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The New England Patriots have heard talk all season about how they haven’t played anyone. Well, this Sunday they’ll be going up against a 5-2 Baltimore Ravens team that’s done some damage.
Sure, the Patriots’ schedule so far has been weak, but they (and their defense in particular) have dismantled every challenge in front of them.
Will they have similar success against the dynamic Lamar Jackson and the Ravens? Let’s take a look at the matchup:
PATRIOTS OFFENSE VS. RAVENS DEFENSE
– Brady vs. the blitz
It’s always a gamble when opposing teams send extra rushers against Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback has spent the last two decades reading defenses and quickly delivering the ball into open spaces.
On Sunday, he’ll be facing a Ravens defense that blitzes on a league-high 48% of snaps, per Pro Football Reference.
The Patriots offensive line has had issues this season protecting Brady. But if Shaq Mason is back and the team can get blitzes picked up, this could be a big night in Baltimore.
– What will N’Keal Harry do?
After a half-season hiatus, the Patriots’ first-round pick is expected to finally suit up in a regular-season game.
Harry impressed during training camp and his limited preseason action. However, his stint on injured reserve took the wind out of his sails for a few months.
Harry’s participation in the Patriots offense Sunday — and down the road — will be a big factor. With Josh Gordon out of the picture, Harry presents the Patriots’ best option for a physical outside receiver. He showed some flashes of chemistry with quarterbacks during training camp, especially with contested catches.
If he jumps in right away, that could be a huge boost for Patriots receiving corps that’s struggled to get open. But if he shows signs of rust, there could be trouble.
PATRIOTS DEFENSE VS. RAVENS OFFENSE
– All eyes on Lamar Jackson
This one isn’t complicated: The Patriots need to keep Jackson contained and prevent him from breaking into the open field.
It’s simple, but presents a huge challenge for the entire defense. As Devin McCourty said this week, you can’t just tell one guy to “spy” and call it a day. That guy can’t stop a running quarterback by himself. Instead, a defense needs all 11 players to handle assignments correctly and work on preventing running lanes from opening.
That’s only if he runs. Jackson is also excellent at scrambling to buy time to find receivers downfield, presenting a whole new kind of challenge for receivers.
– Pass rush predicament
One issue that a mobile quarterback frequently causes for Patriots defenses is that it forces edge rushers to focus more on containing the quarterback than flying in screaming after him. It’s the sort of approach they’ve taken against quarterbacks like Russell Wilson in the past.
It’s tempting to always try and go upfield to trying and get to the quarterback, but we’ve seen this defense burned by that sort of play — like when Mitchell Trubisky burned the Patriots last year with his legs.
Keep an eye out for a more conservative approach off the edge — and for the big guys to try and come crashing up the middle.
TOP 3 MATCHUPS TO WATCH
1. Patriots linebackers vs. Lamar Jackson
The group that will likely bear the bulk of the responsibility for keeping Jackson contained will be the “Boogeymen” linebackers. While they’ve been mostly doing the attack for much of the year, they’ll likely have to do some chasing and containing this week.
Can these linebackers take care of Jackson in the open field? It depends on who winds up there. If it’s Jamie Collins, that’s a good matchup. If it’s Elandon Roberts of Dont’a Hightower, it could be a little tougher.
2. Run defense vs. Mark Ingram
The Patriots got exposed a little bit last week against the Browns with runs up the middle. So far in 2019, the Patriots have given up 4.7 yards per carry, which ranks 21st in the league.
If the Ravens stick around in this game, they could wind up doing some damage with Ingram up the middle like Nick Chubb did last week. But if New England jumps ahead, Baltimore will likely have to abandon a run-heavy gameplan in favor of having Jackson drop back.
3. Ravens CBs vs. Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Mohamed Sanu
Against a defense that blitzes nearly half of the time, the pressure will be on Brady to get rid of the ball quickly. However, that only works if he can find an open receiver.
For the passing offense to truly threaten the Ravens, Patriots receivers will need to gain separation quickly against Ravens defenders.
K: Justin Tucker 16-of-16
P: Sam Koch (46.7 Y/P)
KR/PR: Justice Hill (20.3 Y/KR), Cyrus Jones (10.6 Y/PR)
K: Nick Folk (N/A)
P: Jake Bailey (44.4 Y/P)
KR/PR: Brandon Bolden (21.8 Y/KR), Gunner Olszewski (9.0 Y/PR)
DVOA rank: 26th
Breakdown: Even though Belichick has a reputation as a special teams stickler, the Patriots are on the wrong side of a mismatch this weekend.
The Ravens have arguably the best kicker in NFL history while the Patriots have a guy who hasn’t kicked in the NFL since 2017.
In other news: Cyrus Jones has been pretty darn good for the Ravens returning punts the past couple of years.
WEATHER (Via Accuweather)
Location: Gillette Stadium
Kickoff time: Sunday, Nov. 2, 8:20 p.m. EST
Temperature: 52 degrees
RealFeel: 38 degrees
Wind (MPH): 2-14 S
Precipitation: 6% chance of rain
ODDS AND POINT SPREADS
Bovada: Patriots -3.5
Vegas Insider: Patriots -3.5
Westgate: Patriots -3
New England Patriots
RB Rex Burkhead, Foot
S Patrick Chung, Heel/Chest
WR Julian Edelman, Chest/Shoulder
TE Ryan Izzo, Concussion
TE Matt LaCosse, Knee
G Shaq Mason, Ankle
WR Gunner Olszewski, Ankle/Hamstring
RB James White, Toe
WR Marquise Brown, Ankle/Thigh
CB Maurice Canady, Thigh
S Bennett Jackson, Ankle
G Patrick Mekari, Back
LB Patrick Onwuasor, Ankle
CB Jimmy Smith, Knee
S Earl Thomas, Knee