Ravens at Patriots
Sunday – 1/20/13
After last week’s 38-35 double OT victory over the Broncos, the Ravens will be playing in their second straight AFC Championship game. This Sunday at 6:30 in Foxboro will kick off a rematch of last year’s AFC title game as the Ravens and Patriots try to punch their tickets to the Super Bowl.
Last year the Ravens were a dropped pass away from beating the Patriots and a missed 32 yard field goal from sending the game into overtime. Luckily for Baltimore the culprits of those costly mistakes, WR Lee Evans and K Billy Cundiff, are no longer with the team. Baltimore will be looking for revenge this Sunday and it is sure to be an entertaining game.
The Patriots lead the all-time series against the Ravens 5-2. The last time these two met was in week three of this NFL season which saw the Ravens win 31-30. The last three games between these two have all been decided by three points or less and I see no reason why this Sunday’s game won’t be a nail bitter as well. Let’s take a look at what the Ravens need to do to let Ray Lewis play in one final Super Bowl.
What the Ravens need to do to win the game
Two weeks in a row offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has deployed an offensive attack that has leaned heavily on the rushing game. Last week Ray Rice tallied 131 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD and I expect us to see a heavy dose of our franchise RB this week too. New England allowed a hair over 100 yards a game on the ground this season and they need to run it down their throats this week, because everyone is well aware of how dangerous the man who wears #12 on the Patriots sidelines is. If the Ravens can keep moving the chains on offensive, that means Tom Brady is sitting on the sidelines.
Joe Flacco has gone another week without throwing an interception and they were victorious for the 17th straight time that happens. Flacco now has a 7-4 record in the playoffs, a far better win % in the playoffs than Peyton Manning for those who are counting. So far in this year’s playoffs Flacco has been the most impressive QB so far. He has totaled 613 yards and 5 TDs with zero interceptions. He will need to keep up his steady play this week and not turn the ball over. If Flacco puts up another game with no interceptions, the Ravens will be in this game all the way to the end with a great chance to head to the Super Bowl.
Home AFC Title games have been Tom Brady’s forte so far in his career. In those games Brady is 4-0. Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defense always have their hands full when playing the Patriots and they will have to come up big this week. Corey Graham has stepped up his game in the playoffs and is looking like a dominate CB. Through the Ravens two playoff games Graham has 12 solo tackles, .5 sack, 2 interceptions (both on Manning), 5 passes defended and 1 TD. He will need to bring his A-Game this Sunday and shut down whoever has the hot hand with Brady. The Patriots were 6 for 13 on third down last week against the Texans and Graham, Lewis and the rest of the Ravens defense needs to limit that number dramatically to increase their chances of winning. If they can hold the Pats to under a 35% conversion rate on third downs, we could get the privilege of seeing one final Ray Lewis dance.
My first thought of this week’s key match-up was Corey Graham versus whoever they match him up with. But after thinking about it, the Pats have too many weapons and only shutting down one receiver isn’t going to stop much. So my real key match-up is going to be Ray Rice versus the Pats front seven. Rice needs to eclipse the 100 yard mark for the second straight week to give the Ravens the best chance to win. If he does I think the Ravens win. If the Pats contain the running game and keep putting Brady on the field, the Pats take this one.
I keep picking them and they keep winning so I’m not changing up the formula this week. This is for sure going to be a game that comes down to the last possession but I think the Ravens will pull it out again. This week it will be in even more dramatic fashion as a Jacoby Jones kick return sets up the game winning field goal and the Ravens win 31-28.