Tom Brady and the New England Patriots head into enemy territory as they face Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens in a Sunday night showdown at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Event: New England Patriots (1-1) vs. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) - Regular Season, Week 3.
Date/Time: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 8:20 p.m. ET.
Location: M&T Bank Stadium (Capacity: 71,008), Baltimore, MD
Broadcast Info: Sunday's contest between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens will be televised nationally on Sunday Night Football on NBC (Ch. 7 in Boston and surrounding areas). The game can also be heard on the radio on WBZ-FM 98.5 The Sports Hub, with Gil Santos and Scott Zolak on the call, and Sirius satellite radio channel No. 92.
Odds: Baltimore is favored over New England by 2.5/3 points, according to SB Nation.
Patriots 53-Man Roster: View the New England Patriots' 53-man roster by clicking here.
Ravens 53-Man Roster: View the Baltimore Ravens' 53-man roster by clicking here.
Last Season: New England is coming off of a very successful season in which it reached the Super Bowl, but lost to the rival New York Giants. The 2011 version of the Pats went 13-3, best in the AFC, and easily took care of the Denver Broncos and barely squeaked past the Baltimore Ravens en route to the big game in Indianapolis. Baltimore was 12-4 in 2011 (first in the AFC North) and made it to the AFC Title game before being eliminated.
Preseason: New England went 1-3 in the preseason, defeating the New Orleans Saints (7-6) in the opener but losing to the Philadelphia Eagles (27-17), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (30-28) and the New York Giants (6-3). Baltimore went 2-2 in the preseason, beating the Atlanta Falcons (31-17) and Jacksonville Jaguars (48-17) while falling short against the Detroit Lions (27-12) and the St. Louis Rams (31-17) in their preseason finale.
Last Time Out: It seemed like a sure thing that the Patriots would beat the Cardinals. Tom Brady even threw for 316 yards, but a shocking miss from kicker Stephen Gostkowski in the closing seconds, wide left, gave Arizona a 20-18 victory and gave the Pats their first loss in a home opener at Gillette Stadium. New England lost star tight end Aaron Hernandez to a low ankle sprain in the first half, and he is expected to miss at least one month. Baltimore came up on the short end of a 24-23 game in which Michael Vick torched the Ravens' defense for 371 passing yards, but was picked off twice. Joe Flacco had 232 passing yards, one scoring toss and an interception while Ray Rice had 99 rushing yards.
Last Meeting: Ravens fans, look away. The last time New England and Baltimore played each other was in the 2011 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, and a Billy Cundiff missed field goal as time expired sent the Ravens home for the offseason and allowed the Pats to advance to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Brady was mediocre throughout the game, even saying he "sucked" in the postgame interview, and he finished with 239 passing yards but two interceptions. Rob Gronkowski had five catches for 87 yards and BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 68 yards and one score for New England. Flacco had 306 passing yards and two scores, but was picked off once. Rice was held to 67 rushing yards and Anquan Boldin had six catches for 101 yards for Baltimore.
Storyline: Whenever the Pats and Ravens get together, it's a party. Two of the NFL's consistent contenders, playing at a place where one team (the Ravens) hasn't lost since 2010, all in front of a national audience. It doesn't get much better than that. Oh wait, it does. To top it all off, this is a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game, and each team lost last weekend. You can bet that each team wants a win in the worst way. Can Bill Belichick and New England avoid a second straight loss and a sub .500 record? Looking at recent history, the likely answer is yes. The Pats don't often lose back-to-back games with Belichick as their coach, but trivial facts like that have little meaning once the game begins. The high octane Patriots offense, led by Tom Brady (duh), will have to pull out all the stops to crack the Ravens powerful defense. Baltimore isn't a pushover on offense, either, with Rice's ability to rack up 100 yards (sometimes in his sleep). New England's defense has looked a lot better this season, but it still has some work to do. Whatever happens Sunday, know this: it will make for some good Sunday television. Get your popcorn ready. It's on.
Players To Watch: The quarterbacks will dictate this game. As usual, if Tom Brady brings his 'A' game, opponents don't stand a chance. Joe Flacco, meanwhile, has looked good in spurts (especially against the Pats in last year's AFC title game), and if he clicks, he can be problematic for the Pats' defense. Speaking of defense, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are going to do everything in their power to make sure Tom Terrific has a long, sad flight home. Stevan Ridley played well for the second straight week in the backfield, and Ray Rice shouldn't have a problem racking up the yards. Keep an eye out for Kellen Winslow Jr. and Deion Branch, if they play. Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker will be factors, too.
Prediction: Something has to give. High powered offense, high powered defense. In recent years, Baltimore has showed the ability to contain New England, but never discount a Pats team on the verge of a two-game losing skid. Final Score: Patriots 27, Ravens 24.