Ravens vs. Patriots: 5 Reasons Baltimore Will Upset New England
Most people don't think the Ravens have a shot at taking down a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback on his home field this week.
But this isn't unfamiliar territory for the Ravens. Last week, many thought first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the mighty Broncos were going to roll past the Ravens. Seemingly outmatched on both sides of the ball and facing Manning on the road, Baltimore emerged victorious.
Those who thought the Ravens had missed their window to win a championship were forced to take notice. Maybe the Ravens aren't too old. Maybe Joe Flacco actually should be considered an elite quarterback.
This week, the Ravens get Tom Brady. It's an uphill battle, but here are five reasons the Ravens are going to pull out a win.
1. Rob Gronkowski Is out
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Gronkowski was placed on injured reserve, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com. Sure, the Patriots have won without him this season, but it's playoff time and having Tom Brady's best weapon on the sidelines is a huge blow to the Patriots.
Certainly, the Patriots aren't slumming it with targets like Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. But their best red- zone threat won't be in the game, and they need to be at their best to take down the Ravens.
Brady threw only one touchdown pass the first time these teams met this season, That came in a 31-30 Ravens' victory on September 23 in Baltimore.
Not having Gronk when it counts is going to cost the Patriots this time around.
2. Joe Flacco Is Going to Light Up the Patriots' Secondary
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Stop hating Joe Flacco.
It's trendy to dislike the Ravens' gunslinger, but he's more than just a big arm. He torched the Patriots for 382 yards and three touchdowns the last time these teams played.
New England has seen what Flacco is capable of doing, and it's hard to believe he'll struggle this time around.
Flacco's aerial assault in Week 3 exposed the Patriots' horrific secondary. It's no surprise that he had his best game of the season against New England. While Brady will undoubtedly show up for this game, the Pats' secondary is going to make it tough for No. 12 to out-duel Flacco.
The Patriots allowed 271.4 passing yards per game this season. There is no reason to believe they'll change their ways now that the playoffs are here.
3. Ray Lewis Is Playing Lights out
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Forget about the inspirational speeches, the emotional interviews and all the intangibles Ray Lewis brings to the game. No. 52 has been playing lights out since he returned from injury.
Lewis has 30 tackles in two postseason games. All anyone wants to talk about is the emotional lift he's giving the Ravens. How about the 10 solo tackles and seven assists he had in an unprecedented performance that knocked Manning out of the playoffs?
Sure, the Ravens are better off having their locker-room leader back on the field. More importantly, they have the face of their defense playing Hall of Fame-caliber football when it matters most.
4. Torrey Smith Has Come to Life
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Torrey Smith came to life vs. the Broncos. With two touchdowns and a miracle play that kept the Ravens alive, Smith came up huge for Baltimore and is catching fire at the right time.
With 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots earlier this season, Smith has proven there isn't anyone on the Patriots who can run with him.
Including the playoffs, Smith has found the end zone in seven games this season. The Ravens are 7-0 in those games.
When he's playing well, the Ravens are nearly unbeatable. Smith breaking loose last week is a bad sign for New England.
5. These Patriots Are Prone to Choking
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I know, I know. How can the Patriots, who have been to five Super Bowls since 2002, not be clutch?
They haven't won a Super Bowl in eight years. The dominant Patriots teams that won three championships and became a dynasty aren't taking the field on Sunday.
Yes, it's still Tom Brady's team and, yes, Bill Belichick is still a genius. Even so, this is a franchise that has blown it on the big stage twice in five years and has been prone to botching games in the postseason.
The Patriots dominated in the early 2000s. Let's stop acting like these Patriots are those Patriots. It's a new era in New England football, and the clutch gene didn't carry over to this generation.