Can Offense Stay Hot?
The Ravens are coming off their best game of the season, where the offense broke out for 38 points last week against the Miami Dolphins. Coming into that game, the offense had been searching for rhythm and consistency, and the question now is whether quarterback Joe Flacco and company carry their most recent performance into Gillette Stadium. Players talked the last week about building off what they were able to do against the Miami Dolphins, and tight end Dennis Pitta said, "We feel good, and we feel like we have the momentum going at the right time."
Smith Sr. Making The Most Of Another MNF Game
This could very well be the final time Steve Smith Sr. gets to play under the lights on Monday Night Football. The 37-year-old receiver is in the final year of a three-year contract he signed with the Ravens, and he is expected to retire at the end of the season. The future Hall of Famer has played some of his best games in primetime – he's averaged 71.9 receiving yards in 10 career games on Monday night – and he will certainly be eager to put on another great showing tonight.
**Improved Secondary Against Brady
The last time the Ravens traveled up to Foxboro, in the 2014 divisional playoff game, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady picked apart the secondary on the way to a victory. Brady's performance led to the Patriots overcoming a pair of 14-point leads, and their offense was simply too much for Baltimore's defensive backs to handle. The Ravens secondary in is much-improved since then. They now have Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb at safety, plus a healthy Jimmy Smith and impressive rookie Tavon Young at cornerback. The group has limited the big plays that doomed them last season, and Baltimore's defense comes into the game ranked as the best in the NFL. The Ravens need the group playing at a high level because Brady is a master of finding any weakness and exploiting it.
More Great Moments To Add To The Rivalry
These two teams have become bitter rivals of the last decade, and each game always seems to have something that adds to the animosity between them. Whether it was Brady spiking Ed Reed on a slide in 2012 or all of the back-and-forth about the Patriots formation trickery in 2014, these games have a tendency to amplify the tension in the stadium. Those moments can also fire up the players on the sidelines. This will be another emotional game, and the players have to harness all that excitement without letting it overwhelm them.
Impact of Winter Weather
The forecast in Foxboro is calling for cold temperatures Monday. Rain and snow were once part of the evening forecast, but the precipitation is now expected to be out of the area before the 8:30 p.m. kickoff. Bad weather is always a possibility for late-season games in New England, and neither team will be out of its element in those conditions. Playing in the cold is a home-field advantage for the Patriots over some teams, but not necessarily the Ravens. Flacco is a strong-armed quarterback who can cut passes through the wind on a cold night, and he has a career record of 10-5 when playing in under 40-degree weather.