The Patriots have a tough task ahead of them tomorrow night as they take on the Baltimore Ravens (5-2) for the first time in three seasons. Over the past decade, the Pats have played a plethora of tight games against the Ravens, but the main difference in this matchup will be the absence of Joe Flacco, who was replaced as Baltimore’s quarterback by Lamar Jackson.
Here are a few things to consider entering tomorrow’s game in Baltimore.
1. Can the Pats’ defense contain Jackson?
The Patriots’ defense has faced a vide variety of quarterbacks over the last nine weeks, including Ben Roethlisberger and Baker Mayfield, and been able to achieve remarkable success in shutting them down. This week’s matchup will be completely different due to Lamar Jackson’s ability as both a passer and a rusher. It will be imperative for Bill Belichick’s defense to keep Jackson in the pocket, and force him to beat them with his arm. It wouldn’t be overly surprising if the defensive staff opts to keep a spy on Jackson in order to track his movements at all times. If the Pats are able to contain Jackson’s rushing ability, it could play right into their hands, due to their dominant secondary.
The most concerning matchup for the Pats’ defense will be Baltimore’s power rushing attack, which could draw inspiration from Cleveland’s game plan that netted Nick Chubb over 100 rushing yards in Week 8. If Baltimore is able to rush the ball effectively, they will be able to dominate the time of possession, and open up the field through play action.
Having a good performance tomorrow will go a long way in preparing the Pats’ defense for the brutal backend of their schedule.
2. Will the offense deliver?
Tom Brady and the offense have had their ups and downs over the last few weeks, which is understandable for the first half of the season, but starting tomorrow they will need to find some sort of momentum that can take pressure off of their defense.
I would expect the Patriots’ passing attack to be improved this week, as it will be Mohamed Sanu’s second game with the team, which means that he should be more acclimated with the offense’s scheme. In addition, N’Keal Harry was activated off of the injured reserve, which means that he should make his season debut tomorrow. It’s foolish to expect Harry to alleviate all of the Pats’ problems in one game, but having him out there will give Brady a weapon to stretch the field. If Sanu and Harry are able to perform to their abilities, it could make life easier for both Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett.
As is usually the case, the Pats’ offensive line will be crucial in this matchup, as their ability to protect Brady and open lanes for Sony Michel to run through will be imperative in deciding the outcome of this game. Luckily for the offensive line, Shaq Mason may be able to play, after missing last week’s game with an ankle injury.
- Matt LaCosse (knee) – Out
- Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
- Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
- Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder) – Questionable
- Ryan Izzo (concussion) – Questionable
- Shaq Mason (ankle) – Questionable
- Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring) – Questionable
- James White (toe) – Questionable
- Marquise Brown (ankle/thigh) – Questionable
- Maurice Canady (thigh) – Questionable
- Bennett Jackson (ankle) – Questionable
- Patrick Mekari (back) – Questionable
- Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) – Questionable
- Jimmy Smith (knee) – Questionable
- Earl Thomas (knee) – Questionable
Prediction: Patriots 21, Ravens 17
Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 9 games (excluding Thursday Night Football)
Last week: 12-2
Texans vs Jaguars: Texans
Bears at Eagles: Eagles
Vikings at Chiefs: Vikings
Colts at Steelers: Colts
Jets at Dolphins: Jets
Redskins at Bills: Bills
Titans at Panthers: Panthers
Lions at Raiders: Lions
Buccaneers at Seahawks: Seahawks
Packers at Chargers: Packers
Browns at Broncos: Browns
Cowboys at Giants: Cowboys