In a Hot Button now posted to ESPNBoston.com, Mike Rodak and Field Yates debate the following question: Which aspect of the Ravens' attack will it be more important for the Pats to stop, Joe Flacco's vertical passing game or Ray Rice and the running game?
Here are their arguments. Give us your take in the comments section:
* Rodak -- Respect Flacco's big-play ability: The Patriots have a middle-of-the-pack red zone defense -- 13th in the league -- but it always seems to come up with big stops when needed. Last week, the defense was able to keep the Houston Texans out of the end zone after Danieal Manning's 94-yard kickoff return to begin the game. Similarly, Rice could help the Ravens move the football, but as Bill Belichick said on Wednesday, it's points that matter the most, and the red zone defense will help prevent points. What's more likely to produce touchdowns is Flacco and the deep ball. The Ravens are 7-0 in games this season when receiver Torrey Smith scores a touchdown, as he did in Week 3 against New England. The Patriots' pass defense has allowed fewer big plays as the season has progressed, but Smith and fellow receivers Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones all possess dangerous size and present matchup problems for Patriots defensive backs in the deep game.
* Yates -- Stopping Rice is job No. 1: Small in stature but with no shortage of talent, Ray Rice is the best player on a Ravens offense that is playing better now than it has since the start of the regular season. Rice is the Ravens' workhorse, the player who sets the tempo on their offense and the guy who they count on not only to run the football, but to catch passes and pass protect. Simply put, he does it all. But he's at his best with the ball in his hands on a backfield carry, and the Patriots have to find a way to slow down Rice this Sunday, something they were unable to do all the way back in Week 3.