The Ravens have won four straight games to save their season and put themselves in position to play for the AFC North title next week, but first they must beat the New England Patriots, perhaps their tallest task since playing the Denver Broncos in Week 1. To win, the Ravens must get to Tom Brady, one of the NFL's hottest quarterbacks. Based on the Ravens' recent history against him, it is certainly doable.
1. Terrell Suggs will record two sacks.
After accumulating nine in his first eight games, Suggs has gone six without a sack. Weather and field conditions were a factor in a couple of games, as were mobile quarterbacks, but this is his longest stretch without a sack since 2006. The Ravens have just one sack in their past three games. It will be tough to win today if they are unable to put pressure on Brady, whom Suggs has famously feuded with over the years. But given his disdain for “the pretty boy up north,” I expect Suggs to get off the schneid and bring down Brady a couple of times.
2. Tom Brady will throw a pair of interceptions.
The Patriots quarterback tormented the Ravens early in his career, but they have settled the score in recent years. Even in some Patriots wins, including the January 2012 AFC championship game, Brady has struggled. In his past five games against the Ravens, including the playoffs, Brady has thrown seven interceptions and just five touchdown passes. In last season's AFC championship game, the Ravens flustered him in the second half and forced him to throw a pair of interceptions. While the Ravens have many new players on defense, look for them to stick to that script and pick off Brady twice.
3. Shane Vereen will top 100 total yards.
Julian Edelman has 37 receptions for 414 yards and four touchdowns in his past four games, and fellow Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola is coming on strong. But the player who will pose the biggest threat to the Ravens is Shane Vereen, a dual-threat running back whom the Patriots line up all over the field. Vereen has 43 catches for 381 yards and a touchdown in six games this season, including 12 catches for 153 yards against the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago. Whether Brady is handing him the ball or throwing it to him, Vereen will eclipse 100 yards from scrimmage today.
4. The red zone woes will come to an end.
Justin Tucker's performance against the Detroit Lions on Monday night became the talk of the NFL, but the Ravens wouldn't have needed him to kick a 61-yarder to win the game if they had scored touchdowns in the red zone. After relying on Tucker's leg far too often recently, the Ravens rank 29th in red zone touchdown percentage. But they will have opportunities to score touchdowns against a Patriots defense that is allowing seven points nearly 60 percent of the time opponents get inside their 20-yard line. The Ravens will score at least twice inside the red zone, especially if they use tight end Dennis Pitta more.