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Facing the Enemy Week 6: Ravens vs Patriots

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For the third straight week in a row, the opposing team’s blogger has chosen their own team to lose in the match-up.

This week’s “Facing the Enemy” blogger, Jamie Pacheco of the Musket Fire gives us some insight on the upcoming Ravens/Patriots game. Read on to see how the Patriots are preparing for this game, considering last year’s embarrassing defeat, and how they plan to stop Ray Rice.

1. Considering last year’s playoff game against the Ravens, are the Patriots working extra hard to win?

I think the Patriots are going through their normal preparations for the Ravens, but they had an extra week to make those preparations. Under Bill Belichick, the Pats have only lost once after a bye week (in 2000). That impressive is due to several factors, but mostly due to the extra time to put together and install the game plan. The Pats certainly are focused on this game due to the beat-down inflicted upon them in the playoffs last season. Tom Brady certainly expects to play better and he feels that the team overall can play better than what they did during that playoff game. Whether it will be enough to win remains to be seen.

2. How will the Patriots stop Ray Rice this year?

The Patriots have a few key ingredients to stopping Ray Rice that they didn’t have last season. Vince Wilfork is healthy and Gerard Warren has played very well at end, which is an upgrade over an injured Ty Warren. Ron Brace, who will likely play the other end spot, is an upgrade over Jarvis Green. In the linebacking corps, Brandon Spikes is a more physical run stuffer than Gary Guyton, who started last year next to Jerod Mayo. Mayo is healthy and playing like he did his first year when he was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. Patrick Chung is an upgrade at safety as well as far as stopping the run is concerned but he can be overzealous at times and get caught with play action. I don’t know if they will be enough, but the base personnel is certainly better this year than last year.

3. Do you think Deion Branch can truly replace Randy Moss?

Deion Branch was not brought back to New England to replace Randy Moss. He said as much to the media Tuesday during his first practice back with the team. Branch has a different skill set, though he can go vertical on occasion. Deion will be expected to be a chain-mover and a reliable target for Brady as the Pats move back to their ball-control, grind-it-out offense that helped them win three Super Bowls.

4. What is the biggest concern when facing the Ravens?

The biggest concern for the Patriots has to be the Ravens’ defense. The offense is the biggest strength for the Pats right now and if they struggle to move the ball, they can not rely on the young defense at this point to keep them in the game. Moving the ball is absolutely essential to having a chance at winning the game, because even if the run defense steps up, Joe Flacco could have the big game Ravens fans have been expecting out of him this season. I highly doubt that Flacco will attempt only 10 passes like he did in the playoffs.

5. Game predictions?

My heart is with the Patriots, but they need to prove that they can beat a team of the Ravens’ physicality and toughness. Ravens 20, Pats 13.

You can check out my answers to Jamie’s questions here.