Scouting Report

October 04, 2009|By JAMISON HENSLEY

Ravens run offense vs. Patriots run defense: This could be the first game in which the Ravens come out establishing the run before the pass. The Patriots' front seven is going through a transitional period and could be further weakened if nose tackle Vince Wilfork (questionable, ankle) joins inside linebacker Jerod Mayo (doubtful, knee) on the sideline. The Ravens have a formidable one-two punch in Ray Rice (team-leading 192 rushing yards) and Willis McGahee (NFL-leading five rushing touchdowns). Ravens rookie right tackle Michael Oher will have a strong test in defensive end Ty Warren. Edge: RAVENS

Ravens pass offense vs. Patriots pass defense: Joe Flacco has been the NFL's most improved quarterback, throwing for more than 300 yards in two of his first three games. The Patriots, who have given up the sixth-fewest passing yards this season, know they can't let Flacco stand in the pocket. So, they will crash the middle to get him out of his comfort zone. The most interesting matchup is one of 13-year veterans: wide receiver Derrick Mason against cornerback Shawn Springs. Mason, who is questionable with an illness, will likely be pressed at the line by Springs. Edge: EVEN

Patriots run offense vs. Ravens run defense: New Patriots running back Fred Taylor, a Ravens nemesis during his early years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season. The Ravens have the NFL's best run defense, holding teams to 51 yards on the ground per game and 2.5 yards per carry. Inside linebacker Tavares Gooden is questionable with shoulder and head injuries. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is expected to go head-to-head against left guard Logan Mankins, a 2007 Pro Bowl lineman. The Ravens haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 38 straight games. Edge: RAVENS

Patriots pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense: Everyone says the New York Jets showed how to beat Tom Brady after constantly blitzing him a couple of weeks ago. That's easier said than done. The Ravens have seven sacks this season and have hit the quarterback only five other times. It looks as if Brady has yet to regain his footing after missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury. Still, he is averaging 290 passing yards per game, and the Ravens have to be concerned about his ability to throw the ball deep. The Ravens' undersized cornerbacks (Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington) couldn't stop the San Diego Chargers' 6-foot-5 wide receiver Vincent Jackson (seven catches for 141 yards) in their last road game. Now, they have to figure out how to stop the Patriots' 6-5 Randy Moss, who could be primed for a big game after hearing the national news media call him lazy. Edge: PATRIOTS

Special teams: This game might come down to a late field goal. The Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski made his first Pro Bowl last season and is one of the most accurate field-goal kickers in NFL history. He has made nine straight tries. The Ravens' Steve Hauschka is kicking for the first time in a road game that could be affected by weather and wind. He has had to make only one fourth-quarter field goal this season. The Ravens and Patriots rank in the bottom half of the NFL in punt and kickoff coverage. Edge: PATRIOTS

Intangibles: With a majority of the national news media picking the Ravens, the Patriots will be motivated to show they haven't fallen from the AFC's elite. The Ravens have the NFL's best road record (6-1) since Oct. 19, 2008. The Patriots have the league's best home mark (53-12) since 2002. New England is one of only two teams never to lose to the Ravens in the regular season (the Carolina Panthers are the other). Brady is 25-4 when the final margin is seven points or fewer. Edge: PATRIOTS

Prediction: People want to say Brady isn't Brady yet. Well, the Ravens' pass rush hasn't shown up yet this season either. This AFC showdown will come down to the fourth quarter, where Brady will have enough time in the pocket to pull out another last-minute victory against the Ravens. PATRIOTS, 27-23

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