2013 NFL Playoffs: Ravens vs. Patriots - same story, different ending?

By Ross Watson
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Is anyone getting a sense of déjà vu when it comes to the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots? These two met in last years AFC Championship game where the outcome was decided by a missed field goal, then they met in week three of the regular season where the result was decided by a made field goal. The first game went the Patriots way, the second was won by the Ravens, so I think it’s fair to say that this will be another good match-up to decide who will be the AFC’s champion.

When it comes to the meeting of minds between arguably the leagues best quarterback against one of the all time greats at middle linebacker, it’s bound to be a game not only of the inches gained during each play, but of a battle of which team has the best pre-snap match-up.

With the Patriots known to exploit any defensive weakness a team has with its now famous tight end package as well as having Wes Welker in the slot, the Ravens and Ray Lewis in particular will have to be on top of their game to really cover any weaknesses the Pats might find.

The Patriots are now fully immersed in their up-tempo play-style, and showed against the Houston Texans that it’s going to take more than a star player or two to stop them. “What can the Ravens do?” I hear you ask. Well with Rob Gronkowski looking to be out of the lineup, the purple crew has one less weapon to worry about and can instead focus on stopping Welker and the Patriots other dangerous tight end Aaron Hernandez.

When put into such simple terms, it sounds as if the job will be easy, but when unlikely playermakers like Shane Vereen step up, the Patriots offense is the most dynamic and toughest to defend in the league with Tom Brady at the helm.

For the Ravens to be victorious they must avoid two things, getting into a shootout with the Pats and allowing the big special teams plays, both of which were problems during last weeks game against the Denver Broncos. If Baltimore does a good job of avoiding those two pitfalls then the play of Joe Flacco is going to be where the game is won and lost for the Ravens, the defense will do what they need to do, Flacco just has to do what he’s done in the past.

Officially Joe Flacco is one of the best road playoff QBs of all time, and with a win this weekend he will have six road wins in the playoffs making him the greatest ever at picking up the big wins on the road. If Joe plays the way he did during last year’s championship game and this year’s regular season, then Baltimore should be in a position to win even if it’s a close game. I fancy this one to comes down once again to a kick, just this time I reckon it will be Stephen Gostkowski‘s game to win of lose.

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