Tag Archives: Baltimore Ravens

NFL Week 16 Preview : Patriots @ Ravens

Playoff implications are on the line in Week 16 in Baltimore. Who will come to play?

After a 4-6 start, the Baltimore Ravens have won their last four – making a strong late season push to return to the playoffs for the sixth straight campaign. The rematch of last year’s AFC Championship was originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football, but got flexed to 4:25 in favor of the Bears vs. Eagles. Including the playoffs, the Ravens are 3-3 against the Patriots over the past six years. This non-division rivalry reached new heights when Baltimore denied New England a chance to play in the Super Bowl last year, embarrassing the Patriots in Gillette Stadium 28-13 and then hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Sitting a game behind the 9-5 Bengals, the Ravens have clawed their way back to wildcard legitimacy despite their worst rushing production in recent years of 82.9 YPG. Ray Rice is averaging a subpar (to say the least) 3.1 YPC, but has always found success against the Patriots. New England is coming off the wrong end of their fifth straight game decided by one score or less with a 24-20 last second loss in Miami. This is easily the most adversity a Patriots team has faced in the Belichick era, off-season departures and season-ending injuries are truly beginning to dictate just how much gas is left in the tank as we approach January football.

Brady couldn’t be more accurate with his statement after the Dolphins game, “There is a small margin of error”. The team is young and with inexperience comes mistakes. Without the security blanket of Gronk in the lineup, Tom has relied on Julian “Minitron” Edelman as his go-to. Jules has 89 receptions for 914 yards and 6 TD but the efficiency lost in the Red Zone seems irreplaceable. Outside of that consistent production, no one player has been a staple every given sunday. For the second straight week, the Pats have an opportunity to lock up their fifth straight AFC East title. Because the Steelers beat the Bengals last week, the Patriots are still in line to receive the 2 seed if they win out. What will give tomorrow afternoon? Can New England take the next step in restoring the faith or does Baltimore stay hot and give the Pats a reality check? Weather is calling for a 60 degree day with thunderstorm possibilities, here’s to hoping we don’t see a repeat of the brutal Cincinnati conditions. Check out these three keys to victory for an important late-season matchup for Belichick and company:

1) Contain Torrey Smith: Despite a modest total of 59 receptions and 4 TD, the UMaryland burner has 1,032 yards on the season. Smith has recorded a grab of 40+ yards in 8 games this year with a long of 74. Week after week, the Patriots have been burned over the top from the likes of Mike Wallace, Josh Gordon, Andre Johnson and more. These impact plays occur far too often, illustrating a glaring weakness aside from the depleted defensive line.

New England is allowing 132.5 rushing YPG, putting them at the bottom of the pack at 31st in the NFL. Assuming Ray Rice returns to normality with the porous front seven, limiting the Flacco to Torrey connection is imperative. Furthermore, TE Dennis Pitta made his 2013 debut two weeks ago – filling the void that the Boldin departure created. Flacco has 18 TD and 17 INT on the season. He is on pace to record the largest amount of passing attempts and turnovers in his career. If Chandler and Nink are able to win their respective matchups, it will be a long day for the Ravens offense. McCourty and Gregory also need to have solid performances over the top at safety if New England wants any chance to escape with a victory.

2) Special Teams: For as clutch and consistent as Gostkowski has been this year, he killed the Patriots last week with his third missed field goal of the season and an untimely kickoff out-of-bounds. This ultimately allowed Miami to score that go-ahead touchdown and forced New England to score a TD in the last seconds compared to a manageable chip shot. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have one of the most dangerous returners in Jacoby Jones. He has one touchdown on the season but is always a threat to take it all the way. Baltimore placekicker Justin Tucker had a legendary performance last week with six field goals and a game winning 61 yarder. The third phase of the game will be an important factor in the outcome of tomorrow’s contest. Execution is key.

3) Linebacker Play: Dont’a Hightower and Dane Fletcher have been the recipients of additional playing time after Mayo’s season-ending pectoral injury. While Fletcher made some game-changing plays against Denver, Hightower struggled brutally in coverage against Miami last week. Yancy Thigpen caught a 14 yard TD pass with 1:15 left in which had Dont’a turned around and played the ball, he would have easily intercepted Tannehill’s game-winning pass. Hightower is solid in the run but has not been able to make enough plays when they matter. The Rice/Pierce backfield is an above average tandem and this game will be physical. The Ravens have weapons all over the field and the Patriots will need to cause a turnover if they want to get this done on the road.

These teams don’t like each other and playoff implications are on the line. What more could you ask for? I believe the Patriots can get it done with some timely luck that seems to alternate week in and week out. 21-18 New England.

Patriots Match-Up Mania: Playoffs?

