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AFC Conference Playoff Free Pick + Preview Ravens vs. Patriots Preview

AFC Conference Title Game – Ravens vs. Patriots

A big victory over Denver last week enabled the New England Patriots to make up for a few recent playoff failures on their home turf, one of which came at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

When: Sunday, January 22, 2012, 3:00 PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
TV: CBS
LINE: -7(New England), O/U 50

This is going to be your classic match-up of explosive offense against stingy , as the Patriots are one of the offensive juggernauts in the league this season, while the Ravens have generally relied on their staunch defense that once dealt New England the worst playoff defeat of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era in a 2009 AFC First-Round clash in Foxborough.

This season, Baltimore again ranks in the top four in most of the major defensive categories. They rank third in total yards, fourth in passing yards allowed, second in rushing yards, and third in points allowed per game. To say their defense is good is a severe understatement.

However, the Ravens also utilized a punishing running game in that win in 2009, a place where the Ravens come up a little short this time around.

This year’s offensive inefficiencies all start with the inconsistencies of quarterback, Joe Flacco.

The Ravens sit in the bottom half of the NFL in passing yards per game. They do have Ray Rice in the running department, so that area has been slightly above average all season, but this team will go as far as Flacco can take them and he just may have a good outing against one of the worst defenses that New England has ever had.

However, despite being the second worst defense in the entire league this season, they stepped up to Tebow and Co. last week when it mattered most. Still, the fact that the Broncos could not slow down the offense most likely made New England’s offense look much better than they really are. [soliloquy id=”82219″]

But even with Brady’s monster pass numbers, the Patriots still lack a solid running game, and if a great defense like Baltimore’s can key on New England’s passing attack, they may just be able to slow them down, and force them out of their comfort zone.
This game shapes up to be one that will be played in the high twenties, or low thirties. The higher it goes, the more you have to like the Patriots, just because of their offense. The Ravens are capable of putting up points, but to think that they can score at will or pace the Pats is a bit of a stretch.

For the Ravens to pull this one out, they are going to have to do what they do best, and that is to force some takeaways. The Ravens capitalized on four Texans’ turnovers last week with 17 of their 20 points coming directly off three Houston miscues. The final takeaway, an interception by veteran safety Ed Reed, thwarted a potential scoring attempt with the Texans down by seven points with under two minutes left.

If the Ravens can force at least two turnovers, they have a very real shot at not only covering this spread, but winning the game outright.

If the past is any example of what we should expect. Go with the defensive team.

Matt’s Free Prediction: Ravens 27, Patriots 24–

Baltimore’s defense has carried them to this point.

I see no reason why it cannot vault them into this year’s Super bowl. The Ravens are my choice here just because it is incredibly lucky to get this far with such a bad defense as the Pats possess.

Just think Packers and Saints. The Patriots will just be the next great offense to fall to a stubborn defense.

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