Overview: The Patriots (#3 seed) and Ravens (#6 seed) will meet for the second time this season, but this time it’s for all the marbles in the Wild Card playoffs.
The Patriots are going to try to overcome the devastating injury to their offensive MVP, Wes Welker. Welker tore his ACL and MCL on a routine cut last week in Houston. He will be sidelined for at least six months.
The Ravens are trying to exceed their road success in the playoffs. Last year as the sixth seed, Baltimore beat Miami and Tennessee before succumbing to Pittsburgh, 23-14 in the AFC Championship.
The Ravens will try to pull the upset yet again on the road. They have their work cut out for them, however. New England is 8-0 at home this year and 10-0 in the playoffs since 1978.
Last Week: The Patriots (10-6) fell to the Texans 34-27 in Houston. In a meaningless game, Wes Welker was injured and lost for the year. To add insult to injury, the Patriots blew a 14 point fourth quarter lead to fall to 2-6 on the road.
The Ravens in essence played a playoff game last week versus Oakland. If they win, they are in and they did just that. Baltimore held off a pesky Raiders team, 21-13. The Ravens were led by the rushing attack of Willis McGahee (167 yards and 3 td’s) and Ray Rice (70 yards).
All-Time Series: This will be the sixth meeting all time between the two clubs. The Patriots hold a 5-0 series lead and defeated the Ravens earlier this season at Gillette, 27-21. This will be their first meeting in the playoffs.
New England: Can Patriots’ offense overcome the loss of Wes Welker?
The Patriots will not be able to replace offensive spark plug Wes Welker (123 catches in 13 games), so Brady will have to spread the ball around like he did in the early 2000’s. Julie Edelman, Chris Baker, Ben Watson, and Kevin Faulk will have to pick up the slack in the passing game.
Randy Moss will have to fight through double coverage and be the big game threat that he is. There will be no room for “dogging” any plays. Moss is New England’s most potent weapon now and he needs to play that way.
The running attack of Taylor, Morris, and Maroney also need to contribute. They need to hold onto the ball. The Patriots can not afford any costly turnovers in a tight game.
Baltimore: Can the Ravens upend the Patriots at Gillette Stadium?
Can the Ravens continue their road playoff magic? Baltimore needs to put a complete game effort together in Foxboro on Sunday.
The defense must take away Randy Moss and the threat of the big play. They must pressure Brady and have the running backs and tight ends try to beat them.
Joe Flacco needs to compliment the strong rushing duo of McGahee and Rice. The passing game needs to be effective because the Patriots will probably stack 8 in the box to shut down the rushing attack.
Flacco needs to regain his playoff success from 2008. He needs to manage the game and can’t afford any mental mistakes.
Players To Watch:
New England Patriots: Kevin Faulk, Ben Watson, Julian Edelman, Chris Baker
The tight ends and the running backs out of the backfield need to get open and be viable targets for Tom Brady. With the loss of Welker, the short passing game needs to be spread around. The Ravens will double team Randy Moss so the rest of the Patriots receivers will have to step up.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Willis McGahee
The Ravens need to have a balance of the run and pass. Baltimore has to confuse the Patriots and have them second guessing. They need to fear the Ravens offense.
The Patriots secondary is suspect so Flacco needs to test them downfield. If Flacco is ineffective, it will be a long day for Baltimore.
Predictions: Patriots by 10
If this game was on the road, I would go with the Ravens. The game will be close going into the fourth quarter, but Tom Brady and being at home will be the deciding factors.
Tom Brady hasn’t been far from stellar in the second halves of games this year. However, this is the playoffs, the time that Brady always shines.
Baltimore will give the Patriots everything they can handle, but a costly turnover late will do them in.
Final Score: Patriots 24, Ravens 14