Tom Brady practices for the Ravens.

Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs? I’m just hoping we can win a game, another game.” – Jim Mora.

Certain games defy analysis of important match-ups. When the New England Patriots travel to Baltimore to meet the Ravens on Sunday, that’s the situation each team faces.



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Rivals who know each other after six battles in four seasons, only one of which was truly one-sided. It comes down to a cliche bowl: Who wants it more. The best team wins. Something like that.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are certain factors that could sway the outcome either way. Will receivers catch balls that hit their hands? Danny Amendola. Turnovers? Stevan Ridley. Stop Joe Flacco and Ray Rice? Defense.

In short, as Bill Belichick described it, it’s a big game requiring the Pats best effort of 2013:

We know this is a big challenge for us headed down there Sunday. It’s a big game for both teams and I think we’re excited to play, excited for the opportunity and the challenge and we’ll need our best football from everybody…That’s what it will take down there I’m sure. That’s what we’re gearing up for, that’s what we’ll try to be. The Ravens are a very good football team. They have a real solid organization and they’re tough. We’ll need to be at our best to beat them.

There’s a big reward awaiting the Pats if they overcome this challenge and that’s a clinched playoff spot and a fifth-straight AFC title. Just win and be in. Going into game 16 without punching a playoff ticket is a bad thing. Tom Brady, who has had a frustrating season despite 4,000+ yards passing – again – is aware of the implications. “We need it,” Brady said. “There’s no bigger game than this one for us. ”

He also made a comment that summed up the season well, too.:

It would be nice to go out there and play this team and play them well for once. We haven’t done a great job playing against them offensively.

There are certainly reasons for it, but how many times this season have they put it all together against a good team? A bad half followed by a display of offensive prowess. Good defense combined with turnovers and poor third-down execution. You’ve seen it.

Before they can worry about playoffs, they need to be playing good football.

Brady Picked In End Zone As Dolphins Hang On To Top Pats

Michael Thomas of the Dolphins celebrates his game-ending pick with the rest of the Miami defense.


The Patriots have been nothing shirt of dominant in the moth of December for the past few seasons. The Miami sunshine must have confused them.

With a chance to take advantage of Denver’s Thursday night loss at the hands of the Chargers, the Pats could not pull off their fourth straight gut-check win. Trailing the Dolphins, 24-20, Tom Brady was picked off by on a fourth-down play in the end zone by Michael Thomas, fresh of the 49ers‘ practice squad, as time expired.

The Miami win kept their hopes for the AFC East alive as they improved to 8-6 and the Patriots lost for the first time since the Monday Night game against the Panthers. It was their first win against New England in eight games and their third straight overall.

“We didn’t do a good job in the red area,” Brady said after the game.And didn’t do a good job finishing drives. We came up on the short end of the stick. It wasn’t a good day. Just couldn’t make enough plays.”

Brady did throw two touchdowns to Michael Hoomanawanui and Julian Edelman, but his only mistake of the day at best prolonged New England’s 11th division title in the last 14 seasons.
Miami’s Ryan Tannehill threw the game-winning touchdown pass – his third of the day – to Marcus Thigpen with 1:15 remaining in the fourth, leaving just enough time for Brady to get within striking distance thanks to a couple of big conversions.
The Pats went into the half up 10-0 thanks to a botched Miami field goal attempt, but quickly saw their halftime lead turn to 10-7 to start the third and then 17-10 after a field goal and another TD pass.

They would come back to score the next 10, however, with a Stephen Gostkowki field goal from 23 yards out and a 24-yard pass from Brady to  Edelman with 4:07 left in the fourth quarter. Gostkowski had missed his first attempt earlier in the game.

Again, however, the Pats’ makeshift D gave up the go-ahead score despite Miami facing a 3rd-and-16 to begin the drive. Tanehill would complete two straight and pick up the first down as the clock kept rolling. After mostly short and intermediate throws, he then connected with Rishard Matthews for a 24-yard gain to the New England 14 and then hit  Thigpen on the next play to put the ‘Phins up, 24-20, with 1:15 to go. Gostkowski’s kickoff had gone out of bounds, which set Miami up at their own 40.

Then, facing a 4th-and-8 at his own 33, Brady threw a pea to Danny Amendola for one of his 10 catches, to pick up 12 yards with 52 seconds left. On the next series, Brady connected with Edelman for one of his 13 catches to pick up 16 on 3rd-and-10 now with 27 to play. And the Pats were in the red zone.

A Dolphins’ offsides set the Pats up at the 14, but Brady tried three times to get in the end zone and failed. The first was to Edelman, the second to Hoomanawanui and then his fourth-down pass intended for Austin Collie was intercepted by Thomas in the end zone to end the game.

