By Hal Bent
The New England Patriots seem to wind up with two teams on their schedule most every year: wherever Peyton Manning is playing and the Baltimore Ravens. Instead of facing Baltimore at the beginning of the season when it looked like the Super Bowl champs were facing a season on the outside looking in, the Patriots face a Ravenssquad that has stormed to four straight victories behind a ferocious defense that has turned the page on the Ed Reed/Ray Lewis era and firmly established themselves as a top squad in 2013.
As the two teams have a long history and have faced each other in the AFC Championship game the past two seasons, it is no surprise that they find each other in week fifteen of the NFL season with a lot on the line. The 10-4 Patriots need a win after being upset by Miami last week to lock up the AFC East and get the inside track towards a first round bye. The 8-6 Ravens need another victory to keep a lock on the final playoff spot that they currently hold—and hold off the Dolphins.
There is no doubt that this is a must-win for New England. However, the Ravens are playing their best football of the season and are always a tough matchup for thePatriots. Former Patriots’ defensive coordinator Dean Pees has his squad keyed up to tee-off and attack the offense of Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Patriots’ offense against the Ravens’ defense, particularly in the trenches, will be the key to victory on Sunday afternoon.
The New England Patriots are already missing three key players on offense as left tackle Nate Solder and rookie wide receivers Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkinshave been downgraded to out of the game on Sunday. Solder, who has been playing at a Pro Bowl level all season, will be sorely missed with right tackle Sebastian Vollmer already out for the season. The Patriots face a difficult test as it is with Baltimore’s aggressive front seven, and all eyes will be on the offensive line as the Patriots’ coaching staff tries to decide what combination of players will make up the front five. CLICK HERE FOR MUCH MORE: http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/22/must-win-against-ravens-will-be-decided-by-pats-offense/