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Five things you have to know about the Ravens 12.17.13 at 7:15 pm ET
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Terrell Suggs had 14.0 sacks in 2011. (AP)

Terrell Suggs would love to take down the Patriots. (AP)

The Patriots will try to close out the AFC East and put a major dent in the playoff hopes of the Ravens when they travel to Baltimore for a Sunday afternoon contest. Here are five things you have to know about the Ravens.

1. They almost always do a really good job at defending Tom Brady.

Old warhorses like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are no longer around, but the Ravens remain are as stout as they come defensively. There are some questions about their ability to close defensively — they’ve allowed 96 points in the fourth quarter this season, the most of any AFC team still in the playoff chase — but there’s still a lot to like about what they’re doing. They’re in the top 10 when it comes to total defense (334 yards per game allowed, ninth-best in the league), run defense (102.4 rush yards per game allowed, seventh-best in the league) and points per game allowed (19.8 per game, seventh-best in the league). They are one team that consistently makes things difficult for Brady, who is 2-3 against them in his last five games. Over the course of his career, the quarterback averages 57 percent when it comes to his completion rate, and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 8-10 in his career against Baltimore. (According to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, the Ravens have held Brady under 6.8 YPA in six of eight career meetings.) With New England facing a dicey situation when it comes to offensive line depth, particular at tackle, the pressure off the edges will be a concern — old friend Terrell Suggs (9 sacks) figures to have something to say about this one before the week is done, and Elvis Dumervil (9.5 sacks) should also be a handful for the Patriots offensive line.

2. They have almost as much experience playing close games this season as the Patriots.

When the Patriots and Ravens meet Sunday, chances are good that it’ll be a close game. Eleven of the 14 games New England has played this year have been decided by seven points or less, while Baltimore has played in 10 games decided by seven points or less. The Ravens have gone 5-5 in their games decided by a touchdown or less, while the Patriots are 7-4. Baltimore has won their last three games by a total of seven points, which includes Monday’s win over the Lions, a contest that wasn’t decided until Justin Tucker connected on his sixth field goal of the night, a 61-yarder than lifted the Ravens to an 18-16 win. All that comes against a backdrop of almost nothing but close games between these two teams — since 2004, five of the eight games between Patriots and Ravens have been decided by six points or less. Expect another close one come Sunday afternoon.

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Report: Tom Brady reached out to Ed Reed 11.18.13 at 7:07 am ET
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Ed Reed

Ed Reed

There have been conflicting reports about the level of the Patriots’ interest in Ed Reed after the veteran safety was released by the Texans last week. According to a story Sunday by Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Tom Brady texted Reed to encourage him to sign with New England. However, the Patriots brass did not show the same level of interest.

Reed eventually signed with the Jets, who came on strong in their courtship. Coach Rex Ryan texted him and set up a visit right after Reed cleared waivers, La Canfora reported. After a meeting with general manager John Idzik on Wednesday night and passing a thorough physical Thursday, Reed signed with New York and was active for Sunday’s game against the Bills.

The Jets are hoping Reed can provide veteran leadership and a presence in the defensive backfield, although he wasn’t able to offer much help in Sunday’s 37-14 loss to the Bills.

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Peter King on M&M: ‘I can’t see Ed Reed being much of a factor in the AFC playoff race’ 11.15.13 at 1:11 pm ET
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Peter King

Peter King

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss news from around the NFL, including the possible impact of Ed Reed, the health status of Peyton Manning and the legal maneuverings of Richie Incognito.

It was a quiet week for the Patriots, who were off last weekend, with the week’s big news being the team’s interest — or lack thereof — in Reed, who became a free agent after being cut by the Texans and then clearing waivers. The veteran safety signed with the Jets on Thursday.

“I heard right away that the Jets reached out and that Rex Ryan personally pushed hard for this,” King said. “But it’s hard for me to imagine that if Bill Belichick called Ed Reed the day this happened and said, ‘I really want you,’ it’s just hard for me to imagine that Reed wouldn’t have gone.”

King predicted Reed’s influence would be minimal over the season’s final seven weeks.

“I think you’ve got to be a little bit realistic in this case about what Ed Reed has left,” King said. “The guy had 14 tackles for Houston. He was hurt a lot more than he played. He did not play effectively. I live in New York now, and they’ve made a huge deal in the last 24 hours over Ed Reed signing. But it’s like in any game in any sport, when you sign a guy who’s significantly over the hill, it’s great for headlines, but headlines don’t play, headlines don’t win games.

“I can’t see Ed Reed being much of a factor in the AFC playoff race.”

In Denver, Manning has been sitting out practices with an injured ankle as the Broncos prepare to host the undefeated Chiefs in an AFC West showdown Sunday night. King said Manning will be under center, but he could struggle.

“The injury report doesn’t matter. Whatever it is they say, he’s going to play,” King said. “We all know that he’s hobbled on either one or both ankles; I think there’s some mystery there. But the word out of Denver is he’s going a high ankle sprain and is really not going to be able to be mobile. And I think against four legitimate pass rushers in Tamba Hali, Justin Houston on the outside, Derrick Johnson and Dontari Poe on the inside — look, Denver’s line has allowed him in the last three weeks to get mauled. And especially over left guard, where Zane Beadles is having a terrible year.

