the Patriots this season, and without Gilmore, he has played 100 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in each of the last two games. Prior to Gilmore’s injury, he had not played even 75 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in a single game this season. When targeted, McCourty is allowing a pass rating of 140.9 per Pro Football Reference. That is a steep decline from last season, when he allowed a pass rating of only 54.7.

The Ravens should challenge McCourty on the outside. Devin Duvernay has game-breaking speed and has performed well in his limited role. He had a 93-yard kick return touchdown against the Chiefs, and he had a 42-yard rush against the Bengals. The Ravens have been seeking another playmaker on offense, but they may already have the answer on their roster in the third-round pick. He has seen an increase in playing time, as of late. He eclipsed Miles Boykin in offensive snaps over each of the past two games, and despite thriving in the slot in college, Duvernay has actually played more snaps out wide this season. Therefore, Duvernay could be matched up against McCourty often. The Ravens need to exploit that matchup on Sunday.

Marquise Brown

Speaking of the Patriots’ secondary, cornerback J.C. Jackson got burned by Breshad Perriman twice last week.

First, he beat him deep for a 50-yard touchdown:

Then, he broke his ankles for a second touchdown:

The Ravens should replicate what worked for the Jets and target Jackson deep. Marquise Brown is an explosive deep threat, and his speed should cause problems for the Patriots defense.

Derek Wolfe

The Ravens will be without Calais Campbell on Sunday; he is set to miss multiple weeks with a calf injury. Derek Wolfe took on a larger role against the Colts after Campell went down. Wolfe played 75 percent of the defensive snaps, which was a season-high.

Wolfe is a good run-defender. He currently has a PFF run-defense grade of 70.5. That is the highest grade among the Ravens’ defensive lineman with the exception of Campbell. Wolfe will need to be at his best against the Patriots, who are fourth in rushing yards per game.

Marlon Humphrey

Humphrey is officially back!

Prior to testing positive for COVID-19, Humphrey was in the midst of a sensational season. He is currently tied with Myles Garrett for the league-lead in forced fumbles with four. In addition, he has an interception and a career-high two and a half sacks.

The Patriots have struggled with turnovers this season. Right now, they have 15 giveaways, which is tied for fourth-most in the NFL. Last season, Humphrey had a 70-yard fumble return touchdown against the Patriots.

I would not be surprised to see him make another big play in this game.

Malik Harrison

Harrison had easily his best game of the season against the Colts. He recorded 11 total tackles; he entered the game with only 16 total tackles this season. L.J. Fort missed that game with a finger injury, which led to Harrison playing a larger role. He was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice, but head coach John Harbaugh said it’s not a long-term injury.

Nevertheless, let’s see if Harrison can keep that momentum going against the Patriots.