4 Guarantees for the Patriots vs. Ravens AFC Championship Game 2012
The AFC Championship game will be a battle between a prolific offense and a stifling defense.
The Patriots are looking to avenge their 2009 blowout loss on Wild Card weekend. In that game, Joe Flacco only completed four passes for 34 yards and an interception. However, Baltimore relied on their ground-and-pound running game and defeated the Patriots, 33-14.
Three years later, the Ravens still have an excellent running attack led by Ray Rice. The Patriots have a porous defense patched together by guys like Julian Edelman and Sterling Moore.
When the Patriots and Ravens meet next Sunday in Foxborough, four things are certain to happen.
Ray Rice Will Have 100 Yards and a Touchdown
With a few more years under his belt, Joe Flacco has proven to be a solid quarterback who can manage the game.
Obviously Flacco will throw the ball more than the ten times he did back in 2009, but don't expect an overwhelming number of passes from the Delaware alum when he's got a workhorse back waiting to leave the stable behind him.
Even though the Patriots rank 31st in pass defense, don't expect Flacco to throw more than 25 passes in this one. Ray Rice will get 20-plus carries against this pedestrian rush defense that allows an average of 117 yards on the ground per game.
Expect Rice to get to the century mark and score at least one touchdown. That is, unless the Ravens are down big.
Ed Reed Will Pick off Tom Brady
The game plan for the Patriots this week should put an emphasis on keeping the ball out of Reed's hands. Every time Brady drops back to pass, he will be thinking about number 20 before he sees his receiver.
"He's got great vision and anticipation," said Belichick. "He's very fast, he's got good quickness. But I'd say the big thing with him is his instincts."
Terrell Suggs Will Get a Sack
It has been known that linebacker Terrell Suggs is not very fond of Brady. Then again, aren't defensive players supposed to hate quarterbacks anyway?
Last year, Suggs told the media that he voted for Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Tom Brady to be in the Pro Bowl.
Considering Brady had 36 touchdowns with only four interceptions, while Fitzpatrick had 23 touchdowns and 15 picks, its pretty blatant that Suggs has a vendetta against Brady.
Look for Suggs to blitz early and often and pressure the immobile Brady into making mistakes. Suggs would love nothing more than to get a lick on Brady when the two face off this weekend.
The Two Tight Ends Will Lead the Patriots to a Victory
Although the New England's offense will be facing their toughest challenge of the season against the Ravens, Baltimore will not have an answer for this tight end duo.
Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski will prove to be a serious mismatch for the Ravens.
Aaron Hernandez's ability to line up as a running back, blocking fullback, slot receiver, wide receiver and tight end will challenge the defense. Last week against the Broncos, Hernandez had five carries for 51 yards and four catches for 55 yards and a score.
Granted, the Ravens aren't the Broncos, but expect his versatility to get the best of the men in purple and black.
Rob Gronkowski has had the greatest season for a tight end in NFL history with 17 touchdowns and 1,327 yards receiving. Don't expect it to end Sunday. Last week, Gronkowski racked up ten grabs for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
These two will be the X factors come Sunday. It would take a tremendous amount of defensive pressure to stop these guys from getting open down field. A heavy blitz would leave holes in the defensive coverage and leave Gronk spiking the ball in the end zone after a touchdown.
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