Scouting report

Game Day Ravens (8-7) at Patriots (7-8) 1 p.m. Ch. 13

January 02, 2000|By Mike Preston

Ravens run offense vs. Patriots run defense - EDGE EVEN

The Patriots are ranked No. 20 in rushing defense, but that's misleading. New England has been playing well lately, led by linebackers Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi. The key for the Ravens will be if center Jeff Mitchell can get to Johnson and if one of the back-side linemen can seal off Bruschi by getting around tackles Chad Eaton or Henry Thomas. The Ravens have a solid rushing tandem in Priest Holmes and Errict Rhett.

Ravens pass offense vs. Patriots pass defense - EDGE RAVENS

The Ravens' passing attack has been inconsistent all year, but speedy receivers Jermaine Lewis, Patrick Johnson and Qadry Ismail could make some big plays against the Patriots' secondary. Look for the Ravens to stretch the field early. Tebucky Jones will get his third straight start at one cornerback for the injured Ty Law. If the Patriots can't get pressure on quarterback Tony Banks, and New England doesn't blitz a lot, it could be a long afternoon for the secondary.

Patriots run offense vs. Ravens run defense - EDGE RAVENS

What running game? The Patriots are ranked 21st, averaging 91.8 yards a game. Their feature back is Terry Allen, which explains why they have thrown 111 more passes than rush attempts. Guards Heath Irwin and Todd Rucci won't be able to handle defensive tackle Larry Webster and Tony Siragusa, and center Damien Woody isn't fast enough to slow middle linebacker Ray Lewis. The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this year, and it probably won't happen today.

Patriots pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense - EVEN

The Patriots have a big advantage in skill positions. Drew Bledsoe can throw with anybody in the league when he is hot and receivers Shawn Jefferson and Troy Brown can beat cornerbacks Chris McAlister, DeRon Jenkins and Duane Starks on a regular basis. But here's the problem: In the past seven games, the Patriots have allowed 28 sacks and Bledsoe has thrown 16 interceptions. Look for the Ravens to blitz often.

Special teams - EDGE RAVENS

The Ravens' kicking game has been excellent down the stretch. Kicker Matt Stover has converted on 17 straight field-goal attempts and punter Kyle Richardson has landed 37 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Patriots punter Lee Johnson does a decent job of kicking away from the returners, but Adam Vinatieri missed three field-goal attempts last week against Buffalo. The Ravens' Corey Harris is having a solid year returning kicks, but the Patriots' Brown is more dangerous.

Intangibles - EDGE RAVENS

The Ravens are playing for the first winning record in club history and are going for five straight wins. They also want to carry some momentum into the off-season. The Patriots have nothing to play for but pride because coach Pete Carroll is expected to be fired after the season. The good thing for New England is that the game is at home, and most teams won't lay down in front of the home fans.

Prediction - EDGE RAVENS

The Ravens' blitzes will overwhelm Bledsoe, allowing the Ravens to finish 9-7. Ravens, 28-25.

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