2013 NFL Playoffs: Ravens vs. Patriots AFC Championship Game Preview
The NFL season is drawing close to its conclusion, in less than 12 hours everyone will know which two teams will be competing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans in Super Bowl XLVII.
The Ravens will be hoping to get Ray Lewis to the Superbowl for his last hurray before retirement; the Patriots hope to make the Super Bowl for the sixth time in the Bill Belichick/Brady era to have a shot at securing their fourth ring for what has become a modern day NFL dynasty.
If the Ravens don’t want this seasons Championship game to be another case of history repeating, then they need Ray Rice to bring his A-game, they must also take advantage of all the opportunities they can create.
The Ravens task has been made slightly easier defensively, with the loss of TE Rob Gronkowski, the Ravens don’t have to worry about one of the Patriots major threats down the middle of the field and in the red zone.
In my opinion the Ravens defense must attempt to do what they did last season were they forced Brady into throwing for 239 yards, with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no TD passes. It was a huge performance to keep one of the best there ever has been at the quarterback position to such average numbers.
They must also hope that new kicker Justin Tucker will have more success when called upon than Billy Cundiff did last year. Tucker is yet to miss a kick over 50 yards (4-4) or 39 yards and under (16-16), the only distance he has ‘struggled’ has been 40-49 yard range (10-13).
Before Cundiff missed a field goal in the last 11 seconds to tie the game, the Ravens had a chance to go ahead just two plays earlier. However wide receiver Lee Evans was stripped of the ball in the end zone by backup cornerback Sterling Moore, who earlier was victimized for a touchdown that gave Baltimore (13-5) the lead 17-16.
Brady will have to be careful of the ball hawking Corey Graham, who has made full use of the opportunity to play cornerback that he was never afforded at the Chicago Bears.
In sum the Ravens are going to have to take advantage of any turnover opportunity they produce with touchdowns, if they don’t grab a hold of this game early it will get ugly, as Brady will not wait around to rely on dropped catches and field goals like he did last season.
My prediction is either a tight game in which the Ravens sneak a victory with a last second Tucker field goal, or a Patriots blow out by 10+ points. If I had to choose between the two situations:
Patriots roll out 38-24 winners.