With Randy Moss now a member of the Vikings, a lot of Patriots fans will be watching Brandon Tate on Sunday to see how the second-year wide receiver performs as New England's newest deep threat on the offensive side of the ball.
The Ravens will obviously be monitoring Tate in that aspect of the game and making sure the North Carolina product doesn't burn them deep, but they've got their eyes on Tate for another reason as well.
The speedy Tate is currently the league's second-leading kickoff returner, averaging 33.4 yards per return. He's run back two kicks for touchdowns, and had another kickoff return for a score in the preseason as well.
"He's got good vision, good running skills, and he's aggressive," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Tate. "I think those are the things you look for in a returner - a guy who can handle the ball and is an aggressive runner that can make plays and make space in the open field, get some yards on his own, use the blocking that he has and make a little more of it.
"When he gets those opportunities in space, Brandon's done a good job of that for us."
Watching Tate on film, the Ravens say the first thing they've noticed is his speed. Tate is as fast as any returner Baltimore will face this season, and if you give him even a small crease, he's proven he can burst through and take it to the house.
"We've got to get in front of him," said wide receiver Marcus Smith, one of the Ravens' top special teams players. "You can't give him a clear lane to run. Basically, from watching film, I feel like if it's kind of cloudy in there, he might change direction and change the M.O. of what the return might be. He might bounce it outside just because we're in the hole.
"We know he's fast, we know if he gets a head of steam, he's probably going to be gone. So, we feel like we've got to get in front, make him change directions, and make it not as clear for him."
Smith says that when you're defending a guy as fast as Tate, the goal is to force him to make a couple cuts. That's not necessarily the same strategy that the Ravens would employ if they were facing a returner with less pure speed but more shiftiness.
"You look at a guy like [former Chiefs and Rams kick returner] Dante Hall - you get in front of him, he's going to make you miss," Smith said. "He has the ability to juke you and run away from you. [Tate], not so much. If he gets an edge, he can outrun you. That's how we look at him as compared to a guy that has a little bit more agility. He's not a stop-and-go type of guy. He's more of a guy that builds up speed. If we can contain him and get in front of him, it will work in our favor."
The Ravens have done well containing explosive kickoff returners thus far this season. They held the Browns' Josh Cribbs to just a 23.5-yard average three weeks ago, and limited the Broncos' Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal to a 27-yard average last Sunday.
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg and his boys get another big test again this week, and they're eager to prove they can rise to the occasion again.
"It's a big challenge for us," said safety Haruki Nakamura, who is third on the team in special teams tackles. "We're looking at it as he's one of the most explosive guys in the NFL. Our ultimate goal is just to do whatever we can to make sure he doesn't get a good return or have a great day."