By Terry Ford

Before I get to the prediction, it’s been an interesting week leading up to the Ravens-Patriots AFC Divisional Play-Off Game. Those calm, cool, intellectual New Englanders have been the folks writing all of the hate articles, singing ridiculous parody songs and making really, really bad prank phone calls. And WE are suppose to be the immature, sophomoric fans? Wait….Smell that? Could it be the smell of fear coming from the Northeast? Maybe those usually highbrow fans in New England realize that the great Patriots are 1-2 at home in the play-offs at home against the Ravens since 2009? I know, it could very easily be 0-3….Thanks Cundiff!

Side note…If you’re going to make a big deal out of making a prank phone call to a radio show in another city, you might want to get the name of the show right. Hey WEEI…It’s the Norris and Davis Show…Not Norris and Stevens.

Now, back to the game. I get why the Patriots are a touchdown favorite. New England is the #1 seed. The Pats have beaten a lot of good teams this year. They are in the Top 10 in points scored per game and points given up per game. A lot of experts say the Pats defense is the best it’s been in a decade. And of course the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady. And the thought is that there is no way the 6th seeded Ravens can go up to New England and beat the mighty Patriots again in the post-season.

Well, I think they can. And before you say it let me stop you….I am no homer. I picked the Steelers last week. I think the Ravens win this game because they are better on the line scrimmage. The Ravens big, strong fat guys are better than the Patriots big, strong fat guys. New England has struggled this year against teams with good pass rushes. In the games that the Patriots lost, they allowed Tom Brady to be sacked three times a game. According to stat geeks, Tom Brady has been hit more than any quarterback in the NFL. The Patriots offensive line has gotten better as the season went on but they still aren’t great. The Ravens defense was #2 in the NFL in sacking QB’s. I think Baltimore will be able to get pressure up the middle in Brady’s face and Tommy will not get a chance to step up and make throws.

On the flip side, the Ravens offensive line allowed the 2nd fewest sacks in the NFL. That should give Joe Flacco time to find other options in case New England corners Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner take away Ravens wide-outs Steve Smith and Torrey Smith. And even though I don’t think either team will be very successful running the ball, the Baltimore O-Line did help bust open holes for a run game that averaged 4.5 yards a carry, good for 7th in the league.

The wild card in these games is always turnovers. The Patriots are the second team in the NFL in plus/minus so the Ravens need to stay away from giving away the rock. Look, you’re never going to stop Tom Brady. He’ll get his stats. But just like last week against the Steelers, the Ravens defense needs to hold their opponent to field goals in the Red Zone.

I think the team who is better in the trenches will win a close game…I’m going Ravens 24-23. Now I gotta go check my phone for a prank phone message from Christian with a Boston area code.


 

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