Week 16 in the NFL features plenty of games with playoff implications. In the AFC, one game in particular sends us down memory lane.
Last year, the Baltimore Ravens took on the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game en route to a Super Bowl victory. Quarterback Joe Flacco made for some clutch moments as Baltimore stunned New England and pulled off the upset. This week, the Ravens need another major upset to keep their playoff hopes alive.
For Baltimore to reach the postseason this year, they have to keep winning and fend off the Miami Dolphins who sit right behind them in the 7th seed, with the same record of 8-6. Though at first glance, one may think the Patriots will triumph over Baltimore, there are reasons to believe the Ravens again pull it out.
Ray Rice has not been nearly as effective as he could be in 2013, mainly due to one of the absolute worst offensive lines in the league. Fortunately, for Baltimore, they are facing the league’s 31st-ranked rushing defense. The Patriots are giving up an average of 132.5 yards per game on the ground — a perfect scenario for Rice to explode with some big plays.
Secondly, New England will of course be without their top offensive weapon in Rob Gronkowski, thus taking away the real big threat across the middle for Ravens linebackers. Instead, the linebackers can focus on maintaining their gaps and defending the run, first and foremost. They can then worry about putting the pressure on Tom Brady in the pass rush.
Last and most importantly, the Ravens are at home. This may be a different team than the one which took the field a year ago, but Baltimore being at home will help tremendously. Flacco tends to step up in big moments down the stretch, and having the home crowd behind him should boost the morale of not only himself, but his teammates. He thrives in these types of situations. Flacco may not be the best regular season quarterback, but in the postseason he is money — and this game, my friends, has a playoff feel to it.