The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots last squared off in January with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake. Baltimore suffered a bitter loss to the Patriots that day when Lee Evans dropped the go ahead touchdown pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter and kicker Billy Cundiff missed a potential game tying field goal as time expired. The Ravens will host the rematch this Sunday in Baltimore.
The Ravens and Patriots are both coming off Week Two losses. Baltimore wasted a 17-7 halftime lead in Philadelphia and ultimately lost 24-23 to the Eagles. In the second half of Sunday's game the Ravens went away from the no huddle offense that had been so successful through the first six quarters of the season. QB Joe Flacco suffered a rib injury early in the third quarter and his accuracy was abysmal the rest of the day. The Eagles were aided to victory by a missed intentional grounding call and a questionable offensive pass interference call against Baltimore WR Jacoby Jones. The loss dropped the Ravens to 1-1 on the season.
In addition to the game the Ravens also lost strong safety Bernard Pollard with a rib contusion. Pollard's status for the game against the Patriots is up in the air. Ravens' coach John Harbaugh has been noncommittal on the topic of Pollard playing this Sunday. The Ravens need Pollard's physical presence on the back end of the defense as they contend with New England's tight end extraordinaire, Rob Gronkowski.
The New England Patriots will play Sunday's game without Aaron Hernandez who has been Gronkowski's running mate at the tight end spot. Hernandez suffered an ankle injury in Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The injury to Hernandez could slow the Patriots' offense and limit Tom Brady's ability to work out of two tight end sets. Another thing to watch for from the Patriots' offense is the fact that Julian Edelman has started to steal reps from Wes Welker at the slot receiver position. Welker, who is playing under the Franchise Tag this season, could be on his way out of New England after this season. Edelman started opposite Brandon Lloyd at wide receiver last week with Welker on the sidelines. Welker could regain his starting spot this week due to the Hernandez injury.
Sunday's matchup will feature two excellent teams looking to rebound from frustrating losses. The Ravens have not beaten the Patriots in a regular season game since moving to Baltimore in 1996. Baltimore went undefeated at home in 2011 and registered a 44-13 pounding of the Bengals in the Week One home opener.
*Information gathered from http://www.nfl.com