Re: Ravens Weaknesses/Matchups
posted at 9/22/2012 10:22 PM EDT
First off, the Baltimore fans see this game as "revenge". Of course half the NFL wants revenge on the Patriots for beating them, and some of those revenge games turn out to be spectacular Patriots blowouts.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots usually do well in games where they have recently played that opponent. The Patriots and Baltimore played in January.
Dean Pees, former Patriots defensive coordinator, is now Baltimore's defensive coordinator. Baltimore got a guy who got fired from the Patriots for some reason, probably because he didn't produce in New England, because he bungled the job, because his defense got beat, because he's not that good as a defensive coordinator.
On the other hand, Pees walks into Baltimore with a firsthand knowledge of most of New England's defense. He may not be the right guy to lead Baltimore to the #1 seed in the AFC, but at least he's the right guy to beat the Patriots. Exceptions: Pees has never seen starters Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Tavon Wilson and Jake Bequette. In addition, Belichick and crew have hopefully been tweaking the defense for eight months in preparation for meeting Pees.
Baltimore is a really old team. New England is a really young team with the exception of Tom Brady. Healthy quarterbacks can go for a long time, and right now Brady doesn't appear to be on the downside of his career. If he broke the 5,000 yard passing barrier again this year, that wouldn't surprise people.
The problem with being a really old team is nagging injuries. Terrell Suggs was great but he's not playing. Bernard Pollard will be playing injured if he makes it onto the field. Behind Pollard is James Ihedigbo who played for pretty much the NFL minimum and got cut by New England in any case, and who now has been practicing with Baltimore for three whole weeks.
Formerly all-wonderful linebacker Ray Lewis has lost a step. He will bite on the play-fake, leaving the middle of the field wide open behind him. Also, he can't really cover the Patriots' fast running backs on end-arounds and on zone blocking wide. Again, this is a problem with an old but experienced team. Nobody's going to fool them, but everybody's going to outflank them. If other members of the Baltimore defensive backfield have equally lost a step, that's more trouble and Brady will want to pick on certain matchups. New England will probably concede running up the middle, at least until Baltimore overcompensates for its other serious holes.
If the Patriots were to have an injury, best to have it in an area with capable backups. Beyond Hernandez are Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Gronk and Julian Edelman who is coming on fast. New guy Kellen Winslow at least can play the game if Brady keeps it simple for him. At least the Pats will have had a week to band-aid over the problem of losing Hernandez.
If the Arizona coach was being honest, if the Patriots were telegraphing their plays to the Cardinals defense, then that problem will probably have gone away by next Sunday.
Why Baltimore couldn't beat the Eagles is a different kettle of fish. Flacco went 8 for 26 after Philly adjusted at halftime. Is it some flaw Philly found in the Baltimore offense in the second half? Is Flacco just an average flaky quarterback come back to earth? Why should Flacco be fixable in a week? I expect that the New England coaching staff watched that game's video while munching popcorn.
Baltimore has a fundamental offensive matchup problem with the Patriots this year. The Baltimore running game won't work if the Patriots' front line penetrates, and if the Patriots' front line is even stouter than last year. Also, McCourty is playing like he did in his rookie year.