|Ravens CB Lardarius Webb will have his hands full defending New England's deep WRs and TEs. (Getty Images)|
Patriots at Ravens -- Week 3
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore (turf, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Spread: Ravens by 3
Forecast: Clear skies; projected temperature in the high-50s.
Records: Ravens (Overall: 1-1, AFC North 1-0); Patriots (Overall: 1-1, AFC East: 0-0)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Jan. 22, 2012: Patriots 23, Ravens 20; Oct. 17, 2010: Patriots 23, Ravens 20 (OT). Series record: The Patriots are 6-0 in regular season meetings. The two teams are 1-1 in the postseason.
What matters: The Ravens' front seven needs improvement on passing downs. The unit didn't get much of a pass rush against Eagles QB Michael Vick, who threw for 371 yards a week ago. Tom Brady will torch the defense if the front seven leaves him untouched. This Patriots offensive line might be the worst Brady has played behind, which could bode well for the young Ravens outside linebackers. Courtney Upshaw got some penetration at times against Philadelphia but didn't close. SSBernard Pollard should play in the box a good bit to pressure Brady, though Pollard is coming off a chest injury sustained last week against the Eagles.
Who matters: TE Dennis Pitta has been the focal point of Baltimore's passing game, having seen 24 targets this season. He's caught 13 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, which leads the team. Pitta is QB Joe Flacco's safety net, someone he can rely on to pick up key first downs. Against Philadelphia, Pitta was one of the few receiving options physical enough to fight off jams at the line of scrimmage. Baltimore's passing game struggled against Cover 1, press coverage. New England will try those schemes, despite being a predominantly Cover 2 oriented team.
Key matchups: The Ravens' secondary must keep Patriots WR Brandon Lloyd from getting behind them. Miscommunication issues contributed to Philadelphia hitting some deep passes, and Lloyd is a dangerous deep threat. With CB Lardarius Webb covering the slot in nickel situations (most likely Wes Welker and Julian Edelman), the task of defending Lloyd will come down to Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith. QB Brady and S Ed Reed have had some battles throughout the years. In addition to keying on Lloyd in the deep game, Reed will try to disguise the Ravens coverage to force Brady into turnovers.
Injuries of note: Though Pollard (chest), Webb (knee), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), LB Jameel McClain (knee), LB Paul Kruger (back) and LT Michael Oher (ankle) have minor injuries, all are expected to be available for Sunday night.
Inside stuff: With the Patriots using their running game more this year with Stevan Ridley, OLB Albert McClellan has shown he can contain backs from breaking runs to the edge. McClellan had six sacks last week, doing a good job of helping contain LeSean McCoy to three yards per carry.
Connections: Dean Pees coached with New England from 2004-2009, serving as defensive coordinator in his final four years. Backup S James Ihedigbo started 12 games for the Patriots a year ago. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome began his front office career as a special assignment scout under Bill Belichick in 1991, when both were with the Browns. Ravens DE Arthur Jones is the older brother of Patriots rookie DE Chandler Jones.
Stats you should know: S Reed is only the second player in franchise history to have an interception in each of the first two games of a season. Former CB Chris McAlister was the first Raven to do it. If Reed gets an interception this week, he'll be the first NFL player to have one in each of the first three games of a season since Cortland Finnegan and Troy Polamalu did in 2008. Rookie Justin Tucker is the first Ravens kicker to hit two 50-yard field goals in a game. Against Philadelphia, Tucker made kicks from 56 and 51 yards away.
Record watch: QB Joe Flacco is one 300-yard performance away from setting the franchise record of nine games throwing for 300 yards. Ray Lewis needs 28 interception return yards to pass Derrick Brooks (530) for the most all-time by a LB.
Bulletin board material: TE Ed Dickson on New England's linebackers -- "I've seen some things they don't do as well. We respect them but we don't fear them."
Looking ahead: The Ravens don't have much time to prepare for their next game after Sunday night's meeting against New England. Baltimore will host Cleveland next Thursday before traveling to Kansas City the next week.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Ravens 28