These two teams met in the playoffs last year, the Patriots were 8-0 at home but the Ravens literally ran all over the them on their way to a 33-14 victory. That day Ravens QB, Joe Flacco who was struggling with injury completed only 4 passes for 34 yards but you can guarantee that won’t happen again if the Ravens want to advance to the Superbowl for the first time since 2001. The Ravens will however need a repeat performance that they got from their defense and running game that day if they are to slow down the Patriots offense that took apart a good Broncos defense last week, racking up 45 points in the process.
The perfect AFC team would probably consist of the Patriots offense and the Ravens defense and this game is truly a classic match up of offense vs. defense but could be decided by the Ravens offense or indeed the Patriots defense as both units have struggled.
Patriots keys for victories are:
Protect Tom Brady:
In last year’s playoff game Brady was under constant pressure and threw 3 interceptions and lost a fumble. You don’t want the Ravens front 7 to dominate you or it’s going to be a long day.
Stop the run:
The Ravens racked up 221 yards on the ground last year and Belichick knows that running the ball is the recipe for success for the Ravens, but despite the Patriots 31st ranked defense they’ll want they game in Flacco’s hands and not those of Ray Rice.
Note: The Patriots ranked 17th against the run.
Win the turnover battle:
A stat that may have got lost in all the bad press the Patriots defense has had is that they led the AFC in takeaways with 23 interceptions and 11 fumbles with a differential of plus 17. Staying away from Ed Reed who has 8 picks in 10 post season games would also be a good idea!
Ravens keys for victories are:
Run Ray Rice, this should be your game plan as this is what your best at but Flacco will also need to make some throws downfield to keep the defense honest.
Get Flacco comfortable in the game early:
Despite what I have just said about running the ball, Flacco will need to do better than he did last week and make some plays down the field to Boldin and Smith. Cam Cameron should get Flacco involved early with some short passes and allow him to go downfield when the time comes.
Get to Brady:
If Brady is given time he’ll pick apart any defense eventually even with a short passing game rather than a vertical one, so dial up some blitz packages.
Summary– The Patriots will want to set the tone early and I expect their offense to come out in a high tempo manor, maybe even no huddle and therefore not let the Ravens dictate the tempo of the game. However this is a difficult game to call, especially after what happened last year, but the Ravens offense worries me more than the Patriots defense does, if the Pats can establish a lead of around 10 points by the half then it’s hard to see the Ravens coming back but as usual it’ll be down to their defense.
Prediction: Ravens 17 Patriots 27
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