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  • Contributors


    Cris Collinsworth

    Former Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals and Emmy-winning analyst from Sunday Night Football and Inside the NFL.
    Dave Lapham
    Has called game for the Bengals radio network for 25 years. Analyst for Big 12 games on Fox Sports Net. Played 10 years in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.
    Turk Schonert
    NFL quarterback for 10 years with the Bengals and Falcons. Has served as quarterback coach for the Buccaneers, Bills, Panthers, Giants and Saints and Offensive Coordinator for the Bills.
    Phil McConkey
    Played 6 years in the NFL as a WR, punt returner and kick returner for the Giants, Packers, Cardinals and Chargers. Played college football at the Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy before joining the NFL. Best remembered for his oustanding game in Super Bowl XXI.
    Josina Anderson
    Josina "JoJo" Anderson is contributing reporter on Showtime's Inside the NFL and is a weekend co-anchor/reporter/producer for FOX 31 Sports in Denver, Colorado. Josina produces the nightly sportscasts and covers the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Rockies.
    Jerry Jones
    NFL Draft Expert, has published the acclaimed Drugstore List since 1978.
    Russell S Baxter
    Researcher, writer and editor covering the NFL for over 30 years.
    Andy Freeland
    Statistician and researcher for NBC's Sunday Night Football.
  • Tremendous Match-ups: Patriots Offense v. Ravens Defense

    I just got finished watching the tape of the Broncos-Pats game and the number one impression that I came away with was how efficient New England's offense is. I don't know how anybody will stop them. Which of course brings me to the Ravens defense, they are pretty darn good too. There are some great match-ups in this game between the stars on the Patriots offense and the stars on the Ravens defense:

    1) Terrell Suggs v. either Matt Light or Nate Solder: I thought Matt Light played as well as I have seen him in a while. He was light on his feet and looked like the 2 weeks off did him a lot of good. Nate Solder is as athletic as any tackle I have seen on tape this year, he will be a star. The Ravens are coming off a zero sack game against the Texans and almost got beat by a third string QB. Of course the Texans running game had a lot to do with that, but the Ravens are going to have to make some tough decisions v. the Patriots. If Ray Lewis plays on third down or against the spread, Brady will go after him in the passing game. The response from the Ravens will probably be to blitz Ray. I also wonder whether we will see much of Terrance Cody and Cory Redding on the DL. Terrell Suggs will get at least double teamed until the Ravens counter with other pass rushers like Paul Kruger, Arthur Jones, and Pernell McPhee.

    2) The Patriots can do so much out of so many different personnel groups, I'm not sure how the Ravens will counter. The Patriots proved they could run with Aaron Hernandez out of a no-back set and do it effectively. They then went with an extra offensive lineman and threw a 1-1 touchdown to Hernandez who is almost impossible to cover when he gets single covered. Obviously the same can be said for Gronkowski. I really think Rob Gronkowski is one of the top 15 players in the league at any position. He is a great blocker, he is used on trap blocks inside, overpowers defenders running routes, and has some of the softest hands for a big man I have ever seen. Logan Mankins at guard is so nasty they should make him illegal. The Patriots receivers all block well, especially Wes Welker and Julian Edelman.

    3) For the Ravens, Ed Reed and Lardarius Webb are great players in the secondary. Webb is starting to take some risks that have paid off for the Ravens. It will be interesting to see if Brady tries to double move his aggressive play or just avoid him. I would avoid him. I also think that Jarret Johnson will play a key role. Johnson is a hammer playing over tight ends. Whenever Gronkowski is playing his traditional tight end position Johnson will try to keep him at the line of scrimmage.

    4) The Patriots aren't unstoppable. Tom Brady lacks a real deep threat, a star running back, and center Dan Connolly can be pushed back into him in the pocket. I think the Ravens will take a page from the Steelers' playbook and try to jam these receivers long enough to at least get some hits on Brady. The no-huddle will wear down the Ravens' pass rushers if they can't get off the field in 3 to 6 downs. The Broncos rushers were simply out of gas at the end of those long drives.

    5) I thing the magic number for the Ravens is 25. I can't imagine the Ravens opening up their offense enough to score more than that, but they are playing against a Patriots defense that gives up big plays. Tough choice for the Ravens. Do they open it up and try to match points with the Patriots, or slow it down and try to frustrate Tom Brady? Can Torrey Smith and Lee Evans get open deep? The Patriots are pretty cautious in the secondary. It won't be easy.

    6) There is almost no way around it, this game hinges on Joe Flacco. He wanted respect, here is his chance.

