Patriots-Ravens preview: 3 things to watch for

Tom Brady Haloti Ngata Ravens Patriots
Haloti Ngata and the Ravens had their way with Tom Brady and the Patriots in last January’s AFC Championship game. Credit: Getty Images

The Patriots head into Baltimore this Sunday (4:25 p.m., CBS) with a lot more on the line than was originally expected two or three weeks ago.

In short, it’s not an ideal situation.

Are the Ravens playing like Super Bowl champions? Well, that depends on which games you’ve watched. They’ve looked every bit the part over the last four games, where they’ve gone 4-0 and have catapulted back into the playoff picture after some had left them for dead.

The Patriots, on the other hand, look more like the walking dead as of late. Or at least the walking injured.

Going into Week 15, the Pats still don’t have the AFC East wrapped up. In fact, in a crazy-but-not-that-crazy scenario, they could find themselves out of the playoffs altogether if they don’t take care of business against the Ravens this week or the Bills in Week 17.

“We need it,” Tom Brady said of Sunday’s game. “There’s no bigger game than this one for us. We have to put everything we can into it.”

With that, we focus on three things going into Sunday.

There’s some history there
While the Patriots and Ravens aren’t in the same division, it sure feels like they play each other a whole lot. And lately, it’s been the Ravens finding themselves on top. Baltimore has beaten New England in three of the last five matchups, including two postseason victories. You recall the Ravens knocking off the Patriots in last year’s AFC Championship game in Foxboro, 28-13.


“It would be nice to go out there and play this team and play them well for once,” Brady said.

Banged up Flacco
Joe Flacco avoided a serious knee injury in Monday night’s 18-16 win over the Lions, but the Ravens QB was diagnosed with a mild MCL sprain. He will definitely play Sunday against the Patriots, but how that injury limits him physically and mentally will be something to watch. Flacco can get happy feet in the pocket if it closes in around him. The Patriots absolutely have to put pressure on him and make him make quick decisions.

Red Zone
The Ravens have given up touchdowns to opponents in the red zone in six straight attempts, spanning the last three games. Even so, they rank fourth in the NFL in opponent red zone scoring percentage (42.86 percent) this season. Production in the red zone is huge for the Patriots this week, especially after the struggles we saw in Miami.


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