Patriots vs. Ravens Predictions: Players Who Will Shine in AFC Championship

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:   Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots argues with  Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Tom Brady is going to atone for his 239-yard, two-interception performance from last year's AFC championship game with a nearly flawless performance.

That's right, just like last year, the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens will battle for the right to go to the Super Bowl. 

Both of these teams are peaking at the right time and they know each other well. This will be a well-played, hard-fought and close game.

Here are three players who will steal the show. 


Tom Brady

In last year's game, an NFL rarity occurred as Tom Brady did not throw a touchdown pass. He ran one in, and most importantly, his team got the win, but make no mistake about it, it was a sub-par performance for Brady.

He certainly realized it. Here is Brady, as quoted by ESPN , after last year's championship game, "Well, I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us."

Well, his defense and Billy Cundiff, but that's not the point.

The point is: He won't need any help this time. Brady is healthy and playing fantastic. In his last two games, Brady has thrown for 628 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. 

He will find holes in this Ravens' defense, much like he did in Week 3 against the Ravens when he threw for 335 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. 

The Ravens' pass defense finished the season ranked 17th, and they've been opportunistic and clutch in the playoffs, but they are giving up yards. Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning have combined to throw for 578 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions against the Ravens. 

Brady will avoid the interceptions, and he will pick his spots to attack as he throws for 342 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. 


Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis is not in this to take a ceremonial last stand. The guy can still take over a game. Sure, he doesn't cover as much ground as he used to, but his instincts, knowledge and still solid athleticism allow him to make plenty of plays. 

Lewis returned from a lengthy stay on the shelf due to injury for the playoffs, and in the two games he has totaled 30 combined tackles and 19 solo tackles. Ray is playing with as much intensity as ever, and he will bring it in this one. 

Ray will be instrumental in helping slow down the Pats' run game, and he will disrupt the Patriots' passing game between the hash marks. 

There won't be many tackles next Sunday where Lewis is not around the play, and his influence on the game will extend far beyond his stat line. 


Brandon Lloyd 

Brandon Lloyd had just 32 yards in the win over the Texans on Sunday but also had five catches and a touchdown. Still, he took a back seat to Wes Welker's eight grabs and 131 yards. 

Of course, when talking about the Patriots, the stats in the previous game are largely irrelevant for the following week. They game-plan for each opponent and each week. 

When these two teams met in Week 3, Lloyd had nine grabs and 108 yards. That was a fantastic game, but again, he took a back seat to Welker's eight catches for 142 yards. Lloyd will take center stage this week. 

In Football Outsiders' pass-defense ranking against specific positions, the only spot the Ravens aren't in the top 10 are the No. 1 and 2 receivers. They are 20th and 30th respectively against the starting wideout spots.

The Ravens will gear up to slow down Welker, and this will leave them vulnerable at the spot they are the worst at defending anyway. Brady and Lloyd will exploit the Ravens' defense.

Lloyd will finish with eight catches, 135 yards and a touchdown.


Final Score: Patriots 24, Ravens 20

This is going to be another great AFC championship game between these two. The Ravens are playing with purpose, and they have an air of destiny growing around them.

However, that will not be enough. 

This year, the Patriots will not need the Ravens' blunders to save them. Tom Brady will lead his offense on yet another game-winning drive in the postseason.