Carroll County Times

Three questions facing Ravens heading into matchup with Patriots

Will Joe Flacco's knee be a problem?
ESPN reported earlier in the week that Flacco has a mild MCL sprain. He will wear a brace to protect the knee, but he should be fine, and this is a nice matchup for him depending on what the weather turns out to be. The Patriots have a good pass rush with defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. They also have some high level players in the secondary, like cornerback Aqib Talib and free safety Devin McCourty. But in spite of that, they have struggled to stop the pass recently. They are ranked an OK 18th in the league in pass defense, but Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 25 of 37 for 312 yards and three touchdowns without an interception against them last week. Journeyman Browns quarterback Jason Campbell was 29 of 44 for 391 yards and three touchdowns without an interception against them the week before.

Will be the Ravens be able to run the ball?
Maybe. The Ravens' running game hasn't been very good this year, but the Patriots have been one of the worst teams in the league at stopping the run. New England lost both Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and middle linebacker Jerod Mayo earlier in the year to season-ending injuries. Not like its run defense was great even with those two healthy, but its been even worse with both of them out. For the year, the Patriots are allowing the second-most rushing yards per game in the NFL and are allowing 4.4 yards per carry, which is tied for eighth-worst in the league. Baltimore still ranks last in the NFL in yards per carry, but its running game has at least been better in recent weeks. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combined to average four yards per carry against a tough Detroit Lions run defense last week.


Can the defense stop Tom Brady?
That will be tough to do, just as it always is. Brady's supporting cast is nowhere near as talented as it was even last year when he had Wes Welker at wide receiver and Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at tight end, but Brady has still thrown for more yards this year than any quarterback besides Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford. The Ravens have had success against Brady in the past - and he was just 29 of 54 with two interceptions against them in the AFC championship game last season - but Brady is playing some excellent football the last two months. He is throwing for an average of 371 yards per game in the Patriots' last six games and threw for 364 yards last week even with Gronkowski out. Baltimore's secondary has played well of late, but this will be a test.