The New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens each enter their high-stakes AFC showdown with a number of gamers nursing accidents.
The 8-Zero New England Patriots and the 5-2 Baltimore Ravens are nearly able to sq. off in a matchup that would have main postseason implications.
The Patriots presently have no less than a two-and-a-half recreation lead on all their closest rivals within the AFC for the No. 1 seed within the playoffs. The Ravens are tied with the Indianapolis Colts and the Buffalo Payments for the second-best report within the convention, however as a result of the Payments share the identical division because the Patriots, they’re presently solely projected because the fifth seed (first Wild Card spot).
The Colts presently have the sting over the Ravens based mostly off the convention successful share tiebreaker, however an Indianapolis loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend – coupled with a Ravens victory over the Patriots – would catapult Baltimore into the motive force’s seat for the No. 2 seed and home-field benefit within the playoffs. Moreover, a Ravens victory over the Patriots would additionally carry main ramifications if the 2 groups ended up tied on the finish of the common season.
For Baltimore to spring the house upset (they’re presently three-point underdogs), skipper John Harbaugh might want to each out-coach his counterpart on the opposite sideline (Invoice Belichick) in addition to overcome plenty of essential accidents to a few of his finest gamers. The Ravens have seven completely different gamers listed as “questionable” for this recreation, per the Patriots’ official injury report launched Friday on the staff web site.
Three of these seven gamers aren’t precisely what anybody would contemplate “vital” to Baltimore’s hopes for a win, however they’d nonetheless be helpful to have in a pinch towards an excellent staff like New England. Left guard Patrick Mekari (again), security Bennett Jackson (ankle), and cornerback Maurice Canady (thigh) are all backups on the depth chart.
Jackson and Canady are in all probability a very powerful of that trio by way of serving to present some additional insurance coverage on the back-end of a Ravens protection that’s permitting the seventh-most passing yards per recreation proper now. Each contributor counts in relation to dealing with Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels in spite of everything… even in what many are calling a down 12 months for the Pats offense.
The Ravens’ different 4 accidents bear shut monitoring within the final 48 hours earlier than kickoff.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith has been out because the first quarter of Week 1 with a proper knee harm; though he’s questionable to play on Sunday versus the Patriots, he’s already instructed reporters that he’s “prepared” to make his return this week, according to USA Today’s Matthew Stevens. If he does find yourself taking part in, it will be an enormous boon to this Ravens staff… even after they earlier acquired star nook Marcus Peters in a commerce with the L.A. Rams.
Linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) was additionally a restricted follow participant this week who finds himself listed as 50/50 to play Sunday night time. Onwuasor has been out the previous three weeks, however he might be on monitor to make his return now, given the additional time he had final week to heal throughout Baltimore’s bye.
Most essential of all for the Ravens is the well being and effectiveness of two stars, one on both facet of the ball: security Earl Thomas (knee) on protection and receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (ankle/thigh) on offense.
Thomas was Baltimore’s huge free agent addition this previous offseason, and he was dwelling as much as expectations after which some because the Ravens’ fierce center-fielder earlier than arising on the harm report this week. Thomas has already instructed reporters that he expects to play versus Brady on Sunday, per Clifton Brown of the Ravens’ official website. Though the choice will in the end be left as much as the Ravens’ coaching employees, it’s an excellent signal for Baltimore followers that Thomas seems this assured in his capability to play by the ailment.
Brown is a rookie first-round draft decide this season from Oklahoma who has been nothing in need of electrifying. He shortly established chemistry with Ravens QB Lamar Jackson to begin the season, working as Baltimore’s speedy deep menace and residential run weapon. Though “Hollywood” missed the final two video games, it seems he’s effectively on his strategy to returning this week towards the Pats.
For New England, Belichick must work round eight completely different gamers on his personal harm report – each one among which is listed as “questionable” for this contest.
As has been the case all season lengthy, the overwhelming majority of the accidents famous have been on offense. The Pats noticed restricted follow participation this week from operating again Rex Burkhead (foot), operating again James White (toe), receiver Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), receiver Gunner Olszewski (hamstring/ankle), proper guard Marcus Cannon (ankle), tight finish Matt LaCosse (knee), and tight finish Ryan Izzo (concussion).
The excellent news is that about half of these gamers have been capable of play by the identical accidents final Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns. Edelman has had the chest harm since Week 3, and though the shoulder harm is new, neither is predicted to maintain him sidelined for the lean this weekend versus the Ravens. Brady’s favourite receiver must be good to go, and a serious a part of this offense Sunday night time.
Olszewski additionally will in all probability be on the market as soon as extra. As has been the case most of this season, his main function and duty comes as a returner. This week could be the right time for the undrafted rookie out of Bimidji State to get his first profession return landing as a professional, as a result of factors may be at a premium in a tricky street recreation just like the one which’s anticipated.
Burkhead missed a number of video games along with his foot harm however was activated final weekend towards the Browns. Though his return was a welcome sight for the New England steady of operating backs, he wasn’t precisely efficient on the market operating the ball.
White is a brand new addition to the harm report this season, having beforehand solely missed time to attend the start of his son. Hopefully no less than one of many two operating backs (White and Burkhead) is wholesome sufficient to take the sphere at M&T Financial institution Stadium this weekend; ideally each of them will probably be on the market serving as dual-threats who can each rush and catch the ball out of the backfield.
Cannon, LaCosse, and Izzo all missed the Browns recreation with their respective illnesses.
Cannon’s return could be useful to a New England offensive line that has struggled considerably this season. LaCosse and Izzo have each up to now did not make a lot of an impression after they’ve been wholesome, however both of them coming again to motion would offer no less than a stage of depth at tight finish behind starter Benjamin Watson – particularly now that Eric Tomlinson has been launched.
The ultimate identify on the Patriots harm report – and the one participant from the protection – is security Patrick Chung (heel/chest). Chung missed Weeks 5-7 along with his accidents, however he was capable of return final Sunday to face the Browns and their proficient pass-catchers. Chung most definitely will probably be on the market once more versus the Ravens, working alongside Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon to ensure nothing will get previous the New England secondary.