Thursday, September 20, 2012

Patriots vs. Ravens: 5 Things to Watch

The top two AFC teams from 2011 are both 1-1.  Most people probably didn't expect that to happen. Both teams are coming off of ugly losses last week. The Ravens lost a heart breaker to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Patriots looked sloppy in a loss to the underdog Arizona Cardinals.

This is by far the toughest opponent yet for either team. 

Here are a five things to watch for on Sunday:

1) Ray Rice
 Week 1 was all about containing Chris Johnson. Week 2 was all about stopping Larry Fitzgerald. The Patriots defense did a good job at taking the star offensive player out of both of those games. However, this week is a different story. Ray Rice is a double threat to either run or catch the ball. Rice is second on the team in receptions and has the longest catch of any Ravens reciever (37 yards). Both the defensive line and the backfield will need to keep an eye on number 20.

2) Chandler Jones vs. Michael Oher
It's the Blind Side vs. the Sidewinder. Oher moved from right to left tackle after the Ravens benched usual starter Bryant McKinnie. Jones gave Arizona Cardinals left tackle D'Anthony Batiste a headache last week by constantly speeding around the edge to get to QB Kevin Kolb. Oher should be a more suitable match for the rookie.

3) Deion Branch and Kellen Winslow
These two guys have their work cut out for them. Branch probably not as much, seeing as his nameplate was never taken off of his locker. Winslow only met Tom Brady for the first time on Tuesday, so it may take a few snaps to get these guys in sync. It will be a much different offense without the versatile Aaron Hernandez.

4) The Patriots Backfield vs Torrey Smith 
Smith is fast. He is also the de facto deep threat for the Ravens. He has averaged 27.8 yards per catch on four catches this season. The Pats secondary was burned by Nate Washington for an easy touchdown in week 1, and that was with a mediocre quarterback. Smith was the second leading receiver on the team last season (second to Anquan Boldin by only 46 yards). Smith and Ray Rice will keep this defense on their toes all day. 

5) Offensive Line
Even though the Ravens are without 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, Baltimore still has a stingy defense. Tom Brady was thrown off his game by the Arizona defense. Brady is going to need more protection in order to get on the same page with his new receivers. 

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