AFC: Patriots will move on to the Super Bowl
The NFL could not have written a better script themselves. The AFC Championship this Sunday will be a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship. The New England Patriots will host the Baltimore Ravens at Foxboro, Massachusetts on Sunday in what could be the last game of Ray Lewis’ illustrious career or he could be returning to the Super Bowl.
Baltimore now has a chance to revenge their 23-20 loss last season at the hands of New England. The Ravens had a short field chance in the game’s last seconds to tie the score, but Billy Cundiff booted the ball wide and the Patriots went on to the Super Bowl and the Ravens went home.
Baltimore will be looking to quarterback Joe Flacco for more excellent play. The Ravens signal caller has been nothing short of excellent in his first two playoff games this season. Flacco, in the playoffs, has a quarterback rating of 121, 613 yards passing, six touchdown passes and no interceptions.
On defense, the Ravens are playing with their complete unit now that Ray Lewis returned from his torn triceps. The defense has not been as strong this season as in seasons in the past, but they have learned to bend this season and not break.
The Patriots have one of the most prolific offenses in football. Quarterback Tom Brady is trying to reach his sixth Super Bowl and a fourth Lombardi Trophy this season. Brady has 17 career playoff wins and a win on Sunday followed by a Super Bowl victory would put Brady in an exclusive club among the greatest.
Brady burned the defense of Houston even without two of his offensive starters Danny Woodhead and Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski whom both went down early with injuries.
Two players to key on for the Ravens are Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs. Both players are banged up but they are the two key players in the front seven for Baltimore. Suggs sacked Peyton Manning twice in last week’s game and he has to be active in this game to pressure the offensive tackles of New England.
Brady is least effective against a defense that gets in his face and pressures him. Against Houston, the Patriots were able to control J.J. Watt and will have to do the same against Suggs and his fellow defenders if they hope to move on to the Super Bowl.
Two important players for the Patriots in this matchup will be Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker. With Gronkowski out because of re-aggravating his injury, more pressure will be placed on Welker and Hernandez.
The two players’ toughness, speed, quickness and agility will test the Ravens defenders both over the middle and down the field. The Patriots will look to go inside against the Ravens since Baltimore’s two corners Cary Williams and Corey Graham have played excellent football of late.
A key matchup will be the Patriots front seven versus the offensive line of Baltimore. Both Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich will have huge challenges against the likes of Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie for the Ravens. Not only will the Patriots be pressured to stop the run, but also with Flacco throwing the way he currently is, the Ravens offense has become a potent force once again.
The Patriots have been given a huge spread of 9 points as the favorite in this game. Smart money says to take the Patriots and lay the points. The game should be back and forth will lots of scoring, unless of course Mother Nature steps in and brings inclement weather to the New England area.