Coming off their first victory since late September, the New England Patriots are heading into one of their most challenging games of the season: the Baltimore Ravens, owners of a 6-2 record and the number one scoring defense in the NFL, will visit Gillette Stadium for a Sunday night showdown. Needless to say that the 3-5 Patriots will need to bring their A-game in order to find success against one of the top teams in the league.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at New England’s upcoming opponent.
Record: 6-2 (2nd place AFC North)
Points scored: 8th (28.4/game)
Points against: 1st (17.8/game)
Head coach: John Harbaugh
Coordinators: Greg Roman (offense), Don Martindale (defense), Chris Horton (special teams)
The Ravens are led by an experienced coaching staff under John Harbaugh, now in his 13th season at the job. While the offense is not yet performing on the same levels as last season — the team ranked first with an average 33.2 points scored per game — it is still among the mosts dangerous in football, and a perfect complementary piece to a defense that has been outstanding against the run and no less impressive versus the pass. Add a sound special teams unit and you get one of the most well-rounded teams in football.
Season so far
Week 1 vs Cleveland Browns: W 38-6
Week 2 at Houston Texans: W 33-16
Week 3 vs Kansas City Chiefs: L 34-20
Week 4 at Washington Football Team: W 31-7
Week 5 vs Cincinnati Bengals: W 27-3
Week 6 at Philadelphia Eagles: W 30-28
Week 7: Bye
Week 8 vs Pittsburgh Steelers: L 28-24
Week 9 at Indianapolis Colts: W 24-10
Coming off a disappointing one-and-done performance in last year’s playoffs, the Ravens opened the season with back-to-back blowout wins over the Browns and Texans. While they hit a roadblock versus the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 3, they were right back on track by winning three in a row before their bye. Coming out of its weekend off, however, Baltimore has had some struggles: the team failed to score more than 30 points in each of its post-bye games, and lost its second contest of the season against Pittsburgh.
The Patriots and Ravens have met 14 times so far, with four of the meetings coming in the playoffs:
- Patriots wins: 10 wins (2 playoff wins)
- Ravens wins: 4 wins (2 playoff wins)
While the history between the two clubs does not go back far, it is a storied one that includes some memorable moments — especially in the playoffs.
Baltimore won two of those games by upsetting the Patriots in Foxborough in the 2009 wild card round and the 2012 AFC Championship. New England, however, was able to win the rematch after each of those games in dramatic fashion: the 2011 AFC title game was decided on a pass breakup and missed field goal late in the fourth quarter, while the 2014 divisional game was one of the best playoff games of the 21st century and saw the Tom Brady-led Patriots come back from two separate 14-point deficits.
The regular season meetings between the two clubs have also had a lot of intrigue, despite New England owning an 8-2 record. Never was that more clear than in 2007, when the Patriots scored a game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter to keep their perfect season alive.
Projected starting lineups
QB Lamar Jackson; RB J.K. Dobbins*; WR Marquise Brown, WR Willie Snead IV; TE Mark Andrews, TE Nick Boyle; LT Orlando Brown Jr, LG Bradley Bozeman, C Matt Skura, RG Patrick Mekari, RT D.J. Fluker
Baltimore’s offense may be missing some pieces up front — left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right guard Tyre Phillips are both on injured reserve — but the unit still features an impressive assortment of talent. Led by the reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson and a one-two punch of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards at running back, the Ravens have one of the league’s best ground games. The group could get even more potent with Mark Ingram possibly returning from an ankle injury suffered in October.
DT Brandon Williams, DT Derek Wolfe, OLB Yannick Ngakoue, ILB Patrick Queen*, ILB Matthew Judon , OLB Tyus Bowser; CB Marlon Humphrey, CB Marcus Peters, CB Jimmy Smith; S Chuck Clark, S DeShon Elliott
Even with standout defensive lineman Calais Campbell set to miss Sunday’s game because of a calf injury, and with fellow starters Matthew Judon (calf) and Jimmy Smith (ankle) missing Wednesday’s practice as well, Baltimore has a strong defense on all three levels. From in-season trade acquisition Yannick Ngakoue on the edge, to first-round rookie Patrick Queen in the middle, to one of the league’s best group of cornerbacks, the Ravens ranking first in scoring this year is no surprise. Getting Marlon Humphrey back from Reserve/Covid-19 only makes the group stronger.
K Justin Tucker, P Sam Koch, LS Morgan Cox; KR Devin Duvernay*, PR James Proche*
Baltimore’s kicking game operation is one of the league’s most experienced: Sam Koch joined the team in 2006, Morgan Cox in 2010, and Justin Tucker in 2012. Together, the three are among the very best players in the NFL at their respective positions and the foundation of a strong special teams group. Rookie return men Devin Duvernay and James Proche have also found plenty of success, meanwhile, averaging 8.8 and 31.8 yards per return, respectively.
Three things to watch
1. Can the Patriots’ passing defense bounce back... The Ravens’ passing offense is not necessarily among the NFL’s elite, but it is still very much capable of putting pressure on opposing coverage units. New England’s, of course, is coming off one of its worst performances in recent memory and will have to bounce back against Jackson and company. This is especially true considering that the Patriots will likely invest resources in trying to stop the running game.
2. ...and the run defense stop Lamar Jackson? If there ever is a matchup between unstoppable force and very moveable object it is Baltimore’s running game versus New England’s run defense. While the return of Lawrence Guy and big-bodied interior linemen Carl Davis and Isaiah Mack might help shore up the unit, it has not yet shown an ability to consistently slow down opposing rushing attacks. If the Patriots again fail to do that on Sunday, it could be a very long night for them.
3. Will the Newton-Meyers connection take over again? New England uses a run-first attack on the offensive side of the ball, but the passing game has made some strides recently. The emergence of second-year wide receiver Jakobi Meyers and his chemistry with quarterback Cam Newton have played a key role in this, which means that Baltimore will likely try to take it away. How the team adapts will be a key factor on Sunday and could determine the fortunes of the Patriots’ offense.