KEY MATCHUP: Ravens running backs against the Patriots run defense. New England has the 31st ranked run defense. The limited times this season Ray Rice has had solid games, it’s been against bad run defenses. It would go a long way for a hobbled Joe Flacco and it would also keep Tom Brady off the field if both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce have success. But still, the Ravens are near the bottom of the league in both rushing yards per game and yards per carry.
THE RAVENS WIN IF: Joe Flacco outplays Tom Brady. Flacco has outshined Brady in most of the recent match-ups. That hasn’t always resulted in a Ravens win, but Flacco has held his own and carried the team. There’s not much for him to contend with defensively as far as the Patriots go, so Flacco if he can stay upright and he’s not bothered by his knee, Flacco can win this game again.
THE RAVENS LOSE IF: The secondary plays poorly. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been downright FEARFUL of Ed Reed for years, with good reason! Reed is gone. Does that mean Tom Brady is smiling and waiting to pick apart a secondary without him? It remains to be seen. It’s the first time Brady has faced a Ravens team without Reed on the roster. If the rest of the secondary plays as steady as they have all season long, they should be fine.
FANTASY TIP: Justin Tucker is officially the greatest kicker … ever! If you have him, start him. If you don’t, pray you don’t lose your fantasy championship because a kicker beat you.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Playoff spots. Playoff positioning. Hell, it’s a whole lot on the line. The Patriots could lose the number two seed and they still haven’t locked up the AFC East. The Ravens could miss the playoffs all together if they lose this week and next. You can’t put much more on a regular season game than this.
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