The Patriots are coming off a 41-28 victory over the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional round. New England quarterback Tom Brady was efficient as usual, throwing for 345 yards and three touchdowns. While Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt recorded half a sack on Brady, that was the only blemish for a Patriots’ offense that asserted its dominance.
The Ravens are coming off a thrilling 38-35 double overtime victory over the top seeded Denver Broncos in their AFC Divisional round game. With the Ravens trailing by seven late in the fourth quarter, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco threw a 70 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jacoby Jones that sent the game into overtime. Baltimore rookie placekicker Justin Tucker kicked a 47 yard field goal in the second overtime to upset the heavily favored Broncos.
Baltimore has been playing inspired football as of late. Ravens’ linebacker and first ballot Hall of Famer Ray Lewis returned from a torn right triceps injury that sidelined him for 10 games. He will retire at the end of the Ravens’ playoff run. Of course, Lewis’ teammates hope their playoff journey culminates into a Super Bowl championship. However, they’re facing a New England team hitting on all cylinders. It’s been eight years since Brady and head coach Bill Belichick hoisted aloft the Vince Lombardi trophy that signifies the Super Bowl champions. A victory on Sunday will bring the Patriots one step closer to their fourth Super Bowl title in 13 years.
Prediction: The Patriots have that look of determination in their eyes. Despite the return of Lewis to the Ravens’ defense and the contributions of great players like running back Ray Rice and wide receiver Torrey Smith, New England has too much firepower on offense. Patriots’ receivers Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, and Aaron Hernandez are capable of filling the void left by injured tight end Rob Gronkowski. New England running backs Stefan Ridley and Shane Vereen are not as spectacular as Baltimore’s Rice, but they are capable backs. Plus, as long as Brady is calling the signals for the Patriots, they’ll always have a chance.
Some may say the Ravens are a team of destiny, but the Patriots are too talented a team to be discounted. Baltimore’s season will end a game short of the Super Bowl, while New England will reach the big game for the second consecutive year.
Final score: Patriots 45, Ravens 24.