By Mike DeVito
- Special Teams & Field Position
The New England offense will arguably face its greatest test of the year this week against Baltimore. With Gronk and Amendola out and Martellus Bennett banged up, the Pats O can use all the help they can get. Special teams can play a major role in helping them get the job done by winning the field position battle. I know from experience, there is nothing more deflating (sorry couldn’t think of a synonym) than watching a kick returner or punt returner advance the ball to mid-field. Rookie Cyrus Jones and Julian Edelman can end up being the difference makers in this game by providing Tom Brady and the offense a short field to work with.
- Receivers Need to Have a Big Game.
This Ravens defense is one of the toughest groups in the NFL allowing only 17 points per game (1st in the NFL). They are also 1st in the NFL in total yards allowed letting up an average of only 296 per game. Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs are not only great pass rushers but also excel at setting the edges and stopping the run. Brandon Williams is a force inside and one of the best nose tackles in the game. C.J. Mosely is a special player at middle linebacker and can change a game if the ball gets anywhere near him (3 interceptions this season).
The strength of the Ravens defense is in the middle so running the football and getting throws to the tight ends, which are normally major parts of New England’s offense, aren’t going to be as effective. Because of this, the Pats receivers need to get open early, often, and quickly! And it’s not that the Ravens secondary is bad (7th in the NFL in passing yards allowed) but it is the most promising area of the defense for New England to attack in order to be productive. I anticipate a lot of New England’s offensive production Monday night to be in the hands of Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan.
- Force Turnovers
The Patriots defense is going against a formidable opponent who can make some big plays especially with the combination of Joe Flacco and Steve Smith. Mike Wallace is also having a good year averaging almost 15 yards per catch. That being said, Flacco has thrown 11 interceptions on the year, so opportunities will be there for the Pats secondary to get the ball back to their offense. In closely matched games, turnovers usually make a big difference and the more time Tom Brady has with the ball in his hands, the better things are for everyone in the New England area. The secondary needs to take their shots and attack the football.
Mike DeVito (@MikeDeVito70) is a 9-year NFL veteran, playing with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. He is an alum of the University of Maine, color analyst for Black Bears football on TV and is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm-6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowmaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.