By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens are now only a game away from securing a berth in the AFC Championship game. To reach this accomplishment, they’ll need to do away with the top seed in the AFC playoffs. The New England Patriots seem to clash with Baltimore annually in the postseason. Both teams realize only one team gets to play next week. The outcome may depend on who’s healthy as well as who can execute on the field.
One area that the Ravens will want to produce on Saturday will be in their rushing attack. A big part of the run game depends on the effectiveness of the offensive line. So when word got out that Eugene Monroe would practice this week, many fans had their hopes up that the left tackle would make the game. That optimism should be tempered a bit considering the manner in which Monroe practiced. He was limited in practice this week and the Ravens have listed him as questionable for the divisional round.
If Monroe can’t go, James Hurst will take his place once again. He’s done this for a large portion of the season and the Ravens now have a good idea of his strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of what those are, Baltimore clearly takes a dip in talent on that side of the field. The Patriots will likely do their best to overload that side of the line in order to keep Flacco uncomfortable in the pocket. The Ravens have another rookie on the right side with John Urschel playing guard. But with All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda still on that side taking over the tackle spot, it’s more likely that New England attacks the left side. Pittsburgh tried to form an assault and the Ravens were prepared for it. They would be wise to be prepared for it this week as well.
The Ravens offensive line may not be at its best, but their defensive line is about to receive a huge boost. Timmy Jernigan looked like he may be lost for the season after injuring his ankle against Cleveland, but after practicing fully this week it looks as if he’ll be playing against the Patriots. That’s the last thing New England needed, because that’s simply just another body in the Ravens rotation with the ability to rush the passer. With Jernigan combining with Haloti Ngata on Saturday, Baltimore’s pass rush just got more vicious.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.