2013 NFL Playoffs: Can the Baltimore Ravens Win the AFC Title?

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens, in some respects, appear to be a team of destiny but do they really have enough to beat the New England Patriots for the AFC Championship? It is going to be awfully tough for a number of reasons. The biggest thing the Ravens have going for them is emotion but that only carries you so far, eventually talent wins over emotion and the Patriots simply have more talent. Besides the talent factor, there are other things working against the Ravens this Sunday.

The biggest obstacle outside of the Patriots themselves, is fatigue. The Ravens defense has faced 87 plays in back to back weeks traveled to Denver and now must travel again. This is an older defense and at some point it is going to catch up with them. The Denver Broncos had the Ravens defense on the ropes several times in last weekend’s divisional game but could never land the final punch. The odds of the Patriots letting the Ravens off the hook as the Broncos did are not very high, and the game could easily get away from Ray Lewis and company.

Adding to the problems of a tired defense is the fact that no offense in the league plays at a faster pace than the Patriots. They want to run as many plays as humanly possible and they want to run them at warp speed. The Ravens are going to have a difficult time keeping up with that pace. The Patriots now run the ball very well and they still have Tom Brady throwing the ball as well as ever. The game could be close through the first half but the Patriots speed and pace will eventually be too much for an older Ravens defense.

If the Ravens have any shot in this one, it falls on the running game of the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco. The only way to slow the Patriots down is to go on long, sustained drives that result in touchdowns. It’s very possible, maybe even likely, that the Ravens will be able to run the ball but can Flacco be good on the road for a second straight week?

He was terrific in the Ravens divisional win over the Broncos but he will have to be even better against the Patriots. For the Ravens to pull off a second straight upset the offense is going to have to score 30-35 points and do it without turnovers. They did score 38 in the win over the Broncos but 17 of those were a direct result of turnovers and another seven were because of a horribly misplayed long ball at the end of the game. Brady and the Patriots typically don’t make those type of mistakes, so the Ravens offense is going to have to generate points on their own.

A week ago very few people thought the Ravens could beat the Broncos and they did, and now even less people believe they can beat the Patriots. Maybe the Ravens will shock everyone again, maybe this is some kind of magical ride but it ends this week. Emotion and momentum are great but talent wins, and the Patriots have the talent.

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