The Baltimore Ravens enter week 6 coming off their most lopsided victory of the season against the Denver Broncos. Simple put, the Ravens played the way they should have, at home, against an over-matched opponent. Early in the game QB Joe Flacco marched the Ravens relentlessly down-field, finding open receivers for big plays in the passing game. As the game wore on, and Flacco struggled to hit his pass catchers, the club seamlessly transitioned to a multi-faceted running attack. The Ravens showed that they can present a variety of looks to opposing defenses and be effective through the air and on the ground. This take what the defense gives you approach is something that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron preaches and strives for. Now the Ravens take their improving offense on the road, against the worst statistical defense they have faced all season. It is unusual to say that about the New England Patriots, who do have the advantage of coming off their bye week and 2 weeks to prepare for the Ravens. Can the Ravens rely on both their passing and running games to move the ball efficiently? Or, will Bill Belicheck and the Pats coaches have devised a plan to take away one or the other? Here is how I see this game playing out for the Ravens on offense:
On the Ground: Many said that the Ravens reclaimed their true identity, as a run first offense against, the Broncos. The Ravens ran the ball 47 times, for 233 yards against Denver. The club averaged 5 yards per carry and scored 4 rushing touchdowns. There is a strong chance the Ravens will look to do more of the same against the Patriots, who enter the game 20th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game at over 112 per game. And who can forget the display the pounding display the Ravens put on in Foxboro last January, running the ball 52 times for 234 yards and 4 rushing td’s. I do believe the Ravens will look to run the ball a lot on Sunday, but not as much as we have saw last week, or last January. The Ravens need to control the ball as much as they can on Sunday, but I think the Pats will look to take away the Ravens run game. The Patriots have to realize that their chances of victory are slim if the Ravens run the ball down their throat and dominate the clock. I do expect the Ravens to be able to run the ball this week, just not as effectively as they did against the Broncos. The Ravens are going to see a lot of 8 man fronts on Sunday. If they are up to the task in the run game, there is little that will slow the Ravens down this week.
Through the Air: Why, you ask, will the Ravens be hard to stop if their ground game is not working? Well, through 4 games the pats have been even worse at stopping opposing passing games. Against four offenses, none of which are stellar passing teams in the Bengals, Jets, Bills and Dolphins, New England is allowing just over 272 yards per game, which ranks 28th in the NFL. Opposing QB’s have thrown 9 touchdowns and have an average QB rating of 91.2. The Pats do have 7 picks on the season, an area of concern for Flacco, but there should be even less resistance in the New England secondary. The Patriots corners Darius Butler and Devin McCourty are young and not overly talented. Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason and TJ Houshmandzadeh will create mismatches and find plenty of space. Another advantage for the Ravens is that New England generates little in terms of a pass rush. The Ravens line has played extremely well over the passed 2 weeks and seems to be gelling, especially on the right side of the line.
The temptation for the Ravens could be pass happy this week. That is where they will find many of their mismatches, but the Ravens need to be balanced and unpredictable on offense to have a really big day. It is likely that Tom Brady will pose the toughest challenge to the Ravens secondary and defense overall. The offense may need to out score the Patriots to come out on top. I do think that the Ravens will be able to control this game with their offensive line and put up in the range of 27-31 points. If they win the field position battle and limit turnovers it could be more.
What is your prediction for the Ravens offensive game plan and points total?