    Comments 13 Comments
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Excellent break down, Cris. Other than a few halves of football against Washington and Miami where Brady looked uncharacteristically out of sync with his receivers, they've been nearly unstoppable since losing to the Steelers and Giants back to back. But they've also faced a lot of defenses over the second half that struggle defending the TE.

      The Ravens have been great against TEs, allowing the 2nd fewest yards and only 3 TDs all year to opposing TEs. Jarret Johnson is a great call as an under-the-radar key to this game. If the Ravens can somehow hold Gronk/Hernandez to around 100 and a TD, then they're in pretty good shape.

      Also, The Ravens were among the league leaders in sacks this year, but only have 3 in their last 4 games. Suggs has to find a way to disrupt Brady. If they can find their pass rush, it will give Ed Reed the opportunity to eventually make a difference-making play.

      In Baltimore's big games over the past few years, Ray Rice has set the tempo, with the long TD vs. NE in the playoffs, and his opening day performance this year against Pittsburgh quickly coming to mind. His running against Pittsburgh softened their secondary and allowed Flacco, who has never looked better than he looked in that game, to settle in. The Ravens receivers have been unable to get separation, and Cam Cameron's play-calling is uninspired to say the least, but Rice can greatly alleviate those issues with a big performance.

      I think Ray Rice steps up, and Baltimore can contain NE enough to win. I like Baltimore.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      I think it all comes down to Patriot TE TDs.

      0-1 Ravens win.
      2 Pats winner
      3 Pats blowout.
    1. Swami's Avatar
      The Ravens lost at Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle and San Diego this year. I don't see them winning at New England against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Hey, it's sports, the ball is oblong and refs blow calls so anything can happen. But, that is not the way to bet, to paraphrase Damon Runyon.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Forgot one more point. The Patriots have not beaten a team with a winning record this season.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Trumpetbdw View Post
      Forgot one more point. The Patriots have not beaten a team with a winning record this season.
      That a misleading stat. Most teams only play 2-3 teams with a winning record per year if they dominate their division and are the only winning team in their division. If not, then they probably lost once to the other winning team.

      If you are a winning team you are probably pushing those opponents you beat into 8-8 and below.

      If you have 3 losses, would you rather those be to losing teams or winning teams? Which shows your team as stronger?
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Baltimore Ravens are 7-1 against winning teams this year.
      NY Giants are 3-3.
      San Francisco 49ers are 5-1.
      NE Patriots are 0-2.

      That seems like a rather significant disparity to me. At the very least, I think it's fair to say the other remaining teams are much more battle tested than New England.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Trumpetbdw View Post
      Baltimore Ravens are 7-1 against winning teams this year.
      NY Giants are 3-3.
      San Francisco 49ers are 5-1.
      NE Patriots are 0-2.

      That seems like a rather significant disparity to me. At the very least, I think it's fair to say the other remaining teams are much more battle tested than New England.
      Ravens are in a division which sent 3 teams to the postseason. Yes, they obviously played well against their AFCN brethren. The other three teams? Combined record of the non-playoff teams from the AFCE/NFCW/NFCE was 58-88.
    1. micha2334's Avatar
      Keep Brady upright and The Pats will win. And people who harp about the loss in 09 seem to forget that Wes Welker didn't play that game...
      Regardless of outcome it'll be one helluva' game!

      GO PATS
    1. Swami's Avatar
      I think record vs. teams with a winning record is a useful stat, but among the Pats victories were San Diego, Dallas, Philly, Oakland, Denver and the Jets twice. If you finished 8-8 this year, you finished without a winning record only because you lost to the Patriots and it virtually knocked all of them out of the playoffs!

      I always look at record vs. playoff teams so I get this angle but it couldn't be more misleading than what it says about the Pats this particular year!
    1. Dave Lapham's Avatar
      Evryone thought the '09 Patriots were unstoppable as well. The Giants beat up Tom Brady in that game. I think he was sacked 5 times, but hit and pressured countless other times. The key is the Giants got pressure in his face. Every QB hates that. Edge pressure can be dealt with if the inside of the pocket is firm and the QB can step up into or climb the pocket. Jason Tuck was an inside force in the Giants nickel package in that game. Someone will have to step up inside for the Ravens and apply pressure. Maybe it is achieved by tackle twists or ends looping inside on stunts but it has to happen. If the Ravens have to resort to blitzing to get inside pressure that could be dangerous. Live by the blitz....die by the blitz vs. Brady. I think the biggest key to the game is how clean the interior of the pocket is for Brady.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Swami View Post
      The Ravens lost at Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle and San Diego this year. I don't see them winning at New England against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Hey, it's sports, the ball is oblong and refs blow calls so anything can happen. But, that is not the way to bet, to paraphrase Damon Runyon.
      Loss to SD we called was without LaDarius Webb. They went after his replacement all night.
    1. Amy's Avatar
      My comments!

