Flacco's play will help Baltimore win or lose, but he will not be the deciding factor. On Sunday, the often overlooked linemen will ultimately decide the outcome.
Over the past couple days, Flacco has taken a lot of heat for his play. The media does not seem to appreciate his numbers (20 TD 12 INT 3610 YDS 57.6 CMP%), which for in today's pass happy league are pedestrian. However, with the way Baltimore's offense is centered around Ray Rice, Flacco does not have to put up numbers similar to the Rodgers and Brees of the NFL. The Baltimore offense runs through Rice, just like the New England offense runs through Brady.
With that being said, if Baltimore is to beat New England, Baltimore's lineman will be a huge reason why.
Looking at the offensive line, the crew of Mckinnie, Grubbs, Birk, Yanda and Oher need work together as one unit. Going into a hostile environment, they will need to be disciplined and focused. Yes, that means you Oher! The interior lineman will have their hands full with the hefty Patriots DT Vince WIlfork clogging up the middle of the field.
This group I believe has the most pressure on them, even though the media is not bringing any attention to the lineman. In order for Baltimore to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots, they will have to keep Brady off the field.
How do you do that?
You run the ball! You don't only run the ball, but you run the ball effectively. Because of this, the offensive line needs to bring their A-game Sunday.
Subsequently, Flacco will have to make key third down conversions through the air on Sunday - it's inevitable. When these third downs occur, the offensive line will again have to play their best. As we have seen all year, Flacco is at his best when given time and does not have to move around in the pocket.
In the Texans game we saw that Flacco does not handle pressure well. When pressure was brought, he was either sacked, made a poor throw or made the wrong read. This was not all on Flacco though. The offensive line can receive much of the blame. They were unable to pick up stunts or blitzes, leaving the immobile Flacco out to dry.
If the line gives Flacco protection Sunday, Flacco and the receivers are good enough to beat the Patriots secondary.
On Sunday Flacco does not have to be outstanding for the Ravens to win, but the offensive line does.