AFC Championship Predictions: What to Expect from Ravens vs. Patriots Battle

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Linebacker Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced before playing against the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

If an AFC Championship Game between the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots sounds familiar, it's because we have been here before. Despite the history these two teams have with each other, this will be a very different game than what we have seen. 

In fact, these two teams have changed by leaps and bounds since their meeting in Week 3, when the Ravens earned a 31-30 victory. 

That is what makes this game so much fun and so difficult to predict. When you think you have a team figured out, something changes and you have to completely adjust what you knew. 

With so many storylines to pay attention to, here are the things that we expect to see from the Ravens and Patriots. 


Big Plays

It is safe to say that these two teams have hit their stride, at least on offense, at exactly the right time. The Patriots always seem to be at the top of their game when they have the ball in their hands, so it isn't a surprise they put up 41 points against Houston last week. 

But what the Ravens have done in the postseason is incredible. Against Indianapolis in the Wild Card Round, they had six plays of at least 20 yards. Joe Flacco only completed 12 passes, yet he managed to throw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. 

Last week against Denver, the Ravens scored five touchdowns. Four of those touchdowns were on plays of at least 32 yards, including Corey Graham's 39-yard interception return. Torrey Smith's two touchdown catches covered a total of 91 yards. 

When you have two offenses firing on all cylinders, like the Ravens and Patriots are now, the fireworks will be on display early and often. 


Last-Second Drama

Even though the sample size is incredibly small, if there is one thing that can be guaranteed in a Ravens-Patriots game it is that it will come down to the wire. 

In last year's AFC Championship Game, Joe Flacco hit Lee Evans right in the chest with a pass for the go-ahead touchdown that was slapped away at the last possible second by Sterling Moore.

Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the game a couple of plays later that secured another Super Bowl appearance for the Patriots. 

Earlier this season, on Sunday Night Football, these two teams played one of the best games in 2012. The Patriots dominated early, taking a 13-0 lead after the first quarter. 

Facing a 30-21 deficit with less than five minutes to play, the Ravens got a touchdown from Torrey Smith to pull within two points before kicker Justin Tucker nailed a 27-yard field goal as time expired to give the Ravens a 31-30 win. 

Despite the Patriots being heavy favorites in this game (-10, according to Bovada), these two teams always bring out the best in each other. Something tells me that this one will be no different. 


Final Prediction

After all the smoke is cleared and dust has settled, it is hard not to like New England in this game. Baltimore's defense isn't what it once was. Frankly speaking, it has been getting lit up this postseason. 

Indianapolis and Denver have combined to run 174 plays in the Ravens' first two playoff games. That is a lot of effort and energy being used by this defense, which is built around older players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. 

Unless the Ravens can find a way to control the ball with the running game, which isn't out of the question, they will have to keep up with this fast-paced, no-huddle attack the Patriots run. You can only hold Brady and company down for so long before they figure things out. 

Patriots 27, Ravens 24