Kickoff: 8:20 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium
TV: WBAL Channel 11 (Baltimore), WRC Channel 4 (Washington, D.C.); NBC crew (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)
Radio: WBAL (1090AM/101.5FM) & 98Rock (97.9 FM), Ravens crew (Gerry Sandusky, Jarret Johnson)
Jersey color: Black
Knocking off the Patriots would be a major statement by the AFC North-leading Ravens (5-2) and would tighten the race for best record in the conference. The Patriots (8-0) are the AFC’s last unbeaten team and will be going for their 14th straight win, dating back to last year’s regular season and postseason.
New England leads the regular season series, 8-1, and the postseason series is tied, 2-2. The teams haven’t met since 2016, when the Patriots won a 30-23 decision at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots beat the Ravens, 41-7, in their last trip to Baltimore in 2013. In 2012 on primetime, the Ravens won, 31-30, on a game-winning Justin Tucker kick.
Can the Patriots contain Lamar Jackson?
This is the most intriguing question heading into the game. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick is a defensive mastermind, but can he scheme up a strategy that can stifle the NFL’s most elusive quarterback? Jackson is the NFL’s 10th leading rusher (576 yards) and his quarterback rating (94.1) is almost identical to Brady’s (95.0). Jackson is a unique dual-threat player, getting his first taste of what it’s like to face a Belichick defense. The Patriots will have a plan for Jackson, but Jackson will try to wreck it.
Will the Ravens avoid turnovers?
With 27 takeaways, New England’s defense is far and away the league’s most opportunistic. The Patriots’ defense has scored as many touchdowns (four) as it has allowed. In pass coverage, they hunt for interceptions. When tackling, they look for opportunities to poke the ball away. Against the Patriots, moving the football isn’t easy, nor is holding onto it. Jackson has improved his ball security greatly this season with just four fumbles and five interceptions through seven games. However, the Patriots often coerce quarterbacks into mistakes. They have an aggressive pass rush featuring four players with at least 4 ½ sacks. They have a safety, Devin McCourty, who leads the league with five interceptions. Avoiding turnovers will be a major priority for Baltimore because the Patriots are great at capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes.
Will the Ravens’ pass rush have any impact on Tom Brady?
Brady has been sacked just 13 times this season. But even when Brady isn’t sacked, it will be important for the Ravens to disrupt his timing and make him move outside the pocket. When Brady can survey the field and weigh his options, he’s even more difficult to stop. After losing outside linebacker Pernell McPhee for the season in Seattle, the Ravens will need pass rushers Matthew Judon, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson to step up.
Ravens WR Marquise Brown vs. Patriots secondary
The Ravens are hopeful that Brown, one of the league’s fastest players, returns from an ankle injury after a two-game absence. If he does, the Ravens will likely target Brown for a few deep passes and his speed makes him a constant big-play threat. Meanwhile, New England has one of the NFL’s best secondaries that rarely surrenders big plays.
Ravens rushing attack vs. Patriots front seven
Baltimore wants to run the football successfully, not just with Jackson but with Mark Ingram II and whoever else carries the football. However, New England’s front seven is capable of manhandling opponents, and if New England shuts down Baltimore’s running game, it will put more pressure on Jackson to move the football via the air.
Ravens secondary vs. Brady
The Ravens have added two playmakers to their secondary since Brady last faced the Ravens, cornerback Marcus Peters and safety Earl Thomas. Veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith is returning Sunday from a knee injury and Brandon Carr is one of the game’s steadiest cornerbacks. Baltimore has invested heavily in its secondary to win games like this, when they face the top quarterbacks in the game. In Seattle, Peters had a pick-six and Baltimore’s secondary got the best of Russell Wilson. The Ravens would welcome a similar performance against Brady.