The New England Patriots are on the verge of arguably their most difficult game this season: a primetime road trip to face the Baltimore Ravens.
The New England Patriots face their toughest opponent yet on Sunday Night Football this week: the Baltimore Ravens. While the Patriots (8-0) are currently a three-point road favorite, no one is looking past the AFC North-leading Ravens (5-2) and their chances of handing the defending champs their first loss.
New England is 10-3 against Baltimore in the regular season – including an impressive 3-1 mark on the road – but the Pats are also just 2-2 in the playoffs against John Harbaugh and company. Perhaps because these matchups are usually hotly-contested and have often gone down to the wire, the Ravens rightfully register as one of the Patriots’ more dangerous rivals in the AFC this season.
In previous meetings, Baltimore has proven a thorn in the side of New England largely because of their clamp-down defense… think Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, etc. All those legends are long gone now though, and while this present-day Ravens defense still has playmakers (Earl Thomas, Jimmy Smith, Marcus Peters), it’s nowhere near as feared around the league as it used to be back when Baltimore was regularly challenging for Super Bowl appearances.
The caveat, of course, is that the Ravens offense is now significantly more potent than it ever was in the days of Joe Flacco. Second-year sensation Lamar Jackson supplanted Flacco midway through last season and never gave the job back… and now he’s a legitimate MVP candidate this year. On top of that, Jackson has a very real chance of breaking Michael Vick’s record for rushing yards by a QB in a single season.
He’s not doing it all alone, either. Ex-Saints running back Mark Ingram looks revitalized playing behind a top-10 offensive line, and the Ravens also have quality backup runners in Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. Together with Jackson, these workhorses have catapulted Baltimore into having the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL.
So how do the Patriots approach this monster of a game on Sunday night? They’d do well by focusing on these three keys to winning the game and hitting their bye week with a perfect 9-0 record.