When QB Joe Flacco and his Baltimore Ravens roll into town, our New England Patriots may face their toughest opponent yet. Remember Rex Ryan's Jets defense? Well, before taking the HC job in Joisey, Rex coached the Ravens defense, in various capacities, since 1999. You can rest assured they haven't forgotten what they've learned.
Peaking under the covers, however, we see some interesting dents in the armor. At this point, the Ravens pass defense is 17th overall, but their run defense is #1. Football Outsiders' DVOA has them as the #1 ranked defense. Believe what you want to believe. I've always felt the Ravens had a solid D, one that always gave us troubles.
Joe Flacco, at #7 on the QB rankings, is a rising star and a QB we haven't seen for Baltimore as we never played them last year. Our 2007 matchup ended badly for Baltimore. A poorly called timeout, penalties at very bad times, and a few key stops for NE made this a 27-24 victory for our Patriots. This was a battle and some darn good football to watch. I suspect more of the same and am glad our matchup is in Foxboro.
From a strategic standpoint, Baltimore's pass defense is questionable according to the stats, so the course of action could be to air the ball consistently; if Wes Welker's back, it's a fairly obvious thing to do. However, a wrinkle in the plan is our extensive use of tight ends. A result of the amount of TE time was the lack of blitzing by the Falcons. Multiple talented TE's have the advantage of not only blocking but creating problems for smaller DB's when they work as receivers; TE's are simply bigger and harder to take down.
Given a strong rushing defense, I suspect we won't see a lot of running attacks, unless we want to unbalance the defense. I also think we might take advantage of more screens with the likes of Welker and Kevin Faulk.
What do you think the game plan will be? How should we attack Baltimore? Is Flacco the real deal?