BY SAM HOLLINGSWORTH
It’s fair to assume the New England Patriots (1-1) didn’t expect to have a two-game losing streak dangling over their heads heading into Baltimore to face the Ravens (1-1) in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game.
We all remember it: the Ravens lost on a 32-yard field goal attempt that could have sent the game into overtime, but instead propelled the Patriots into a Super Bowl rematch vs. the Giants.
Baltimore, which looks for a big win against a vulnerable Patriots squad, couldn’t contain Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles last week, giving up a rushing TD to Vick that sent the Ravens home with a loss.
Turnovers. You can’t stress this one enough. The Patriots are susceptible after a dismal effort last week vs. the Cardinals in their home opener. The Ravens are the Ravens — stacked, hard-nosed and vicious on defense. Don’t turn the ball over … or at least limit the takeways by Baltimore, which had two interceptions and two fumble recoveries last week vs. the Eagles. Despite the four turnovers, the Eagles still won. That's not the norm.
Stopping the run. Two words: Ray Rice. Dude can run the ball, especially against New England. Remember his 83-yard run on the first play of Baltimore's playoff win over the Patriots in 2009? Rice (Photo: lswiecicki, Flickr) opened it up last week for just under 100 yards off of 16 carries. Giving up anything more than that this week is going to put the Patriots’ backs against a wall.
Establishing passing options. … Other than Gronk! The Patriots need to move the ball around more. The loss of tight end Aaron Hernandez does not help that. The addition of recently-released receiver Deion Branch, however, does. Might as well get Wes Welker the ball more, too, since he's pretty good.
Special teams. The Patriots' special teams group is known to break one out every once in a while, but it had a rough outing last week with a blocked punt and a missed field goal late. Don’t expect the unit's woes to last, though. In a battle between two highly-touted AFC squads, special teams plays a big part in this one.
Week 3 Patriots Posts:
Week 3 AFC East game picks: Patriots at Ravens
Homer Guide: AFC East Week 3 fantasy glance
Around-the-Web AFC East power rankings - Week 3
Where Winslow and Branch fit into Patriots' offense
Week 3 Poll: Patriots' loss a fluke or an indication?
Belichick's Beli-esque account of Welker/Edelman
Pats' first home-opener loss at Gillette a sloppy one