      1) Solder is still a work in progress. Note that, even when we had injuries, he did not work into the line. He's mostly played as a 6th Olineman when we have moments of instanity and Bill O' Brien decides to try and make us a heavy running team. We do need to make sure Suggs does not have a big day, though.

      2) Aaron's run more then last week. He's gotten 1 or 2 carries every week this season. Usually just 1, normally he goes in motion and takes a pitch for an end around. Last week he got a lot, but it's not unusual to see him in the backfield. Of course, all the recievers do block well, we have a good team passing game. Branch has had some scary good blocks this year.

      3) Reed's amazing. IMO, he's the key to the game. If he has a patented Ed Reed game, the new Baltimore team goes to the old one's new house in two weeks. But, he was hurt twice last week - he'll say he 100 percent, but will he really be? Especially if it gets cold and nasty? Well, to be fair, Ray Rice is also a key.

      4) We don't have a deep threat WR, in a Moss or Chad (if he was playing more) style. That said, all of our normals - Dancer, Welker, Branch, Gronk, and Aaron, can go deep. Aaron's been a nice deep threat most of the season. We haven't had a feature back since Dillon, though I think we will with Ridley. He's good. As for the Steeler game - they won by 8, and it should have been 6, in a game where 23 of our 53 offensive plays went to Kevin Faulk. It was a cruddy game plan, and we're not dusting it off against the Ravens. The Steelers played well that day, but, we helped them a whole lot, by deciding to do everything we could to play to thier strengths and not ours. Now that Josh is playcalling again, that aint' gonna happen!

      5) We do give up big plays, yes. We don't give up tons of points. The 2k1 D gave up big plays, too, but not points. If it turns into a shootout, we win for sure. It's gotta be a slugfest for the Ravens to win.

      I think the Ravens have a legit chance. But, I don't think they win. Between the cold, home field, honoring the 96 and 2001 Super Bowl teams in Foxboro, and that we're 8 quarters from being able to give the trophy to Mr. Kraft for Myra, I think we take care of business to get to Indy.

      Go Pats!
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      The Ravens are the little team that could from my vantage point. I saw the way they played against the Jaguars & was embarrassed for them. Then I saw the way they won over the Steelers on a SUN Night in Pittsburgh & was impressed. Then I saw that they lost to the Seahawks in Seattle, which is a much lesser team in the mid of rebuilding. They were a little bit of Good & Bad all year. Flacco HAS to be The Man today or else they Ravens are in for a long day. They can't just rely on Ray Rice either.
      The defense has key Veterans that I think will make it but I sense that when they go after a Gronk or Welker or Hernandez that they will need to be nimble & provide double man coverages. Those guys are Good! I expect a Good Game from NE's O-ffense & B-More's D needs to be ready. I'm more concerned with the Offense of the Ravens though.

      With the Patriots' they have been tremendous on Offense as usual. Brady is an MVP candidate despite the runaway votes going to Rodgers & some to Brees. He's always gonna find his Guy. Since this Brady/Belichick duo started, they've been good about spreading the ball out to different guys: offense or defense. Ask Cris: When he called his first Super Bowl, Defensive Dude Mike Vrabel got a TD on offense. As stated above, the Gronk-anator, Wes Welker & Aaron Hernandez along with Deion Branch will produce some of the highlights on why you can't sleep on the Pats anytime during the game. Shout-out to Chad Ochocinco who appears to be dealing with the loss of one of his parents [https://twitter.com/#!/ochocinco/sta...7219901911040]. On the field, I'm surprised Chad has been so unapart of the offense.
      For the Defense, We've heard how bad it was. We've heard that this is as bad of a Defense that has been seen in a while. It's shocking since Belichick was a Defensive coach before getting his coaching opportunity. I'm not convinced that they won't have a hard time on SUN Afternoon as the Broncos weren't any competition especially at home. Also, remember when the Cowboys almost won in Foxborough? It wasn't all DAL's play-calling IMO. See how DAL melted to NYG in Week 17? Also, I've noticed that no names have stepped up to the same stature as the Rodney Harrison's & the Tedy Bruschi's of the world in recent seasons & have held that for numerous seasons. That is needed.