1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Patriots

1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Patriots
December 21, 2013, 8:45 pm
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The crystal ball was admittedly a little foggy last week in Detroit, predicting a touchdown for Megatron and nothing about Justin Tucker kicking a field goal from somewhere in Ontario. Here is what the crystal ball sees taking place on Sunday when the Ravens face New England:

1. Joe Flacco will start.

Flacco is listed as questionable after suffering a knee injury at Detroit, but he practiced with a brace on the injured left knee and all indications he will trot out to make his 108th straight start.

2. Bernard Pierce will have his best game in 10 weeks.

A few weeks ago, fans were clamoring for Pierce to start over Rice. Pierce, though, has done little in the ensuing weeks, including seven carries for 12 yards against Minnesota. But Rice (thigh) is questionable, and Pierce figures to shoulder a greater load against the Patriots' 31st-ranked run defense. Pierce hasn't topped 40 yards rushing since Week 5.

3. Dennis Pitta will lead the Ravens in receptions.

Pitta was surprisingly quiet in Detroit, with two catches, after a strong 2013 debut against Minnesota. He remains one of the Ravens top targets and chain-movers, and they will lean on him Sunday.

4. Torrey Smith will score a touchdown.

Smith had one of the most memorable performances of the season against the Patriots last year, with 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns the day after his brother was killed. Smith has topped the 1,000-yard mark, but has only found the end zone four times. That will change.

5. The Ravens will intercept Tom Brady.

Brady has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes against just one team -- the Ravens. In eight career games against the Ravens, he has eight touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He's only thrown one pick in two games in Baltimore though.

6. Julian Edelman will have the most catches.

The Patriots receiver has 89 catches this year and is Brady's favorite target in the post-Welker era. Especially with Rob Gronkowski out, Edelman is a focal point of the Patriots offense.

7. Terrell Suggs will end his sack drought.

Suggs has gone six games without a sack, tied for the longest such stretch in his career. But the Patriots will be without left tackle Nate Solder (concussion). Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins might slide to tackle, where he played in college, but the Patriots line takes a step back without a starter.

8. Jacoby Jones will have a return of 40-plus yards.

The Patriots have allowed just 19.8 yards per kick return, the third-lowest in the league. But Jones is looking better and better, and he will set up the Ravens offense in great shape.

9. Justin Tucker's streak will continue.

Tucker has hit 33 straight field goals, three shy of the Ravens record. With the Ravens red-zone struggles, he's been asked to do a lot and that will continue today, but once again he'll be up to the task.

10. Ravens 26, Patriots 23

These teams have played the most games this season decided by three points or less (Baltimore has played nine, New England seven). Three of the past four in the series have been decided by three or less. No reason to think this will be any different, assuming Flacco's knee holds up. The edge at home goes to the Ravens by the margin of Justin Tucker's right leg.

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