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Tom’s new best friend, go-to guy: Aaron Hernandez, the team’s biggest advantage heading into Sunday’s showdown in Foxborough against Baltimore

Ravens Gab Senior Site Editor Matt Jergensen asking questions with Patriots Gab Columnist Russ Loede:

  • What are your feelings on the Randy Moss trade? Why do you think the Patriots feel the need to deal him now and what are the short and long term implications of this move?

Stunned at first, however, I understand the team’s reasoning behind the deal.  The guy who figures to replace Randy, Brandon Tate, was regarded as a more talented, highly-touted prospect coming out of the ’08 Draft than his fellow teammate at UNC, Giants all-world wide receiver Hakeem Nicks  That’s high praise coming from pro scouts.  As you can see, the club is extremely high on Tate, and rightfully so; his physical tools and scintillating sensation skill set is that impressive.  Also, the progression of Aaron Hernandez plays a part too.  He has rapidly translated over from Saturdays to Sundays.  The former Florida Gator moves like a wideout and has more moves than Beyonce.  Think of a younger, more dynamic version of Dallas Clark, scary, right?  He is that good, and wait until reaches the next level; you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Another thing to consider, Tom is a mastermind and can dissect a defense, threat the needle, and is so precise with his short-to-intermediate throws.  With that said, he is just as accurate and proficient dinking and dunking, spreading the rock around, as he is slinging the pigskin deep like he so often did connecting with Moss on big-play bombs.  The Patriots have proven before with Brady and a decent receiving cast that they can win, and win the big game; despite a lack of a clear-cut #1 go-to-guy.

Short term, expect Wes Welker to be the main benefactor with the move of Moss.  The receivers alongside Wes will get a chance to develop more now that Moss is gone.  Also, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a guy to keep an eye on; the team loves him.  Past two games: 32 carries, 174 rushing yards, and two touchdowns, with a 5.5 yards per carry average.  The run game will be more incorporated into the team’s game plan.

Long term, guys like the aforementioned Tate, rookie Taylor Price (3rd round pick in ’10), Julian Edelman (Wes Welker-lite), the first-year 1-2 punch of tight ends Hernandez and Gronkowski, will provide the recently re-signed Brady with ample ammunition.  In the end, this move means no one is safe in New England apart from the franchise quarterback.  It also cements the fact that this team will and always will build and re-load via the Draft.  The more assets, picks accumulated, the better position the franchise is in for the long run.  April is vital in New England.  All things considered, they still are not sacrificing their hopes for a title this season.  This move makes sense and helps the team both in the short term and in the long term future.

  • Recently the Patriots re-acquired Deion Branch from Seattle, what impact do you expect him to have on the New England offense?

Branch’s impact may get unnoticed from the public eye.  In general, the common fan looks mostly at the box score; in particular, and I don’t see Branch flashing big numbers in that department; however, that doesn’t go without saying he won’t have an impact.  Stats don’t always equate to impact, as you saw with Moss.  People tend to forget, and little do they know, that Randy only had nine receptions, yet, the Patriots pass game and offense still thrived.

With Deion, his impact will not come in the physical realm, but the in the emotional realm, as a mentor to the younger Patriot receivers.  The MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX will also help Tom out a bit too, reminding him he still has what it takes to get to the show.  He will provide motivation both on and off the field.  Without any hesitation, Branch will become an instant locker room asset.  This role translates into immediate impact.  He will only benefit the team.

  • What is ONE matchup that you feel the Patriots have an advantage and how might they exploit it this Sunday in the game plan?

If Baltimore has a weakness, it has to be their secondary.  Without Ed Reed, this group leaves much to be desired, yet, I will admit, they have outperformed expectations and exceeded standards so far.  With that said, I don’t think the Ravens linebackers or safeties have the ability to hang with the young blood Hernandez.

He is silky smooth, super quick, and a mismatch nightmare for Greg Mattison’s gang.

“He’s a killer-type football player,” Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattisn said. “It’s the same mold where you have a guy that probably has some wide receiver pass-catching and route-running skills, but he has the size of a tight end.

“He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s very gifted once he catches the ball, and he’s very gifted getting open. And he’s been a big plus for them.”

Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, no match for Aaron.  Landry, Zbikowski, no concerns for the talented rookie TE.  Despite their second ranked pass defense, I believe the Patriots can take advantage of a sub par secondary.  Although the unit has been playing well, it still doesn’t have enough talent to match up with the potent Patriots aerial display; especially, without the NFL’s 2004 Defensive Player of the Year.  The game plan to exploit this match-up involves the Patriots controlling the clock, time of possession by attacking the middle of the field through the air via timely throws, crossing routes, and quick slants.

Believe it or not, there is an advantage to not having Moss, and it is the Patriots will be forced to be more efficient, putting together time-consuming drives.  This could be a blessing in disguise, since the defense is so shaky this season.  With Baltimore’s defense, the best way to defeat them is to wear them out, and the only way to do that is by dictating the tempo of the game, thus keeping them on the field with long-sustaining scoring marches.  So in essence, look for the Patriots to spread it out and get Aaron Hernandez one-on-one with a Baltimore LB or DB.  If that happens, advantage: Patriots.

  • What player is your biggest concern for the Patriots on the Ravens roster and why?

Originally, I thought it had to be Ray Rice with his electrifying playoff performance last January, however, on second thought, it’s definitely Haloti Ngata.  The Baltimore defense excels at getting to the QB.  Their most lethal weapon used to be Patriots killer Terrell Suggs, now I think its Ngata.  He has been so dominant this season, that I think if I were to choose a DPOY in the AFC it would either be this former Oregon Duck or the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Troy Polamalu.

With Ngata, he is so big and powerful at 6-4, 350; and no one is even close to possessing that kind of strength on the New England front line to combat this one-of-a-kind brute muscle.  Not only does he possess elite power and strength, but the man can flat out move for a big guy.  No one is nimble or mobile enough like Ngata to stay with him.  He has the package, a rare combination of size, strength, and quickness; a skill set no one on the Pats line can match.  How will the interior linemen be able to stop Ngata, let alone, contain him?  He is an extraordinarily unique defensive tackle, who is gifted beyond all get out.  He can ruin the Patriots quick-strike offensive game plan, run game all by himself.  Haloti is the team’s biggest concern because he is the man in the middle; and there’s no getting by that, or him, for that matter.

  • Finally what is your prediction for this Sunday’s game and why?

New England coming off of a Bye at home is tough to go against, especially, considering who’s calling the shots in the “hoodie” on the sidelines.  Nonetheless, the Ravens are on a mission, and its balance on offense and swagger with Ray-Ray on defense cannot be outdone at this point in the season.  Right now at this moment, they along with the Steelers and the Jets, a team that already defeated the Patriots this season, are the top three teams not only in the AFC, but the entire National Football League.  Confidence is sky high, weapons are abundant, and the Harbaugh has his troops thinking big picture.  If they can beat a good Denver team basically without utilizing Anquan, (only one catch for eight yards against Champ Bailey), than they can win a tough game on the road against a team they have fared well, been successful against during recent battles in Foxborough.  Baltimore Ravens 26 New England Patriots 23

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