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AFC Championship Game 2012: Why Overrated Patriots Will Struggle on Sunday

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens sacks Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
Jason LindContributor IJanuary 18, 2012

The 14-3 New England Patriots have not beaten a team that finished the regular season over .500.

Do not be fooled by the New England’s 45-10 dismantling of the Denver Broncos last Saturday night, which promptly forced the exodus of Tim Tebow from the playoff promised land.  The Patriot defense had its best game of the season at home against a mercurial offense with a quarterback used to playing games in the Florida sunshine.

The Patriots cannot stop the pass and can only stop the run on rare occasions.  In their three regular season losses, two of the three opposing quarterbacks eclipsed 300 yards passing.  The defense gave up an average of 412 yards in those three losses.  The combined regular season record for those three teams was 27-21.

Even the New England offense sputters against high-quality opposition.  Tom Brady threw six interceptions in their three losses this season.

It is difficult to predict success for the Patriots against a bona fide Super Bowl contender when they have yet to beat one this season.  Home-field advantage is on their side, but little else.  Ravens running back Ray Rice rushed for over 1,300 yards in the regular season.  The Patriots rush defense gives up almost 120 yards per game. 

In his last five games, Joe Flacco has thrown nine touchdowns.  More important, his passer rating over those games averages 93.4.  Flacco was mired early by a sloppy regular season, but gets better every game.  The Patriots allow the second-most passing yards per game in the NFL.

The Ravens defense gives up less than 200 passing yards per game.  They hold opponents to 92 yards rushing per game.  Only one team this season scored over 30 points against them.  The Patriots will not be the exception to the rule.  Baltimore will bludgeon its way out of Foxboro and on to Indianapolis.

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