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Game Scout: Patriots at Ravens

The SportsXchange

New England Patriots (10-4) at Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md. - TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms

*Keys to the game: The teams have played a combined 16 games decided by three points or less this season, so the margin for error is minimal. The Patriots are struggling to establish an offensive identity minus TE Rob Gronkowski, with several receivers banged up and a running-back-by committee approach in the backfield. QB Tom Brady insists he hasn't lost confidence in his receivers, but he'll rely heavily on Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman while hoping rookies Aaron Dobson and/or Kenbrell Thompkins can return to provide a more legitimate vertical presences. New England's defense gives up an average of 132.5 yards per game on the ground, but Baltimore hasn't been able to establish much of anything with RBs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce finding no room to run behind an underperforming offensive line. QB Joe Flacco is expected to play with a brace on his sore left knee for the first time in his NFL career. It's worth watching how that affects his underrated mobility in the pocket and his ability to confidently step into the deep throws that have become a hallmark for the Ravens' offense.

*Matchup to watch - Patriots C Ryan Wendell vs. Ravens NT Haloti Ngata: After moving around significantly in past seasons, Ngata has played primarily on the nose this year. He has a 15-pound and significant strength advantage over Wendell, who tends to get overpowered. The Patriots also need improved play from RG Dan Connolly to prevent Ngata from sucking up double-teams and clogging running lanes.

*Player spotlight - Patriots DT Sealver Siliga: Promoted from the practice squad in November, Siliga has started the past three games and steadied the run defense. Opponents have averaged 4.3 yards per carry since he entered the starting lineup.

*Fast facts: Brady and Flacco have split six previous career meetings. ... Brady can clinch his NFL-record 11th division title with one victory over the next two games. ... Ravens PK Justin Tucker has converted 33 consecutive field-goal attempts.


Neither one of these teams is playing at the level of their AFC Championship Game meeting in January 2013. While Patriots QB Tom Brady is working with a piecemeal receiving corps, the sore left knee of Ravens QB Joe Flacco is just concerning enough to give a slight nod to New England.

*Our pick: Patriots 22-19