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B/R Consensus: Patriots (8-3)
Vegas: Patriots (-8.5)
Like an old boxer, the Patriots survived years with just a haymaker for an offense. Now, with another Super Bowl experience in their sights, they get to show the Ravens all of their new, devastating punches—Aaron Hernandez, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, etc. Oh, by the way, this defense can hold its own as well.
Tom Brady. At home. The Patriots are rolling, and this new-found run game will be the difference against Baltimore.
No one is giving the Ravens a chance in this one (they opened as 10-point underdogs) and I have no idea why. Yes, Tom Brady is amazing. But everyone seems to have forgotten the fact that Joe Flacco outplayed him in the AFC Championship Game last year. He does it again this year, and this time it helps send the Ravens to New Orleans.
These two teams are vastly different than the ones that took the field in Week 3, but the Patriots now have the tools to take away what the Ravens were able to do so successfully against New England the first time around. With Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard at cornerback and Devin McCourty playing well at safety, the Ravens may not have the success they had against the Broncos in the deep passing game.
The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots meet for the second straight year in the AFC Championship Game, and momentum appears to be in the Ravens' corner. Though the Patriots have the usual collection of offensive weapons, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has outplayed Patriots counterpart Tom Brady in their last two meetings—a telling statistic that shows just how well the Ravens respond to top-level talent. This is Ray Lewis' last stand, and I don't think his teammates will let him down.
Everything had to go right for the Ravens to beat the Broncos. It's not taking anything away from the Ravens to say that the Broncos choked away a game they had won. The Patriots aren't going to make a handful of huge mistakes, and Bill Belichick certainly isn't going to kneel the ball with 30 seconds left at the end of the game with two timeouts and Tom Brady. The Ravens are a great story, and their win over the Broncos was exciting, but I would be surprised if they were able to repeat their performance.
This comes down to which team is better. The Patriots are. They are playing at home. They are going back to the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots look downright unstoppable. Despite losing tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots should have no problem running up the score against a mediocre defense allowing 408 yards per game in the postseason. Ray Lewis' final game will forever be linked to Mr. Brady.
Ray Lewis is a great story, and I don't discount the Ravens continuing to ride the wave, but the Patriots are just too good across the board. Defensively, they have a better unit than I've seen in a long time. Offensively, they just don't take their foot off the gas. They'll outlast Joe Flacco and company, and as great as the Ravens have played the last few weeks, their run ends at Gillette Stadium.
These teams always play close, exciting games, and this should be no different. Joe Flacco plays well against the Pats, so I'm tempted to pick the upset. Ultimately, though, I just think the Patriots are a much better team. Home-field advantage helps, too.
Joe Flacco outplayed Tom Brady last year in the AFC Championship Game and did so again in Baltimore’s Week 3 win over the Patriots this year. It’s time to start believing in the magic of Ray Lewis’ final run to glory. That emotion should carry the Ravens through two playoff wins, and beating Brady on Sunday will mark the second future Hall of Fame quarterback Baltimore can cross off the postseason list.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.