A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game unfolds Sunday evening as Ray Lewis and his Baltimore Ravens travel to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Nobody expected the Ravens to advance this far in the post-season, but here they are, a game within the Super Bowl. These two teams met in the regular season, with Baltimore prevailing by a 31-30 score-line in a high scoring affair. With these two offenses improving since then, fireworks could be in store from Massachusetts on Sunday.
Baltimore has said many times they wanted another shot at the New England Patriots after last season’s heartbreaker in this very game. Baltimore lost 23-20 after dropping a sure-fire touchdown pass and missing a basic field goal. The Ravens have redemption on their mind, and they know if they are to achieve that, they’ll need to find a way to slow down Tom Brady and Bill Belechick. That Patriots offense is absolutely clicking at the moment, and it seems like whomever the personnel, New England is going to put points up on the scoreboard.
One of the bigger storylines affecting the offense in this game is the status of key New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. The man dubbed ‘Gronk’ returned late in the regular season from an arm injury, but re-injured it last week and is out for the season. Against Houston, it didn’t seem to matter for Tom Brady and Co. but against a tough Ravens squad, we’ll see if it does.
Ravens vs. Patriots Betting Odds:
Over 51 (-110)
Under 51 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Ravens vs. Patriots Pick:
Focusing on the total in this contest, it’s almost unimaginable to consider an Under when the New England Patriots are involved. The times I’ve considered it, I’ve been burned, and I fully expect both teams to put points up on Sunday and result in this game going well over the total.
Tom Brady and that New England offense, man they’re something else. Bill Belechick is a genius and this attack could score an abundance of points of any defense it would seem. They scored 557 points in the regular season, and last week netted their sixth 40-point outing of the season. Those are some remarkable numbers. The regular season meeting between these two teams also sailed over the posted total, and both teams employ styles that are conducive to some fireworks from Forxboro.
Sure losing Gronkowski is of course a huge loss, but the Pats remain a team loaded with depth and the likes of Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker will surely step up in his absence. This is a multi-faceted attack, and Brady is armed with a plethora of weapons in his arsenal. Consider the fact that his offensive line has been exceptional this season, look for Brady to again have plenty of time and space to navigate the pocket and pick apart the Baltimore secondary. The Ravens have some big names among their defensive backs, but stopping Terrific Tom will be quite the challenge. New England has only conceded 16 sacks dating back to Week 6, an astounding number. If that O-Line can hold up on Sunday, expect big things yet again from the Patriots on offense.
I expect New England to get out to an early lead and force the Ravens to throw the ball in order to get back in the football game. Ray Rice is a great player, but the Patriots will be expected to nullify his effectiveness. If the Ravens are to be competitive, it’ll need to be done on the shoulders of Joe Flacco. Flacco takes a lot of heat from many football pundits, but was solid last week, and has played well when matched up against Tom Brady. Flacco loves the deep ball, especially to Torrey Smith, and that connection could give a questionable New England secondary some troubles come Sunday evening. Like New England, Baltimore’s offensive line has provided Flacco with a ton of protection. That will continue against the Pats, and both quarterbacks should be surgical with their throwing. Moving the chains through the air will be a common theme in this game, and don’t be surprised if Flacco matches Brady throw-for-throw, point-for-point.
When handicapping totals, it’s always paramount to look at the weather. The weather for Foxboro as of Sunday morning looks pretty solid for some points to be put up. It will be cold, but not windy or snowy. Look for a ton of passing plays in what should come down to a Flacco vs. Brady showdown. Something along the lines of a 34-30 game seems right, ultimately with the Patriots prevailing.
PICK = Over 51 (-110)