The New England Patriots will meet the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football, one of the best matchups of the year. The Patriots are 1-1 after an upset loss to the Arizona Cardinals last weekend and the Ravens are also .500 after a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend.
Two teams who have been great for a while. Here are three things to key in on:
Who wins out: Patriots offense or Ravens defense?
I love games like this. An elite unit vs. another elite unit. The Patriots have been one of the best offenses in the NFL for more than a few years. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and others usually make things miserable for the opposing defense. But in this game they'll be going against another elite unit, the Ravens defense. From top to bottom, the Ravens are stacked. They can pressure Brady. They can cover. The linebackers are athletic. They can stop the run. They can do it all.
I want to see who wins out in this battle. Is it Brady and the Pats' offense? Or will it be Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense?
My money's on the offense.
Just how good is this Ravens offense?
I noted last week that for the first time in a long, long time the Ravens offense might actually be better than the defense. Joe Flacco is young and continue to get better each and every year. Ray Rice is one of the most complete backs in football. Torrey Smith has the speed to match the big arm of Flacco. The offensive line is consistent. They really do have the pieces in place to be one of the best offenses in the NFL.
They're going up against a coach who is pretty good with defense. That Bill Belichick has stopped a big offense a time of two.
How close is the Ravens offense to turning the corner into a consistently top offense?
Who goes in the hole early this year?
The Patriots and Ravens are popular Super Bowl picks every year and that's true this year as well. After this game one of these teams will be in a very unfamiliar position: a losing record. It's been since 2003 since the Patriots had a losing record. The Ravens haven't been below .500 since 2008.
If there's a stat that shows the consistency of these two franchises over the last decade, that's it.
One of these teams will be heading home a loser.