It’s Ravens vs Patriots which means it’s Ray Lewis vs Tom Brady. In all likelihood we’ll probably be seeing this match up for the last time. Ray Lewis one of the greatest linebackers to ever grace a football field is retiring at the end of the season. Emotions will be running high when the ball is kicked off later on. These two teams meet for the AFC Championship last yr but the Patriots won thanks to a missed field goal by ex raven kicker Billy Cundiff. The Patriots went on to the Super Bowl while the ravens watched it at home. Earlier this season, the two teams played a nail bitter with Baltimore coming out on top 31-30. In that game Torrey Smith scored two touchdowns all while losing his brother just a few hours before game time.
These two don’t like each other but the both of them respect each other. The Ravens have beaten New England in the playoffs back in 2009. The Ravens will march into Gillette Stadium a confident group and won’t be backing down from any challenges. New England is fresh off dominating Houston by beating them 41-28 in the Divisional Round. Baltimore is coming off beating Indianapolis 24-9 in the Wild Card Round. They won a thriller in Denver in Double OT 38-35 last week.
It’s simple for the Patriots as Tom Brady goes so go the Patriots. Tom Brady is looking for his sixth Super Bowl trip and already has spot reserved for him in the Hall of Fame with 3 Super Bowl rings. Brady enjoyed another successful season, throwing for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns. He has a wealth of targets to throw the football to. Wes Welker is Brady’s top target hauling in:118 catches for 1,354 yards and 6 touchdowns. Aaron Hernandez is another good target that Brady has at his disposal. Hernandez caught 84 passes for 483 and 5 touchdowns. Brandon Lloyd makes himself known to defenses this season. He caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns.
The Patriots also have a ground game to compliment their passing attack. Second year running back Stevan Ridley ran for 1,263 yards and 12 td’s. Danny Woodhead is back that used to create mismatches against defenses. Shane Vereen is also used in New England backfield as well. The Pats also have a solid defense and no nobody knows defense like Head Coach Bill Bellicheck. Bellicheck is master of taking away what you do best. The pats are an opportunistic defense that love to take away the ball and give their offense a short field.
The Baltimore Ravens Quarterback, Joe Flacco isn’t too shabby either. Flacco has won a playoff game every yr in the league. He has also taken his team to the playoffs every season and owns a 7-4 record in the playoffs. Flacco has a beavy of targets he can throw too as well. Torrey Smith is his deep threat and can burn any defensive back in the league. Smith caught 49 passes for 855 yds and 8 td’s. Anquan Boldin is a big bodied receiver that can go over the middle and catch difficult passes in traffic. Boldin caught 65 balls for 921 yds and 4 td’s. The ravens can hurt you in the middle of the field with tight end duo of Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.
On the ground, Ray Rice shoulders the load the Baltimore. He ran for 1,143 and 9 touchdowns. Rice is an every down back who block when needed to and catch passes out of the backfield. Baltimore has always done it with defense and that’s why they have been successful for 10 yrs. Ray Lewis leads the troops on defense but he isn’t alone. Haloti Ngata plugs up the gaps for the Baltimore. He size engulfs offensive linemen and he’s athletic enough to rush the quarterback. Paul Kruger and Terrell Suggs can get after the quarterback and can cause havoc in quarterback’s face or in a backfield. Ed Reed patrols the secondary and any time he gets his hands on football, he can take it the distance.
Keys to the Game:
1) Hit the Quarterback- The team who hits, hurries and puts the quarterback on the ground will win this game. Quarterback’s don’t like to have their timing disrupted. When you hit the signal caller, he tends to get a bit nervous and that’s when turnovers happen.
2) Sticking with the run- Both of these defenses are stout against the run and really don’t give up much. Who ever gets a solid running game and win in the trenches will win the football game.
3) Down the middle- Both teams have play making tight ends that can get down the middle and make plays. For New England it’s Aaron Hernandez but Rob Gronkowski won’t be playing thanks to an injury. For Baltimore it’s the duo of Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. What ever defense can limit the big plays down the middle will win.
4) Emotion- This will be an emotional game and it’s going to be more a boxing match. Who ever can take the most punches will win this fight. Both teams have to play smart and not make silly penalties and turnovers that can cost them the game. Both teams have to be sound in all 3 phases of the game: Special Teams, Offense and Defense. Gillette Stadium will be rocking will with types of Emotion and Intensity.
So will it be Ray Lewis final game or will they carry their leader back to the Super Bowl. Can Joe Flacco step up and be an elite quarterback? Can Tom Brady win his 6th AFC championship and make his 6th Super Bowl Appearance? We will all find out later today when the ball is kicked later on tonight.