Let me first take this opportunity to tell Joe Flacco to shut up. Every QB in the league would give half their accolades to play with the Ravens defense for even one year. Yeah, Flacco, you’re not going to be given credit because you’ve never played to their level. The city of Baltimore knows better than anyone that wins don’t entirely depend on the quarterback, they won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer, remember? They won twelve games with Tony Banks! They won ten games with Elvis Grbac and another ten with Kyle Boller!
Joe Flacco is probably the best QB the Ravens have had in their 16-year franchise (a case could be made for one year of Steve McNair), but that doesn’t mean he deserves that much more credit than Dilfer or Branks. Take into consideration that Joe Flacco completed just 57.6% of his passes this year. Ray Rice caught 80 of those passes and was targeted on 105 of them. Flacco only completed 53% of his passes to players not named Ray Rice.
This shouldn’t be a quarterback that should give the Patriots trouble, but you never know with this team. To get the Flacco we want, the Patriots are going to need to pressure him. According to Pro Football Focus, Flacco has a 92.4 QB rating when under no pressure and a 50.7 QB rating under pressure. The Ravens interior line have been great this year, but their tackles have been horrendous. It’s going to be mostly up to Rob Ninkovich, Mark Anderson and Shaun Ellis to put that pressure on Flacco.
FIND A WAY TO BREAK THROUGH THE BALTIMORE D
According to Pro Football Focus, the Ravens have the second best defense in the league, the best run defense, and best defense in pass coverage and the eleventh best pass rush defense. There’s not a lot of room to find, but as long as the New England line holds up, Brady should have time to throw.
The biggest thing the Patriots will need to fight through is to find some semblance of a rushing game. There’s a lot of doubt surrounding Stevan Ridley this week because of his fumble last week, but the Patriots might need to have trust in him. BenJarvus Green-Ellis hasn’t been finding any room lately to run through and Danny Woodhead will be trusted on third downs, but the Patriots need to gain more than 2 yards per carry on first down, and the Lawfirm hasn’t been doing that.
The tight ends for the Patriots get so much press, not only from me but also from the Boston and National coverage that it feels odd just making them almost a footnote in this column, but they’re going to be huge. I don’t believe the Ravens have anyone to cover even one of those guys. I can’t wait to see how they’re used and which Patriots TE has the big week this week.
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE
Last week the Patriots won the war without winning this battle. I can’t see them being that lucky this week. They’re going to need to force turnovers and they’re going to have to be better at hanging onto the ball. I have faith in Brady not to make mistakes under pressure, but there’s a lot of young players with big roles on this team: Ridley, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski. They’re going to need to hang onto the ball and not let it clang off their hands.
This defense is among the best at generating takeaways and I have faith that they’ll be able to do that on Sunday. I’d like to see two interceptions and another fumble recovery.
I’m predicting a Patriots win, and I’m pretty confident in this team but nerves are still high coming into this game. I love how this team seems to get along and I love how they’ve overcome adversity this season. I want to see another Super Bowl ring in the Brady/Belichick year, and this would be a great year to do it.