PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
Heading into the Ravens’ Week 6 matchup with the New England Patriots, there are several key matchups that should go a long way into deciding the outcome.
Here are five to watch on Sunday:
OLB Terrell Suggs vs. QB Tom Brady: Last year, Suggs was a nightmare for Brady. In both 2009 meetings between these two teams, Suggs logged a sack/strip on Brady. The first time, defensive end Dwan Edwards pounced on it in the end zone for a Ravens touchdown. The second – in the playoffs – led to another Ravens touchdown. Although Baltimore moves Suggs to both sides of the line, he’ll see a lot of two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light. It will be critical for Suggs to jump-start the Ravens’ pass rush.
WR David Reed vs. WR Brandon Tate: For a guy who didn’t play on coverage teams in college, Reed is excelling at the pro level. He leads the Ravens with five special teams tackles, and his wheels will be useful to corral Tate. The former University of North Carolina Tar Heel is one of the NFL’s best kickoff returners, with two touchdowns to his credit already. Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff is leading the league in touchbacks, and a deep kick will give Reed a better chance to shed his blocker.
RB Ray Rice vs. ILB Jerod Mayo: Mayo plays very fast sideline-to-sideline and is leading the Pats in tackles, with 46 through four games. Rice saw great success against New England in 2009, totaling 262 rushing years in both meetings combined. And, Rice finally broke the 100-yard barrier last week against the Denver Broncos. If Rice breaks through to the second level, believe that Mayo will be there waiting – or at least sprinting to take him down.
CB Chris Carr vs. WR Wes Welker: In the absence of the recently-traded Randy Moss, Welker becomes New England’s No. 1 receiver. And with 26 catches already this season, Welker hasn’t been at a lack of targets yet. Carr, the Ravens’ top nickel back, could be the one to draw the shifty Welker. The catch-machine is versatile and smart in the slot, where Carr plays in three- and four-wide situations and will be tasked with limiting Welker’s impact.
C Matt Birk vs. NT Vince Wilfork: Chalk up another monster test for Birk with the 6-foot-2, 325-pound Wilfork. Birk has already faced strong nose tackles in Shaun Rogers and Casey Hampton. If the Ravens want to get the ground game going, Birk and guards Ben Grubbs and Chris Chester will have to unhinge the two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman’s anchor. With Wilfork in the middle, the Patriots are allowing 112.3 rush yards per game (20th in the league), but he is still a run-stopper to reckon with.