The most important matchup on Sunday when the New England Patriots face the Baltimore Ravens may not be the one most people expect. The Patriots have one of the most lethal offenses in the NFL and the Ravens have one of the hardest hitting defenses but it’ll be the other side of the ball that determines who will win the AFC Championship game.
Everyone is well aware of the strength of the Patriots offense and the Ravens defense this year. The Patriots averaged 32.1 points and 428 yards a game which makes them the second ranked offense in the NFL only behind the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens defense has been equally effective this year only giving up 16.6 points and 288.9 yards a game which places them in the top three of the NFL in total defense. For both teams, this will be the toughest task they’ve faced this year but it may be the other side of the ball that determines who will win.
The Patriots defense has been less than impressive this season giving up 21.4 points a game and a staggering 411.1 yards a game which is second worst in the NFL. For the Patriots to defeat the Ravens Sunday it’ll take a much better defensive effort. On the plus side for New England, the defense is coming off of their best performance of the year against the Denver Broncos Saturday night as they allowed only 10 points and 252 yards.
The Ravens offense hasn’t been nearly as deficient as the Patriots defense this season but with Tom Brady on the opposing sideline Sunday, Joe Flacco and company may need a better performance. While the Ravens averaged a respectable 23.6 points and 338.7 yards this year, that won’t be enough to outscore the Patriots if the game turns into a shootout. Unlike the Patriots defense this past weekend, the Ravens offense didn’t give the AFC North champions any extra confidence Sunday as they narrowly escaped the Houston Texans in Baltimore scoring 20 points and gaining only 227 yards on offense.
No one would question that the matchup between the Patriots offense and the Ravens defense should be something to pay attention to but the questions should be the deciding factor. The Patriots defense did a surprisingly good job against Denver’s running game and forcing Tebow to make mistakes but that’s something that hasn’t been seen all season and the Broncos passing game certainly doesn’t scare anyone. Whether or not the Patriots defense can stop the run will be a deciding factor against the Ravens. As for the Ravens, pro bowl running back Ray Rice will be looking to atone for a mediocre game against the Texans Sunday. The big question for Baltimore will be whether Anquan Boldin can have the same big game he had against Houston. Most likely, either the Patriots defense or Ravens offense will play better than expected but not both. It’s which team can exceed the low expectations that will likely come away with the victory.