The optics are that defenses are more aware of, and game-planning more for, New England's run game. Maybe the statistics don't support that fear on their part but then again, you know what they say about statistics. It also appears that our opponents are pass-rushing and blitzing less than last year, and again the explanation for many is that Ridley/Woodhead/Vereen/Bolden will carve them for good yardage if they commit wholly to stop Brady. Maybe this is all a myth and the stats don't really support this conclusion on their part, but we hear about this enough from analysts, ex-coaches, and current players, so perception could have become reality. The threat of the Patriots' run game is more potent this year than last. That, in my mind, is undeniable.
Our defense seems more potent as well, especially in locking up the opponents' run game. It makes QB's like Schaub and Flacco rely more on a riskier pass game, helped along by early leads the world's greatest QB gives the team almost every game. With Talib/Dennard/Arrington (especially since Talib arrived) and McCourty's safety play, this has led to more turnovers and a big advantage for the Patriots.
I don't see any of that changing against the Ravens. Talib and Dennard should match up well with Bolden and Smith, as long as the D-line can hold Rice in check. Ridley/Vereen should keep the Ravens D guessing. Webb's absence is going to create problems for their coverage as well, not that we have any deep threats. But we do have so many receiving threats that it's hard to cover them all. Kick and punt coverage will have to get back to their normal steady play; hopefully last week was an aberration. At least 14 of the 28 points you keep saying our D gave up were set up by two long kick returns. We can't have that happen again against the Ravens.
If the Pats are lucky enough to make it past them, I would think Atlanta would be a much easier opponent than SF. Atlanta has a conventional (and very good) QB; SF has a much more unpredictable QB and one who is much harder to game-plan against. So we will need to rely on the quick-reaction and tackling of our secondary in stopping Kaepernick when he gets loose. It's tough to play man-on-man pass coverage, AND watch for and quickly react to broken-field running by the opposing QB.