CHALK TALK NEWS
Jan 21, 2012 posted by Josh Angulo-Bartlett
As opposed to the NFC side of things, the AFC played out exactly true to form. The #1-seeded Patriots are hosting the #2-seeded Ravens in this monster matchup because they went 13-3 during the regular season and are coming off a beat-down of the Tim Tebow led Broncos last weekend in the Divisional round 45-10. Golden boy-Tom Brady-threw for a playoff tying 6 TD’s in that one and even showed off his punting skills late in the blowout.
The Ravens, on the other hand, finished the regular season at 12-4 and are coming off a workmanlike Divisional round win over a good Houston Texans team 20-13. Not as impressive was their trigger man-Joe Flacco-as he completed only 14 passes for a pedestrian 176 yards, but did throw 2 TD passes in the win. All world RB Ray Rice was held to only 60 yards on 21 carries as the Texans defense showed why they were ranked #1 most of the season.
But that was then and this is now. The reason I use that hacky cliche is because it applies here as both of these teams won’t play the way they did last weekend due to many circumstances. For one, the Pats won’t be posting 45 points on the Ravens #2 defense while letting Brady throw for 5 first half TD’s like he did last week. Another reason is the Ravens won’t struggle on offense like they did last week because the Pats defense was the worst in the NFL during the regular season as they gave up the most yards from scrimmage of any #1-seed in NFL history. I’m not saying the Ravens are the 94′ Niners on offense, but vs. this putrid Pats secondary my 4-yr-old son might have 100 yards receiving.
In this great offense vs. great defense matchup, what will be the keys? From the Pats side of things, Brady will have to get the ball out much quicker than last week because the Ravens front 7 will provide pressure and make him very uncomfortable. That is something the Ravens have done in the past and need to do again if they have any shot of punching their ticket to Indy. Because if Brady gets the time to throw he will slice and dice any defense up including this Ravens one. Of course the Ravens will have no answer for that meat-head TE Rob Gronkowski as he is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. WR Wes Welker is also a favorite target of Brady, but if the Ravens secondary can at least jam him and the other WR at the line it will throw off the timing of this fast-paced offense just enough.
For the Ravens on offense its simple. A healthy helping of Rice combined with some play action from Flacco, who does throw a great deep ball, will be crucial in keeping up with the Pats on the scoreboard. Like I said earlier, I don’t anticipate the Pats dropping 45 again this week, but for as good as the Ravens defense might be, the Pats will put up points at least in the mid-20′s. That means Flacco and company will need to make some big plays, but mostly they will need to play ball control with their running game which will keep Brady on the sideline. Flacco has been criticized all year, including this week by his own teammate Ed Reed, for sometimes being inaccurate and rattled at times. This is a spot where he can put those haters to bed with a big stage performance that Charm City has been waiting for. Because all of the regular season wins (44 in four years) doesn’t mean squat if he can’t get his team to the promise land, a.k.a., the Super Bowl.
As for a prediction, I think this one will be a lot closer than most “experts” think as they opened the Patriots as a healthy 7.5 point home favorite. The Ravens are 7-0 vs. playoff teams, while the Pats haven’t beat a team with a winning record all season. Plus, this veteran laden Ravens squad knows how to win playoff games on the road and plays best when they are in the underdog role. The Pats are a machine on offense, but for some reason I can’t see that defense carrying them to Indy. Ravens 28-24