1. These may not be the Patriots of 2007, but they are still the Patriots. These Patriots may have lost a game early to a team they usually dominate, and they may have struggled against a questionable Bills team, but they are still the Patriots. Tom Brady is just three games in to a recovery that many times can take a full season, or more. And yet, last week against Atlanta, the Patriots we all fear showed up and dominated a familiar Atlanta Falcons team.
Familiar why? Because they are built around a stud second-year quarterback, a dominant run game, and a stout defense. Sound familiar, Ravens? The Ravens have plenty going for them, but it won’t be easy.
2. The Ravens balance on offense gives them hope. The Ravens offensive attack this season might be the league’s most balanced. It’s not just balanced pass-to-rush. The rushing game itself is brilliantly balanced between three runners of varying styles - the speedy Ray Rice, the deceptive Willis McGahee, and the powerful Le’Ron McClain. The team may not be able to put all three on the field for every play, but each is strong enough to keep this offense moving on its own. Even in pass heavy victories against the Chiefs and Browns, the Ravens runners have made an impact.
But the real key to the Ravens success on offense is its line. The Ravens line is, for the first time ever, a good at pass protection as it is at opening holes for the running game. The Ravens can open up three and four receiver sets and truly trouble defenses.
3. The Ravens have plenty of holes. Not sure why the Ravens seem to be such favorites in this game around the country, but they are getting a lot of love. I’m not even entirely against it, but it is a bit curious. It was just two weeks ago that Philip Rivers threw for 440 yards against a battered Ravens secondary - without several starters on his offensive line. The Pats offer just as many problems: a steady, deadly quarterback in Tom Brady; a corps of tall, speedy receivers featuring Randy Moss; and a powerful offensive line that specializes in pass blocking.
If the Ravens pass rush can’t get to Brady, be wary. If the Ravens secondary can’t handle Moss, be wary. The hope for the Ravens here is that thanks to less-than-super rushing game in New England, the Ravens may be able to devote all of their efforts to the pass rush. But good luck.