I will post my picks on both conference championship games on Sunday morning, but for now, here are the picks from a couple other of the contributors on Baltimore Beatdown about the AFC Championship Game between our Baltimore Ravens and those smug, hated New England Patriots:
This game will be a far cry from the one we witnessed last week in Baltimore. New England is going to score their points so the Ravens will have to work on controlling the tempo of the game with their rushing attack. Ray Rice should have an excellent day and be a major factor in the game.
The Ravens should make sure they keep with what they do best and play solid defense and run the ball. They don't want to get into a shootout with Tom Brady, as that would be a recipe for disaster. Mixing in some timely play-action and some deep shots to Torrey Smith and Lee Evans with their running game will be key for Baltimore.
In the end I think the Ravens will keep the pressure on Tom Brady and force a late turnover to take the game and the AFC Championship. Baltimore will move on to the Super Bowl for the second time in their short history, proving that the more complete team is better equipped to go all the way.
Ravens 34 Patriots 28
The Ravens will be facing their toughest challenge yet this season in the form of Tom Brady at Foxboro. I have no doubt that even a Cameron designed offense will be able to move the ball and score points against the Patriots D. The question is, will it be enough? Will the Ravens be able to slow down Brady & Co. enough? I think the biggest trait that separates Brady, even from other elite quarterbacks, is his knack for making a great throw *every* time when he is given time.
You never see Brady misfire, ever, when he has time to throw. When Brady is rushed, hurried, sacked, that is when you see the fumbles, the picks, the incompletions, etc. So while Brady may have a high rating when blitzed, blitzed is the only time he can be forced to make a mistake. If the Ravens can get pressure only bringing four, that would be awesome, but I do not believe anybody is counting on that. Gronkowski will get his –there is no denying that. But if we can limit the damage, kind of what we did last week with the Texans’ big guns, we should come out okay.
On offense, the Ravens may want to take a page out of Pittsburgh’s book and dink & dunk to keep moving the chains and keep Brady off the field. Even if it only results in a field goal, keep Brady from getting another chance. Tossing out the high and the low, the ravens are averaging 19 points on the road this season and the Patriots are giving up on average 19 points this season at Foxboro (tossing out the high and low). I think the Ravens can do a little better this Sunday in Foxboro. They have scored 23, 24, 24 and 37 on the road this season, and the Patriots have given up 21, 21, 21, 24, 24 and 24, so 26 is not out of the realm. The issue is, tossing out highs and lows, the Patriots are scoring almost 32 points at home, and the Ravens are allowing 17 and half points on the road.
Statistical analysis suggests the Patriots will score somewhere between 17 and 32 –the key is, to which side of the Ravens’ 26 will the Patriots fall? All the media hype is on how Brady is back, how great Brady is, how Brady is going to do in the upcoming SuperBowl, with nary an afterthought about the Ravens. The Ravens *relish* the underdog role. You know that Ray, Ed, Suggs, Rice, Boldin and probably Flacco given the media storm this week between skateboards and rattles, are all stewing in their own juices. They probably cannot wait until they can get out on the field at Foxboro and just knock the stuffing out of someone –anyone.
So I am quietly, very quietly optimistic that the Raven’s D can rise to the occasion and hold Brady and the Patriots to 21. However, if it comes down to a chess match between Belichick vs. Cam < shudder > … Even though I am predicting Ravens 26 – 21, let us face facts, the Ravens are going to have to play about as perfect a game as possible; they are going to have to execute like it is the French Revolution.