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Patriots-Ravens looks like another mismatch

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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The Patriots have done so well on offense this year that their punter does not qualify to be ranked among the other punters in the NFL.

Chris Hanson has only punted 24 times in 11 games and unless the Ravens force him into a large number of punts, he will remain anonymous. That tells you all you need to know about the potent Patriots offense. The Patriots have been in the red zone 54 times and scored 39 touchdowns. The Ravens are the top red zone defense in the NFL and have only permitted 12 touchdowns in 35 trips.

The Ravens have the fourth-best defense in the league, but the Patriots boast the third-best defensive unit. Baltimore is on a five-game losing streak scoring less than 15 points a game, while the Patriots usually have 15 points by the end of the first quarter. The Ravens defense will take a page from the Eagles' playbook and find ways to get after Tom Brady, who was sacked three times last week. However, do the Ravens have the ability to duplicate the things Brian Westbrook did for the Eagles offense?

Hunter Martin / Getty Images
Asante Samuel made the Eagles pay dearly for mistakes last week, and could do the same against the Ravens on Monday night.

If you like the Patriots ...

1. The turnover battle is a critical issue in matchups. The Patriots hold a plus-27 swing over the Ravens.
2. The Patriots average 42 points a game on the road.
3. The Patriots are No. 1 in the NFL in total yards, passing yards, first downs, third downs, points and defensive interceptions.
4. Baltimore is ranked 31st in passing and only have seven touchdown passes all year.
5. The best scoring game for Baltimore all year was 30 points in a loss, the Patriots have scored 30-plus points 10 times.

If you like the Ravens ...

1. The Ravens have the second-best run defense in the NFL.
2. The Ravens have sacks from 13 different players, so it's hard to tell where the pressure is coming from.
3. Kyle Boller gives the Ravens a better chance because of mobility and he has thrown three more touchdowns than Steve McNair.
4. Willis McGahee touches the ball close to 23 times a game for 101 yards a game.
5. Baltimore has a winning record at home (3-2), where it averages 21 points a game.

Key matchups

1. Patriots NT Vince Wilfork vs. center Mike Flynn -- Flynn knows that to run the ball against the Patriots' 3-4 defense, Wilfork has to be blocked and the more the Ravens have to double-team him the less likely they stop the run. The Pats do give up 4.1 yards per carry and the Ravens would love to keep Brady on the sideline. Flynn must win this matchup, or this game is doomed for Baltimore.

2. Patriots WR Randy Moss vs. cornerback Samari Rolle -- Rolle has missed significant playing time this season battling epilepsy and now faces Moss, who averages 15.4 yards per catch and has 16 touchdowns. Rolle probably needs help in every pass situation, but the presence of Wes Welker in the slot will not permit it.

3. Patriots WR Wes Welker vs. Ed Reed -- Reed is an all-pro safety and Welker is having a career year, leading the team with 81 receptions. There usually is a nickel back on Welker but the injuries to the Ravens secondary will force Reed to hold Welker in check.

4. Patriots DE Richard Seymour vs. OT Jonathan Ogden -- Ogden is near the end of his career and he still gets no help in his blocking assignments. Seymour is the premier player on the Patriots' defensive line and is capable of a big game. Ogden occasionally will have to fan out for Mike Vrabel, but in running situations must block Seymour. This is a great battle that the true football fan will enjoy.

5. Patriots CB Asante Samuel vs. WR Derrick Mason -- Mason is the go-to receiver for the Ravens and averages more than seven receptions a game. Samuel is one of the best corners in the game and already has six interceptions. Mason runs a lot of short routes, so expect Samuel to jump a few of them trying for the big play.

When the Patriots have the ball

The Patriots have scored almost every time on their first possession. A quick early lead is what they want against a team with a poor passing game such as Baltimore. Expect Brady to come out in a no-huddle spread attack against a beat up Ravens secondary. Brady will look for backup cornerback Corey Ivy. Any rolled coverages to Moss will quickly turn the passing attack to Welker, Benjamin Watson, and Donte' Stallworth. The Patriots will not struggle with the Ravens' version of the 3-4 defense, and Brady will get rid of the ball quickly to discourage any blitz schemes.

The Ravens would love to see the Patriots run the ball, but this is the kind of game that is reminiscent of the Patriots' plan against the Vikings last season. Baltimore will not see the running game until New England has a substantial lead.

When the Ravens have the ball

The Ravens want to play a conservative style of offense and hope to be close heading into the fourth quarter. They will feature McGahee early and often, and when they have to throw it should be more of the bootleg style. If Boller breaks contain in those passing situations he may consider using his feet more than making any risky passes back inside. The Ravens receivers average under 10 yards a reception and the Patriots will flood the underneath zones daring the Ravens to go deep.

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Baltimore has had problems with quarterback fumbles all season. Between McNair and Boller, there have been 12 fumbles. The Patriots will be looking to strip the ball and disrupt the center exchange all game long. New England will bring pressure all game long and force Boller into mistakes. They have the secondary to match up with the Ravens receivers and bring heat. Look for outside linebacker pressure from the defensive left side to cut off the bootleg pass and take advantage of right tackle Adam Terry.

Bottom line

Can you imagine giving the already explosive Patriots offense three extra series starts on a short field? The results would be devastating. Well, Baltimore is last in the NFL in turnovers with a league-high 19 lost fumbles and another nine giveaways by interception. To add insult to injury, their defense doesn't force turnovers very well and there's a good chance New England will get those extra shots on offense because they rarely lose the ball.

The Patriots got a wake-up call from the Eagles and will put the pedal down in this nationally televised game, while the Ravens continue to struggle to score points. The Cowboys looked great the other night, but the Patriots will look better after this game.

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