“I really question how effective Peyton Manning can be. If you have a fantasy team this week, I don’t think this is the week to think you’re going to get many bombs out of Demaryius Thomas, because I just don’t know how much time Manning is going to have this weekend.”

Added King: “This could be the kind of game, really, that Carolina and San Francisco played last week [a 10-9 Panthers win]. I know it sounds crazy to think that, but this could be a very low-scoring game won by the defense. I have sincere reservations about whether Manning is going to be able to play effectively on that ankle and against this pass rush, this team that clearly is in the lead in sacks in the NFL. … I keep thinking that even if Kansas City can eke out 17 points this weekend from an offense that isn’t playing well, I think they’re going to have a really good chance to win this game.”

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Ed Reed: Patriots, Dolphins showed interest before I signed with Jets 11.14.13 at 7:56 pm ET
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Ed Reed

Ed Reed

Shortly after he signed with the Jets Thursday, veteran safety Ed Reed acknowledged he heard from the Patriots and Dolphins during his brief stint as a free agent.

“I don’t think either one of them wanted me in their conference,” Reed told reporters.

Reed, who was released by the Texans on Tuesday, passed through waivers without being claimed on Wednesday and hit the open market that evening. In a 24-hour span, Reed said he heard from both New England and Miami, but decided on the Jets in part because of his familiarity with coach Rex Ryan. Ryan was the defensive coordinator in Baltimore during a portion of Reed’s time with the Ravens (2005-2008).

Ryan said Thursday there was no sentimental feeling when it came to the possibility of reuniting with the 35-year-old Reed.

“This had nothing to do with sentiment. We believe it will be a great signing for us and he’s going to help this football team,” Ryan said.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Patriots practice Thursday: Steve Gregory only absentee, Shane Vereen ‘gradually’ increases workload at 12:22 pm ET
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Shane Vereen continues to progress in practice with the Patriots this week. (AP)

Shane Vereen continues to progress in practice with the Patriots this week. (AP)

FOXBORO — The Patriots returned to the practice field in full pads on a chilly Thursday morning outside Gillette Stadium as they continue preparations for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers Monday night in Charlotte.

The only player not spotted on the lower grass field was safety Steve Gregory, who injured his thumb against the Steelers on Nov. 3.

Should he miss Monday’s game, Gregory won’t be replaced by Ed Reed, who was signed by the Jets on Thursday and reported to their practice facility.

Running back Shane Vereen was again on the field Thursday as the Patriots test his readiness to return from a broken wrist suffered in the season opener against the Bills on Sept. 8.

“It’s good to have him back on the field,” coach Bill Belichick said Thursday before practice. “This will really be an opportunity for us to evaluate this week kind of where he is, give him some harder assignments and see how he’s doing. He’s been able to be active and participate but I’d say it will be a higher level competition for him this week on the practice field. As it should be, gradually escalate the intensity of it and see how it goes.”

The Patriots will practice again on Friday and Saturday before leaving Sunday for Charlotte and Monday’s game against the Panthers.

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Ed Reed agrees to deal with Jets at 11:36 am ET
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Ed Reed

Ed Reed

The Jets announced Thursday that they have agreed to a deal with free agent safety Ed Reed and indicated he is expected to practice with the team Thursday afternoon.

There had been conflicting reports about the level of interest from the Patriots, with ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweeting Thursday morning that New England was not an option.

Bill Belichick has long been an admirer of the longtime Ravens standout. Reed signed a three-year deal with the Texans this past offseason but was released this week after losing playing time and criticizing his coaches.

Jets coach Rex Ryan has familiarity with Reed, having coached him when Ryan served as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator in the 2000s.

Ryan on Wednesday discussed Reed in his press conference and said “absolutely, yes,” he would like to see Reed on his team.

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Poll: Should Patriots sign Ed Reed? at 10:41 am ET
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Ed Reed is a free agent after clearing waivers on Wednesday. (AP)

Veteran safety Ed Reed is a free agent after clearing waivers on Wednesday. (AP)

FOXBORO — When the Texans released Ed Reed on Tuesday, one of Bill Belichick‘s favorite players of all-time became available. The question is, with Reed 35 years old and coming off hip surgery, should the Patriots take a chance that he can still play at a high level?

The Patriots reportedly are interested, along with the Jets, who are coached by Rex Ryan, Reed’s former defensive coordinator with the Ravens. Late Thursday morning, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that, per league sources, the Jets and Reed were on the verge of an agreement.

The Patriots had natural interest in Reed when he became a free agent after winning Super Bowl XLVII with Baltimore in February. But the price tag became too high when he signed a three-year contract in March with the Texans worth $15 million, including $5 million guaranteed. Then, later in the 2013 offseason, Reed underwent arthroscopic surgery on his hip to repair a small labral tear.

Reed made his Texans debut on Sept. 22 against the Ravens in Baltimore. As the season progressed, Reed saw his playing time reduced. He eventually lost his starting job to Shiloh Keo during Week 9 against the Colts.

Reed was released Tuesday after just 16 tackles, no interceptions, no forced fumbles and no passes defended in seven games. Reed also made critical comments he made regarding coaching decisions, suggesting the Texans were outcoached in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals.

Should the Patriots sign Ed Reed?

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