Baltimore at New England

TV: CBS  Foxboro, MA

Kickoff: 3:00 pm EST Sun Jan 22, 2012

QB:

Tom Brady or Joe Flacco?  Really?  I don’t want to insult any Ravens fans here but I am going to have to say the edge goes to the Patriots on this one.  Tom Brady had 5,235 yards this year (2nd all-time), is able to spread the ball around to all his targets while being smart enough not to throw the ball where the defense can get it (12 interceptions this year).  There are some who will argue that he may be the greatest QB of this generation – I wouldn’t go that far but he is for sure the man I want to lead my team into the AFC championship.

Offensive Line:

Edge goes to N.E. Both teams gave up around 30 sacks this year but I feel that New England’s big men are a bit sturdier in the pocket than the Ravens.

Running Backs:

Ray Rice has shown that he is an elite RB this year with over 2,000 all purpose yards and 15 TD’s this year all while holding onto the ball (only 2 fumbles all season).  He is durable and reliable, and on a side note one of the best value RB in football – his 2011 salary was only $555,000 (compare that to Chris Johnson’s $6.5 million).  Even if the Patriots come out and use Aaron Hernandez as their RB this game, like they did against Denver, the Ravens still have better backs.

Wide Receivers:

Both Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski made the All Pro team this year for the Patriots and you could argue that the only threat that the Ravens have is Anquan Boldin.  So I would say the edge goes to the Patriots for the WR/TE core.  It has become evident that Wes Welker, and more so Gronkowski, are match up nightmares.  Welker won’t beat you downfield like other receivers can but he is so quick and makes his cuts in his routes so fast he is tough to guard against when it is 3rd and 6.  Rob Gronkowski set a NFL record this season for TE’s with 17 TDs (27 total in his first 2 seasons) and look for this trend to continue because he is too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for defensive backs to match up with.  We have entered a new phase in NFL play calling, letting these big and athletic TE’s both block and get downfield to catch touchdowns – and the two men leading the way are the Saints Jimmy Graham and the Patriots Rob Gronkowski.

Defensive Line:

As much as I like the way Vincent Wilfork, Mark Anderson, and Aaron Carter play for the Patriots I have to give the edge to the Ravens Defensive line.  Ngata, Redding, and McKinney for the Ravens have been able to pressure almost every team they have played this year combining for 9 sacks this season.

Linebackers:

With future hall of famer Ray Lewis leading this high powered, intense set of linebackers, which include Terrell Suggs who had 14 sacks this season the edge defiantly goes to the Ravens.  The Patriots linebackers have not been that impressive this season with only Jerod Mayo standing out.

Secondary:

Ed Reed, Ed Reed is pretty great.  But Ed Reed has been limited in practice all week with an injured left ankle.  He is expected to play on Sunday but he may be less than 100%.  Heck, I would take Ed Reed and the Ravens secondary on one good leg over the Patriots abysmal pass defense every day of the week.  The Pats were 31st in the league against the pass this year allowing 293.9 years per game.  Edge goes to the Ravens.

Special Teams:

Stephen Gostkowski has been great all season, making 81% of his field goals and going 59 for 59 in extra point attempts.  Compare that to Billy Cundiff for the Ravens who was 28 for 37 (70%) in field goals all season.  Neither team is a real threat to run back any punts or kick offs with only 1 TD being scored that way all season for both teams.  Edge – Patriots.

Coaching:

John Harbaugh has done a wonderful job with this team since taking over in 2008 going 44 and 20 going at least to the AFC divisional game every season.  But some will say that is has been easy since Ray Lewis basically coaches the defensive side of the ball for him.  But I still feel that he is a good couch and any team would be happy to have him.  But he is no Belichick – the mastermind of the Patriots.  He has been coaching them since 2000, going 139-53 in the process.  This man lives, breaths, and eats football (not literally, because they would be tough to chew)  Edge – Patriots

Intangibles:

The last time Joe Flacco played the Patriots in the playoffs (in 2010) he set a record.  Fewest yards in a playoff game by a QB who threw 10 or more attempts.  4 for 10 with 34 yards passing.  Look for the same type of gameplan this year.  The Ravens will run the ball, a lot! They want to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands as much as the can.  But with the Patriots playing at home where they average around 33 points per game the Ravens won’t be able to win in a shoot out against them.

 

Patriots Ravens
QB

X

Offensive Line

X

Running Backs

X

Wide Receivers

X

Defensive Line

X

Linebackers

X

Secondary

X

Special Teams

X

Coaching

X

Intangibles

X

Zach’s Prediction:  Patriots 35 – Ravens 24

 Look for a repeat of Super Bowl XLII – And if I am wrong I want you guys to let me hear it in the comments.
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  • http://www.GameNTrain.com Eric Hoff

    Agreed, even though I am hoping for the Ravens to pull through on this one.

    And I don’t mind a repeat of Superbowl XLII as long as the outcome is the same!

  • http://www.GameNTrain.com Eric Hoff

    And this prediction makes you 5 for 5. Nice job pal. But really, what a crappy way to make it to the big game… A missed field goal.