“Call From The Bank”

AFC Game Of The Week

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

Patriots: They are off to their best start since 2015 when they began that year 10-0. Although they lost some key pieces to their offense, you still don’t doubt this team. Especially with that head coach because Bill Belichick will always find a way to work with what he has around him. This is what separates the New England Patriots from everyone else in the game right now. They execute everything perfectly from their offensive attack to the way they play defense. Speaking of defense, let’s talk about their defense because they’ve been the talk not just of the team, but the league. This has been hands down the best Patriots defense I’ve seen since the early 2000s when the dynasty was just beginning. On paper during the Summer, I said to myself this could be a top-five unit if everything clicks. All these months later, here we are. I’ll explain what makes them so good too. They’re always attacking the line of scrimmage first and foremost. They run what’s called a “cover zero” which means there’s no safety playing deep. The safeties are loaded in the box and they bring all out pressure at the last minute to confuse the quarterback which makes him get rid of the football sooner rather than later to buy time. What I described is exactly what they did at times against the Jets last Monday night. They have such a good scheme to mix things up. They have pass rushers which has been their biggest issue over the years. The offense will pick things up when they need too. Sony Michel has been a godsend for them. They will receive more of a boost when N’Keal Harry finally plays. He will give them a consistent threat on the perimeter. For the third time in a span of 13 years, the Patriots will aim for another 9-0 start.

Ravens: In the AFC right now, the Patriots rank at the top of course. After them, it’s an interesting discussion as to who’s the second-best team behind them. I know they had a few losses, but you still can’t count the Kansas City Chiefs out. The Colts have been playing well, then you have these Baltimore Ravens. Remember during the off-season when everyone awarded the Cleveland Browns the division after they traded for Odell Beckham Jr? Even the Steelers got some love and were even considered to be a sleeper after losing their top two offensive players. The Ravens just seemed to be an afterthought after winning the AFC North last year. Right now, they’re 5-2 and in control of the division. I was so impressed with how they played in Seattle almost two weeks ago. They were able to get their running game going, Lamar did what Lamar does and as a defense, they shut down Russell Wilson and even made him throw his first interception of the season. When I think of Baltimore Ravens football, one thing always comes to mind. They always have a strong defense. It’s always been the backbone of this entire team. All they’ve needed is for the offense to take care of the ball and the defense would do the rest. It hasn’t necessarily been like that this year. Their offense has been stellar. The defense on the other hand hasn’t been as strong as they usually are. When it comes to stopping the run, they’re still one of the best at doing so. The pass, not so much because they don’t have a secondary that can cover for an extended period of time. You put emphasis on trying to stop one guy that it leaves everyone else wide open down the field. They’re off the bye week with the defending Super Bowl champions in town for a Sunday night tilt.

Patriots Player to Watch: Lawrence Guy– The former Baltimore Raven himself. He’s a big guy with shifty feet that’s always moving, no matter what. He’s excellent at stopping the run and even when facing mobile quarterbacks, he follows them to make the stop. He’s a key piece to what the Patriots do up front. He’ll be needed to do everything to help keep Lamar Jackson contains in the pocket.

Ravens Player to Watch: Mark Ingram– If you watched the Patriots game closely against the Browns on Sunday, their defense was a tad bit vulnerable in stopping the run. The Ravens need to study that game film and find ways to feed Mark Ingram the football on Sunday night. Baltimore is one of the best when it comes to running the ball averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground. This will be key for them amongst other things if they want to be the first team to hand New England a loss.

Final Analysis: These two have played some memorable games over the years. They’ve met a total of four times in the playoffs with each team with two games apiece. John Harbaugh has become extremely familiar with the Patriots during his time as head coach of the Ravens. Each time they play, it’s always been close with some memorable moments. Watching their game against the Browns, New England struggled to stop the run. Baltimore needs to get Ingram going early on. A lot of pressure will be on the Patriots secondary because they’ll want to do everything to stop Lamar Jackson. They’ll play man coverage underneath and keep that safety deep. This will be the best defensive line the Pats have seen all year. I see Mohamed Sanu being a crucial piece for their offense Sunday night.

Prediction: Ravens 23 Patriots 21



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