John Harbaugh and the Ravens prepare for the Patriots
What: Patriots (10-4) at Ravens (8-6)
When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Where: M & T Bank Stadium
Five questions that need answering:
1. How much will Joe Flacco be bothered by his knee injury?
Flacco plans to wear a brace on his left knee Sunday. Nobody can be certain how much the brace, or the injury, will bother him. But Flacco’s mobility could be limited, and Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones is one of the NFL’s sack leaders with 11½. There will be pressure on the Ravens’ offensive line to protect Flacco, because the less Flacco runs around in this game, the better off he will be.
2. Will either team solve their red zone woes?
The Ravens didn’t score a touchdown Monday night. The Patriots only scored one touchdown in four red-zone trips during their loss to the Dolphins. That is some bad red zone offense. The team that does the best job maximizing scoring opportunities will likely win.
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3. Can the Ravens get a pass rush on Tom Brady?
While the Ravens have had success against Brady, getting pressure on him is a must. The Ravens’ pass rush has slumped recently, most notably Terrell Suggs, who has gone six games without a sack. There is no quarterback Suggs would rather punish than Brady. But if Brady has a clean pocket throughout this game, he will move the football, and the Patriots’ chances of winning are good.
4. Will the Ravens hurt the Patriots with big plays?
The Ravens are first in the NFL at drawing pass interference penalties - 13 for 272 yards. Flacco likes to throw deep, and Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are two of the league’s fastest receivers. The Patriots will be determined not to let Smith or Jones get behind them. However, Patriots cornerbacks like Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, and Kyle Arrington must avoid the temptation to grab during coverage, which could draw a flag.
5. Who will make more clutch plays?
The Patriots have played five straight decided by four points or less. Five of the last six Ravens games have been decided by three points or less. This should be a close one. So who will be the hero? Brady? Flacco? Justin Tucker? Danny Amendola? It could come down to which team has the ball last.