“I knew being the new guy that Tom Brady would come after me,” Thomas said. “He’s a great quarterback, and he’s going to exploit any weaknesses.”

Danny Amendola's potential game-winning catch slipped through his finger tips.

Danny Amendola’s potential game-winning catch slipped through his finger tips.

Brady finished the day 34-of-55 for 364 yards – his fourth straight 300-yard game. Edelman caught 13 for 139 yards and a score while Amendola snagged 10 for 131 of his own, but couldn’t haul in the game-winner in the end zone despite having both hands on the ball on the final drive. Both were huge in the comeback bid that fell just short while Shane Vereen mustered only 21 total yards on five touches for the day. Neither team ran for 100 yards.

The loss dropped the Patriots to 3-4 on the road this season while they are a perfect 7-0 at home. Fourteen fourth-quarter points allowed had a lot to do with that.

“We were short in every area [today],” Bill Belichick said, noting that special teams play had a lot to do with it.

Miami coach, Joe Philbin, said after the game that he might go home and jump in his pool for the second time since moving to Florida, referring to a celebratory swim.

The Pats will host the 7-6 defending champion Ravens in the late game next Sunday while the Dolphins look to bolster their playoff chances against the Bills at Ralph Wilson.

 

Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

BST&N’S 2013 NFL Predictions From The Playoffs To Individual Awards

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It’s almost here, but if you weren’t excited enough about the NFL returning in a couple weeks, here are a few more reasons. It’s time to make some predictions that will inevitably have clear cut outomes and boggle the minds of some while sparking some pretty intense debates. I think I have them all right, though. Here are my picks for all eight division winners, the four Wild Card teams, each conference’s championship matchup, the Super Bowl, league leaders and major award recipients.

AFC East (2): Patriots – Nine straight division titles when the team has been quarterbacked by Tom Brady? Yeah, make it 10 for New England. While they undoubtedly will be transitioning on the field this season, they are still fairly high above the other three teams in the division. Plus, their quarterback never runs into butts.

AFC North (4): Bengals – Get used to hearing “Dalton to Green” and get used to seeing the Bengals in the postseason (even if it is just for one game) for the third straight year. Cleveland will probably finish fourth.

AFC South (3): Colts – The Colts made an unbelievable turnaround in 2012 and it seems to me they are not done improving. Eleven wins last season was good, but I see them hitting at least 12 this year, including making a push to overtake the Texans late in the year with a huge win over them in Week 15.

AFC West (1): Broncos – Obviously. This one will probably be the biggest division win by any team this season. I say 14-2 for Denver with San Diego the closest to them at 7-9. Welker…and Decker…and Thomas might play a role in their success as well.

Peyton Manning wil lead the Broncos to another division title.

Peyton Manning wil lead the Broncos to another division title.

AFC Wild Card (5): Texans – Houston has three of the best players in the league in Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and J.J. Watt. The supporting cast is not bad either and Matt Schaub obviously has what it takes to lead a team to the postseason. I just think the Colts will steal the division from them sooner or later and Houston will wind up in the five-spot.

AFC Wild Card (6): Ravens – Though their defense is gong to look quite different, the Ravens should be able to get enough out of Joe Flacco to back in to the playoffs as the conference’s No.6 seed. From there, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were bounced immediately as I’m a little wary that Flacco might have nothing left to motivate him.

NFC East (3): Redskins – As long as RG’s knee can hold up for 16 games, the Redskins are poised to repeat as NFC East champs. He will be an x-factor for them this season, leading them to big wins over the Packers, Falcons and Giants and clinching this division before the final night of the season.

NFC North (4): VikingsAdrian Peterson will carry them to the division title in 2013. That’s really the only way I see that happening for the Vikes, who will have to contend with the Packers and maybe even the Lions or Bears. Green Bay finishes a very close second, but will be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.

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Patriots 2013 Schedule First Thoughts

Is 2013 the year New England adds another ring to the collection?

Is 2013 the year New England adds another ring to the collection?

April is a great time to be a football fan. The draft is only a week away and now we know who the Patriots get to play (and destroy) and what week it will happen. I am not here to talk about the pre-season schedule although it will be interesting to see the game against the new look Eagles and the powerhouse offense in Detroit in the game where starters usually play through the 3rd quarter.

The regular season is all that matters. That is where you pour blood, sweat and tears into the bucket and work to get into the playoffs. I won’t highlight every game on the schedule, but all the games and times are here. I only want to focus on the big games on the schedule, so here we go!

