The New England Patriots are coming off of a dominant victory over the Houston Texans. They're full of confidence moving forward, albeit without star tight end Rob Gronkowski, who re-injured his forearm and is out for the rest of the postseason.
This game is a rematch of the 2011 AFC Championship, in which New England narrowly won in a very closely-contested game that the Ravens probably should've won.
So, who's going to win this one and move onto the Super Bowl in New Orleans?
Let's start with the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is a hot team and seems to be legitimately inspired by Ray Lewis' impending retirement. They gutted out a tough and rare double-overtime victory last Saturday in which Joe Flacco showed that he has the "it" factor at quarterback, leading the team to a dramatic comeback win.
However, despite the fact that Flacco, Ray Rice and Torrey Smith led the team to a strong offensive performance, there were a lot of question marks that need to be addressed. The defense looked very vulnerable, and their special teams play was atrocious, giving up two return touchdowns to Trindon Holliday.
If they want to make it to the Super Bowl, they need to play better on defense and special teams, plain and simple.
Tom Brady and the rest of the Pats are going to score at least 28 or so points on offense alone. If the Ravens allow any more on special teams or defense, New England will run away with the win.
I don't think they'll run away with the victory, but New England looks to me like they're going to get it done. Brady's playing great, Wes Welker is his usual self and the running game is looking very strong—which isn't always the case with this team but is a welcome addition to their offensive arsenal.
Yes, Gronk is a terrific offensive weapon and won't be able to play, but Aaron Hernandez is more than capable of picking up the slack. The Patriots will win this rematch and advance on to the Super Bowl to meet either San Francisco or Atlanta.
It's hard to pick against Ray Lewis in what could be his final game, but New England is just the better team, it's as simple as that.
Final Score: New England Wins, 31-23.
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