This Sunday will mark the continuation of one of the league’s best rivalries. The Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots are no strangers to each other. These teams have met at least once in three of the past four seasons.
The two most resent meetings came down to the wire. In last year’s AFC title game, the Ravens were a dropped touchdown pass away from advancing to the Super Bowl, and a missed field goal away from at least having a chance to win the game in overtime. New England eventually won 23-20.
In Week 3 of the regular season, Baltimore was able to somewhat avenge that loss by defeating the Patriots 31-30. However, I believe that a win in this title game will be even sweeter for the Ravens.
There is no secret that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is hands down one of the best postseason quarterbacks in league history. His experience and poise alone will definitely keep New England within striking distance throughout the game. Unfortunately, Brady will have to do this without one of his primary targets.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who re-injured his left forearm last week, will be out for the remainder of the playoffs. Even with Gronkowski out, Brady will still be armed with an arsenal of weapons in his passing attack.
The team’s leading receivers Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker should pick up the slack, which may leave backup tight end Aaron Hernandez open for some big plays downfield.
Even though all may seem well for the Patriots, it appears that the Ravens just might have New England’s number. As mentioned before, Baltimore was one play away from beating the Patriots last year in a close game, and the Ravens did beat them this season.
The one thing that Baltimore definitely has going for them is their passing game going up against New England’s 29th ranked pass defense. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith had a monster game in Week 3 by hauling in six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Joe Flacco’s big arm just may be good enough to torch the Patriots’ secondary again with the help of Smith and fellow wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
The production of Ravens running back Ray Rice will play a very important part in Baltimore’s offense. Rice’s ability to move the chains on the ground will keep the ball out of the hands of Brady, and could determine whether Baltimore advances to their second Super Bowl in the history of their franchise.
Predicting a game between two teams that know each other so well is a difficult thing to do. Both teams know just about everything there is to know about each other, which means the outcome of the game generally comes down to which team has more fight in them in the end.
Honestly, I feel that I can go either way with this one, but in the preseason, I predicted that the Patriots were going to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and I’m sticking to it.
Prediction: Patriots 30, Ravens 27 (in overtime)
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