The Patriots return to Gillette Stadium and have their 2022 season home opener against one of their biggest rivals in the Baltimore Ravens. Since Gillette Stadium opened, it has been a true home-field advantage. The Patriots are 17-3 in their home openers at Gillette.
This week’s game will be broadcast on FOX and can be seen in the Boston area on WFXT-TV Channel 25. Joe Davis will handle play-by-play duties with Daryl Johnston as the color analyst. Pam Oliver will provide analysis from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station, 98.5 The Sports Hub, with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
The Patriots (1-1) are coming off of a tough road win, their first of the season, beating the Steelers 17-14. The defense was solid, allowing only one touchdown while holding Pittsburgh’s offense to just 243 yards. The offense dominated time of possession in the 4th quarter and ran out the last 6:33 of the game with the running game.
The Ravens (1-1) lost to the Miami Dolphins 42-38 when their patchwork secondary, due to injuries, fell apart in the second half, allowing 35 points, 28 of which were in the 4th Qtr. Lost in the comeback was the play of Lamar Jackson, who had a tremendous day, completing 21 of 29 passes for 318 yards, with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. He also ran for 119 yards on nine carries, including a 79-yard touchdown.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2022 to give some quick analysis on some of the game’s key matchups and what you can look for in how the game plays out.
First up is the Patriots’ offense:
Patriots RBs vs Ravens Front Seven – Edge Baltimore
The Patriots running game looked much better against the Steelers than in Week 1. Damien Harris led the way with 71 yards of 15 carries, while Rhamondre Stevenson chipped in nine carries for 47 yards. Other than Mac Jones’ kneel-downs, the team averaged 4.75 yards per rush.
Baltimore’s run defense starts with a tough, physical three-man front led by Calais Campbell, Justin Madubuike, and nose tackle Micheal Pierce. Inside backers, Patrick Queen and Josh Bynes are very good. They allow only 84 yards per game.
The Patriots will need the offensive line to play much as they did down the stretch last week to run the ball effectively against the Ravens. But this week, they may have to use the pass to open up the running game.
Patriots WRs vs Ravens Secondary – Edge New England
Wait, WHAT? This passing offense getting the edge on the Ravens, you say? And the answer to that is the injuries in the secondary that continue to haunt Baltimore. Last year, the Ravens placed 25 players on IR, four of them cornerbacks. They already have six players on IR. There is the reason why I believe Mac Jones could be successful this week.
Jones has DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, a suddenly explosive Nelson Agholor, and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. They have the weapons to give a banged-up secondary a rough go of it. Meyers didn’t practice on Wednesday. His status is huge for the Patriots’ offense.
The Ravens’ pass defense is far from the Swiss cheese we saw unfold in the 4th quarter against Miami. But they lost CB Kyle Fuller to a torn ACL in Week 1. Marcus Peters was not anywhere near 100 percent in his first game action since tearing his ACL last year. Marlon Humphrey has a lingering groin injury, and Brandon Stephens was inactive with a quad injury. This many missing and banged-up players is really tough for the secondary to handle, and it all came home to roost late in the game.
Look for the Patriots to come out throwing try to create some confusion among the younger players in the secondary with some looks they may not have seen yet. Baltimore will counter with their pass rush. Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh, as well as the front linemen, will look to disrupt things for Jones.
Next up is the Baltimore offense:
Ravens RBs vs NE Front Seven – Edge New England
The Patriots run defense was very good again in Week 2. However, the back injury to Davon Godchaux will bear watching as he’s become a valuable member of the front seven. The Patriots run defense is currently ranked 5th in the NFL, allowing 78 yards per game and just 3.5 yards per rush. But this week, the task is much tougher.
The Ravens’ running backs have struggled to get much going, but Lamar Jackson is a very difficult player to corral. The first time the Patriots faced him a few years ago, they were surprised by just how fast he is. The second time, Jackson was slowed in a downpour, and they were able to contain him.
Baltimore running backs only generated 16 carries for 36 yards on Sunday. The front seven has to play disciplined and maintain gap integrity. As we saw on Sunday, Jackson can take it to the house once he gets into that second level.
Ravens WRs vs NE Secondary- Edge Baltimore
The problem with playing Jackson to run is that he can pull up and burn you with a pass. That’s why the entire defense has to play a very solid game to slow them down. The new, faster, more athletic linebackers and safeties have to have a big game here.
Tight end Mark Andrews is a dangerous target anytime defenders get caught peeking into the backfield. Rookie Isaiah Likely from Everett High School also turned heads in training camp. Jackson has the dangerous Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay as outside threats.
The Patriots pass defense has been (in a small sample size) better than thought so far this season, and they are 9th in pass yardage allowed (197 yards per game). They’ve been very good at keeping things in front of them this year. Look for that to continue as they will try to make Jackson take a small bite at a time. But they’re going to have to step up this week, especially on third downs, to get a few stops and maybe get a tipped pass for a turnover or two. Kyle Dugger’s injury status will bear watching.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Baltimore
It is hard to pick anyone’s special teams unit over Baltimore as long as Justin Tucker is on the field. He is just operating on a different plane than anyone else. Jordan Stoudt has been excellent, only putting one punt inside the end zone while having three downed inside the 20-yard line. Duvernay started last week off with a bang, taking the opening kickoff 103 yards to the house. But he suffered a concussion and did not practice on Wednesday.
While Nick Folk’s streak inside of 50 yards is now tied for the NFL’s longest, his range beyond that is pretty limited. Jake Bailey had an off week in Pittsburgh, putting two into the end zone.
Next up, who wins and why…
This one will be the first measuring stick for the Patriot defense’s ability to slow down a mobile quarterback. They will face several this season (Josh Allen twice), which is why they made the changes they have. It is not the end all, be all, but this will be a measuring stick to see where they have to improve or change up things.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Keep Jackson In the Pocket — As I mentioned above, keeping Jackson in the pocket is in itself no guarantee for success; he’s improved by leaps and bounds as a pocket passer. But if they allow him to break containment and run free, it will be a very long afternoon for the defense. They have to keep him in the pocket and slowly squeeze it around him. The secondary has to keep everything in front of them and not allow the Ravens to get chunk plays.
Linebackers and Safeties Have to Step Up — This is a very tough week for the linebackers/safeties. They can’t allow Jackson to break off chunk running plays, but at the same time, Andrews is Jackson’s go-to guy. If the Patriots can pull off an upset, then we’ll probably be saying on Monday that the front seven, especially the backers and safeties, had a big game.
Take Advantage of a Banged Up Secondary — Although the Patriots’ passing game has struggled, there were some signs of life last week. And with Baltimore’s injuries on the back end, the opportunities will be there to get some things untracked. No one is thinking about a rehash from the Ravens last Sunday, but if Jones can get his speedier guys (Agholor and Bourne) more involved early, it will open up things for Jakobi Meyers to keep the chains moving.
I drank the Kool-Aid in Week 1, thinking they would get things figured out. Last week I thought the Pittsburgh defense would give them a rough go. I’m going back to the Kool-Aid this week. The Ravens will be an angry team the way things played out last week at home. The Patriots will have to weather the storm early and slowly take advantage of some of their speed. A late score pulls out another close victory.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Baltimore Ravens Bill Belichick Damien Harris Devin Duvernay Devin McCourty Jakobi Meyers Justin Houston Justin Tucker Kendrick Bourne Kyle Dugger Lamar Jackson Mac Jones Marcus Peters Mark Andrews Matthew Judon Nelson Agholor New England Patriots NFL Rhamondre Stevenson