Many teams hate the Patriots. But few teams hate the Patriots as much as the Baltimore Ravens. Just go ask Terrell Suggs or Steve Smith Sr. The road to the Super Bowl has had these teams meet up more than a few times. This rivalry clearly does not have any love lost.
The last time these two teams met was in the 2014 AFC Divisional round. What a game that was. If you haven’t seen it, you can check out the highlights here. The Ravens looked hot early in the game and took the lead twice. The Patriots struggled early but came back from a 14 point deficit twice. The Patriots won the game of course and proceeded to play the Indianapolis Colts. After whomping the Colts, and the ensuing “scandal”, the Patriots made a trip to Arizona to face Seattle in the Superbowl. And we all know how that ended.
Enough of the history lesson. Now we look at what we can expect for Monday night.
First off, defense. And I mean this from both teams. The Ravens boast the best run defense in the league according to ESPN. Due to this, I expect LeGarrette Blount to have a rough time getting anything going on the ground. Instead, expect to see more of Dion Lewis and James White.
The Patriots defense, on the other hand, is still sort of questionable. The defensive unit looked strong against the Rams and appeared to have everything figured out. That being said, the Rams offense was awful and had rookie Jared Goff under center. The Ravens have a veteran QB in Joe Flacco who will not fold under the blitz the way Goff did. However, I see this as a sort of test. If the Patriots defense can repeat their performance against the Ravens, then maybe everything is figured out. Either that or Tom Brady will need to do Brady things to keep the Patriots afloat. By that I mean score at least 30 points a game.
^We need more of this against the Ravens.
The next thing to look for is the emergence of Malcolm Mitchell. I have spoken about Mitchell a lot recently but the rookie deserves the praise. Due to injuries, we should expect Mitchell to see more targets. First Rob Gronkowski was injured, then Danny Amendola got hurt as well. These both are huge blows. While Gronk may have been the fancy highlight reel player, Danny was also important in a more sneaky way. Danny did not see as much playing time, but you better believe he was out there for every third down play. He had this uncanny ability to make clutch plays when needed most.
Another player to look out for is rookie DJ Foster. Foster has hardly played at all this season. However, Bill Belichick clearly likes the speedy running back. Foster was White’s backup for most of the year while Lewis was on IR. Eventually, the Patriots waived Foster and added him to the practice squad after. However, with Gronk on IR, Foster was signed to the active roster once again.
Now that Amendola is injured, Foster is believed to be his insurance. Basically meaning that he will be filling in for Danny’s duties. So expect to see Foster returning punts and kickoffs along with taking over some wide receiver duties. Yes, I said wide receiver duties. Foster is primarily a running back, however, he played wide receiver his last year of college ball. Doug Kyed reported seeing Foster working out with wide receivers as well as the running backs.
As others have noted, D.J. Foster worked with WRs and RBs today during Patriots practice.
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) December 7, 2016
Now here are some quick hits on what we might see:
- Stephen Gostkowski returning to form. Stephen hit 4 45+ yard field goals a week ago. Let’s see if that keeps up. Stephen was even named the AFC special teams player of the week.
- Martellus Bennett getting over his injury. With Gronk gone, Bennett needs to produce to prove he is worth money at the end of the year. Bennett’s chance is now.
- Julian Edelman has had a few sneaky good games. No one has really noticed his 100-yard efforts. Edelman could be a huge factor in this game.
- John Harbaugh is still sore about the Patriots “deceptive” tactics back in 2014. Expect Harbaugh to turn up the trickery to try and get revenge.