Into the Raven’s Nest

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.

l jackson w9p19.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

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.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • 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

Ravens

  • 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

Descending in MetLife: Will the Pats continue to neutralize New York?

On Monday, the Patriots make their annual trip to the Meadowlands to play their hated rival, the New York Jets (1-4) for the second time this season. The two teams squared off in Week 3, with the Pats easily winning by 16 points, but this week’s game could look drastically different, as both teams will be starting players that missed the matchup in September.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 7 contest.

1. Can the defense continue to dominate?

The Patriots have been able to overpower their opponents with surgical and physical defensive game plans, which have been mostly successful in neutralizing what opposing offenses do best. This week, they face off against an offense that shocked the league with their ability to dice up an usually competent Dallas defense. New York’s resurgence on offense can be attributed to the return of their starting quarterback Sam Darnold, who was sidelined due to a 4 week bout with mononucleosis. Darnold clearly ignited something in Adam Gase’s much maligned offense, as he combined with Robbie Anderson and Jamison Crowder to dissect Dallas’ secondary. It wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Stephon Gilmore matched up against Anderson once again, as he has had success covering him in recent years. Another Jets’ receiver that the Pats will likely pay attention to is Demaryius Thomas, who made headlines this week for complaining about how Bill Belichick and the Pats’ front office cut and re-signed him, before shipping him to New York (due to the failed Antonio Brown experiment). Thomas will likely be motivated to prove that New England made a mistake in trading him, so the Pats should be careful to not lose him in coverage.

In order to emerge victorious, I believe that the Pats will need to neutralize Le’Veon Bell once again, and force Darnold to beat them with his arm.

pats d v darnold w7p19.jpg
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. What will the offense look like?

The Patriots’ offense has been decimated by injuries and turmoil over the last few weeks, which has limited their effectiveness in recent games. Unfortunately for Tom Brady, he will be without yet another weapon on Monday night, as Josh Gordon will be missing the game due to knee and ankle injuries. Gordon’s absence will likely result in increased snaps for Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, who were effective in small doses in Week 6 against the Giants. Phillip Dorsett has been able to practice all week after sitting out Week 6 due to a hamstring injury, and is likely to suit up on Monday, which will help take pressure off of Brady, and Julian Edelman.

The Pats’ offensive line has struggled in recent weeks, and Monday’s matchup with the Jets won’t be any easier for them, as New York will have C.J. Mosley and Quinnen Williams on the field (both defenders were not active in Week 3). Hopefully re-signing Ben Watson will give the Pats a slight improvement in blocking, and help Sony Michel find some lanes to run through.

Facing a defense coached by Gregg Williams is never easy, so the battered Patriots’ offense will need to be at their absolute best to leave MetLife Stadium with a win.

tb v jets w7p19.jpg
(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Josh Gordon (ankle/knee) – Out
  • Ryan Izzo (concussion) – Out
  • Matt LaCosse (knee) – Out
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
  • Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Gunner Olszewski (hamstring) – Questionable

Jets

  • Albert McClellan (concussion) – Out
  • Henry Anderson (shoulder) – Doubtful
  • Kelvin Beachum (ankle) – Doubtful
  • Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle) – Doubtful
  • Christopher Herndon (hamstring) – Doubtful
  • Neville Hewitt (neck/knee) – Doubtful
  • Kelechi Osemele (shoulder) – Doubtful
  • Alex Lewis (neck) – Questionable
  • Nate Hairston (knee) – Questionable
  • Ryan Kalil (shoulder) – Questionable
  • C.J. Mosley (groin) – Questionable
  • Steve McLendon (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Darryl Roberts (ankle) – Questionable
  • Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) – Questionable
  • Brian Winters (shoulder/knee) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 13

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 7 games (apart from Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 6-8

Raiders at Packers: Packers

Rams at Falcons: Rams

49ers at Redskins: 49ers

Texans at Colts: Texans

Vikings at Lions: Vikings

Jaguars at Bengals: Jaguars

Cardinals at Giants: Giants

Dolphins at Bills: Bills

Chargers at Titans: Chargers

Ravens at Seahawks: Seahawks

Saints at Bears: Bears

Eagles at Cowboys: Cowboys