Ravens vs. Patriots Game Preview: Finally, The Patriots At Home


Many of the current Ravens players have never faced the Patriots at home.

The last time it happened was in 2007 when Baltimore had a meltdown in the final minutes of trying to knock off the then-undefeated Patriots on Monday Night Football.

Since then it's been four straight trips to New England, including three losses by an average of four points.

That comes to an end Sunday night. Finally, Baltimore will play host to the Patriots on prime-time television, and it's something the players and coaches are looking forward to.

"To have the support of our fan base at home, especially against a big team, is something that is a value that I don't think a lot of people see," linebacker Jameel McClain said. "Crowd noise is going to be something they have to prepare for. It's a big advantage."

Similar to the Ravens, the Patriots like to run a fast-paced offense that relies on checks at the line from their quarterback. If Tom Brady has a tougher time communicating, that will be more of a challenge for New England's potent attack.

"The crowd noise is vital," cornerback Cary Williams said. "It's so intense, so loud, it does something to your psyche when you're out there. Even the great ones get rattled."

The Ravens have the NFL's longest active home winning streak at 11 games. They are 28-5 at M&T Bank Stadium in the John Harbaugh era, a winning percentage of .848. It's the same record the Patriots have at Gillette Stadium over the past four years.

But this time, the Patriots are on the Ravens' turf.

3 Matchups To Watch

QB Tom Brady vs. S Ed ReedIt's one of the best chess matches in the NFL. Brady and Reed have a long history with each other, and Brady's arm-band with "Find 20 on every play" just heightened the focus on it. In their last three games against New England, the Ravens have intercepted Brady seven times. Can Reed, who has two picks already, grab another?

TE Rob Gronkowski vs. S Bernard PollardWith Aaron Hernandez out, the Ravens may be able to focus more attention on stopping the matchup nightmare of Gronkowski. The Ravens used linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to jam the 6-foot-6, 265-pounder at the line last year, then had Pollard clean up over the top. Pollard, who already has bruised ribs and temporarily knocked Groknowski out of last year's AFC championship, could be in for more big collisions.

DT Vince Wilfork vs. C Matt BirkWilfork got the better end of the matchup between the two veterans in the AFC championship as Wilfok was frequently in the Ravens backfield and blew up Baltimore's running game. Birk will be looking for a better showing this time around. He's healthier at this point than he was at the end of last season.

3 Questions To Answer

Will the Ravens offense get back on track?
Baltimore's fast-paced offense was on a roll against Cincinnati and in the first half in Philadelphia, but hit a lull that it never recovered from in the second half. New England has a much improved defense from last season and like the Eagles plays a lot of press coverage that will challenge the Ravens fight through contact. The Ravens' no-huddle should be able to function easier at home with less crowd noise.

Can the Ravens continue getting turnovers?
Baltimore's defense ranks 27th in the league in yards allowed per game. Its saving grace has been turnovers. The Ravens have caused six so far. Brady told Baltimore reporters this week that if the Patriots give the ball up like they did in the AFC championship (three turnovers), they won't win this time. 

Will the Ravens bounce back?
The Ravens and Patriots are both coming off of losses and surprisingly facing the possibility of a 1-2 start to the season. Baltimore has won 13 consecutive games immediately following a loss. Quarterback Joe Flacco has also been good after defeats, throwing 19 touchdowns to just three interceptions in the games following. It will be interesting to see which team responds with a fast start.

2012 Rankings

RavensTotal Defense – 404.0 (27)
Rush Defense – 129.0 (20)
Pass Defense – 275.0 (26t)
Points Allowed Per Game – 18.5 (6)

Total Offense – 377.5 (9)
Rush Offense – 116.5 (10)
Pass Offense – 261.0 (9)
Points Scored Per Game – 33.5 (2t)

PatriotsTotal Defense – 264.5 (2)
Rush Defense – 62.5 (5)
Pass Defense – 202.0 (7)
Points Allowed Per Game – 16.4 (4)

Total Offense – 388.5 (6)
Rush Offense – 126.0 (9)
Pass Offense – 262.5 (8)
Points Scored Per Game – 26.0 (12t)

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