Three-and-out: Ravens vs. Patriots

Three-and-out: Ravens vs. Patriots
December 19, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) throws a touchdown pass to wide receiver Anquan Boldin (not pictured) in the fourth quarter of the AFC championship game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

(Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports)

1. The Ravens need to find their pass rush - pronto

Terrell Suggs has gone six games without a sack. None of his teammates have picked up the slack. The Ravens need to reboot their pass rush to against Tom Brady. Given time to throw, Brady will not miss open receivers. In fact, he is capable of threading the needle to well-covered receivers if given time to throw. If the Ravens cannot generate a pass rush without blitzing, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will face a difficult choice. Either blitz Brady and risk giving up big plays. Or sit back and risk Brady picking the Ravens apart. Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil have been quiet long enough. This is a game where they need to step up.

2. Joe Flacco’s knee injury may limit his mobility.

Flacco will play Sunday with a brace on his injured left knee. Even if it does not hurt his accuracy, Flacco’s mobility may be hindered. That puts extra pressure on the Ravens offensive line to protect Flacco, who has helped his linemen this year by extending plays and escaping the pocket. Flacco may not want to run much Sunday. The Ravens need to make sure he doesn’t have to.

RELATED: [Can Ravens frustrate Brady again?]

3. Whose red zone offense is worse, the Ravens or Patriots?

The answer to that question may determine the winner of Sunday’s game. The Ravens did not score a touchdown Monday night, relying on Justin Tucker’s six field goals. As for the Patriots, the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski has robbed Tom Brady of his favorite red zone target. The Patriots are hoping wide receivers Aaron Dobson (foot injury) and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip injury) will play Sunday. Without them last weekend against the Dolphins, the Patriots scored just one touchdown on for trips inside the red zone. For both the Patriots and Ravens, improvement in the red zone is critical.

Extra point: If the Ravens win Sunday, they will finish the regular season 7-1 at home. Over the last three years, the Ravens are 20-3 at home during the regular season.