New England Patriots 2013 Regular Season Schedule

Sunday, Sept. 8 – at Bills (1 p.m.)
Thursday, Sept. 12 – vs. Jets (8:25 p.m.)
Sunday, Sept. 22 – vs. Buccaneers (1 p.m.)
Sunday, Sept. 29 – at Falcons (8:30 p.m.)
Sunday, Oct. 6 – at Bengals (1 p.m.)
Sunday, Oct. 13 – vs. Saints (4:25 p.m.)
Sunday, Oct. 20 – at Jets (1 p.m.)
Sunday, Oct. 27 – vs. Dolphins (1 p.m.)
Sunday, Nov. 3 – vs. Steelers
Sunday, Nov. 10 – BYE
Monday, Nov. 18 – at Panthers (8:40 p.m.)
Sunday, Nov. 24 – vs. Broncos (8:30 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 1 – at Texans (4:25 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 8 – vs. Browns (1 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 15 – at Dolphins (1 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 22 – at Ravens (8:30 p.m.)
Sunday, Dec. 29 – vs. Bills (1 p.m.)

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2013 Patriots Offseason: 5 Potential FA Fits

It's almost time for Brady to get off the links and back on field

It’s almost time for Brady to get off the links and back on field

If you got the opportunity to ask head coach Bill Belichick about potential offseason transactions, his response would be something to the tune of, “There is no offseason”. Voluntary training camp is five weeks away (April 15th) and franchise QB Tom Brady recently freed up some cap space for the Patriots to make a splash in Free Agency. Will New England bring in a high-profile FA? Probably not, but it’s fun to pontificate around the idea.

After losing to Baltimore in a rematch of the AFC Championship this past year, several glaring weaknesses were apparent agains the Ravens. Both Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, 6′ 1″ and 6′ 2″ respectively, made the Patriots cornerbacks look like Rahim Moore. Who is Rahim Moore you may ask? The Bronco safety who let Jacoby Jones fly by him to bring the divisional matchup into overtime. Yes, I am exaggerating. No, the Patriots cornerback situation isn’t pretty. Resigning or franchising Aqib Talib is up in the air, especially given his injury history.

Where else can the Patriots find a potential fit? Check out these five free agents (in no particular order) below:

1) S – David Bruton: Josh McDaniels drafted this Notre Dame alumni in 2009 as a 4th round pick. Contributing mostly as a standout special teamer last year, he has played out his rookie contract and is looking to get in the mix. With Devin McCourty, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner all coming back, Bruton could fit in nicely during sub packages and even on ST. Belichick seems to let McDaniel’s reel in his old friends per last year; however, it can’t come back to bite us like Salas did. New England’s focus on signing/drafting a safety is contingent on the Talib situation. McCourty may not play centerfield all year but you have to have faith that he can turn it around. Regardless, the Patriots need help in the secondary. Is Bruton our guy? Probably not but McDaniels and Belichick do get too comfortable at times…

2) WR – David Nelson: Nothing like stealing another weapon from an AFC East rival… Back in 2010, Belichick gave the 6′ 5″ David Nelson a call after he went undrafted, making him a rookie free agent. Throw him in the mix with Hernandez/Gronk and there is no doubt defenses will struggle against the Patriots in the Red Zone, an area where New England squandered way too many opportunities when it mattered last year. After tearing his ACL in September, this sure-handed receiver may not get as many looks as he should during Free Agency. Buy low!

3) WR – Danny Amendola: Rumors have been swirling for a few weeks now about a final destination come summer time. Analysts have pinned Amendola as a likely replacement for Welker but I don’t think nagging both is out of the question. He does not have the durability or Pro Bowl caliber of Wes but they both thrive in the slot. Amendola has posted some ridiculous lines of double digit receptions in his past few years, a feat Welker achieves in his sleep. Let’s just hope we bring back Welker for the rest of his career.

4) S – Dashon Goldson: During the 2011 offseason the Patriots unsuccessfully tried to sway the physical, 6′ 2″ safety to leave the Bay Area for New England. Wait, who is Dashon Goldson? He’s the starting safety that has only missed two games over the past four seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. Since 2009, he’s also grabbed 14 INT – an impressive feat for a safety. Goldson can provide that intimidating force we have been missing since Rodney stopped using PEDs. While he may be pricey coming off a Superbowl run and incremental exposure, I believe he may be worth the guap.

5) CB – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: With good height at 6′ 2″ and 16 career interceptions over 5 seasons, DRC fills a void that bust pick Ras-I Dowling could not. Not only does he add height, but he adds consistent health. Rodgers-Cromartie has missed just three games out of the past eighty over the past five seasons! Although he comes in at a measly 182 lbs for his height, DRC makes up for it with his blazing 4.33 40 yard dash time. Furthermore, DRC finished with 17 pass deflections – good for 7th in the NFL.

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