The Baltimore Ravens host the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 4:25pm EST on CBS after the station moved the game time from the primetime slot.
This game will mark the first time the two teams have met since January 20th in the AFC Championship last season. Without a doubt, this game will be an absolute grudge match.
Here’s what the Ravens should focus on in order to defeat the Pats in Week 16.
Protect Flacco more than ever
Joe Flacco took a big hit late in the game last week in Detroit and has suffered an MCL sprain. The quarterback is listed as “questionable” for Sunday’s game, but is likely to play. He has been practicing with a knee brace and will wear it during the game.
“I don’t know if it will be a necessity or not, but I’m going to wear it,” Flacco told reporters. “There is no reason not to.”
The quarterback can also feel a little more at ease knowing that his offensive line has stepped it up in the past few weeks.
The O-line is responsible for only allowing Flacco to get sacked five times in the past three games. Before those three games, the line had allowed 37 sacks in 11 games.
Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones ranks fourth in the league in sacks with 11.5. Stopping Jones and the Patriots pass rush is key to getting past the Pats.
Utilize the running backs
After getting past injuries and a shaky start to the season, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce have been a key part of the Ravens’ offense. The Patriots run defense is currently ranked 31st in the NFL and this game is a perfect time for Rice and Pierce to be an explosive force for the Ravens.
The Patriots allow an average of 132.5 rushing yards per game this season.
Using Rice and Pierce to their full potential could put a lot of points up on the board for the Ravens.
Know the receivers
It’s no secret that Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. But he is lacking receivers. The Patriots are without tight end Rob Gronkowski for the remainder of the season. The two-time Pro Bowler suffered an ACL and MCL tear in his right knee during the Pats’ Week 14 against the Cleveland Browns.
So which receivers does Brady have lining up on Sunday?
Wide receiver Julian Edelman has quickly filled the position that Wes Welker left empty this season. Edelman has 89 catches for 914 yards this season. Danny Amendola has 59 receptions for 579 yards. Combined, the two receivers have eight touchdowns on the season.
But aside from Edelman and Amendola, the Pats don’t have much depth when it comes to receivers. Austin Collie, Josh Boyce, and Michael Hoomanawanui will be used interchangeably throughout the game, but the Pats are limited with their options.