While New England will be without the luxury of Hernandez's skillset brings, the Ravens actually have some semblance of that on their own offesne. Be sure to be on the look out for tight end Dennis Pitta.
Pitta lined up next to an offensive tackle as a traditional tight end on 15 plays and was not targeted once by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on any of the plays as he was often run-blocking on either the left or right edge. He lined up as a wide receiver on four plays, and Flacco threw his way on three of them, including two quick completions while Pitta ran slant routes against a safety. Pitta also lined up in the backfield on one play.
But usually, Pitta was lined up in the slot, where he did most of his damage in a game where he led the team with eight catches and with 65 receiving yards. He was targeted eight times on the 16 plays in which he lined up as a slot receiver to Flacco’s left and four times on the 15 plays where he was in the slot to Flacco’s right -- including a third-quarter interception when Flacco tried to squeeze a pass between three Eagles defenders.
Now I'm not sure that Pitta is as good of a player as Aaron Hernandez, but he certainly presents some of the same challenges. Perhaps the Patriots defense is the best equipped of any to handle this, after facing Hernandez in practice so many times. We'll find out Sunday.
So far this year, Pitta has 13 receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown. You can expect the Ravens to continue to line him up all over the place Sunday night, trying to get a favorable match up in the New England defense.
I'd expect that they would likely try to go after rookie Dont'a Hightower who has struggled in coverage thus far this season. That's one matchup that bears watching. You know the Patriots are probably going to devote all their efforts to stopping Ray Rice, so there are going to be opportunities for Flacco to move the ball down field.