AFC Conference Championship: Ravens vs. Patriots Spread, Line and Predictions
This is it. An AFC Championship Game rematch that will determine who goes to the Super Bowl and who goes home.
The Baltimore Ravens looked defeated down the stretch, losing four of their last five regular season games. Ray Lewis' return has sparked an emotional surge in the playoffs as the team has knocked off the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos in consecutive weeks.
But, now is time for the true test for John Harbaugh's Ravens. Is Joe Flacco ready to step into the limelight and out duel legendary QB Tom Brady on his home field?
After all, the Ravens defense is a shell of what it once was. More pressure is being put on Flacco and the team's offense than ever before in their franchise history.
Baltimore got the better of the New England Patriots in the last minute of their Week 3 matchup.
Will Bill Belichick's squad get their revenge and advance to their sixth Super Bowl in the last 12 years?
Harbaugh's Ravens have revenge on their minds, too, after losing last year's AFC Championship Game to the Pats.
Where: Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
When: Sunday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirus XM Radio: 86 or online at Audio Pass
Spread: New England -10 (according to Bovada)
The Patriots, when good, are really good at leaving no doubt when four quarters have passed. They easily set the bar for scoring in points per game this season, averaging 34.8 per contest. That's six whole points higher than the New Orleans Saints, the next best team.
Baltimore is 2-0 against the spread this postseason, but has struggled with offensive production on the road this season. It has covered the spread on the road just three times this season.
Go with the Pats to keep their distance and cover the spread to assure another Super Bowl berth.
Over/Under: 51.5 (according to Bovada)
These two teams both put up over 30 points during their Week 3 contest in Baltimore. Don't expect another down to the wire and dramatic finish at Gillette Stadium. Points will be scored, yes, and these two teams should eclipse 51 points easily thanks to their talented offenses and suspect secondaries.
Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of Friday, Jan. 18)
FB Vonta Leach is questionable with knee and ankle injuries.
RB Bernard Pierce is questionable with a knee injury.
WR David Reed is questionable with a thigh injury.
CB Asa Jackson is questionable with a shoulder injury.
TE Rob Gronkowski is out after suffering a broken left forearm last week.
RB Danny Woodhead is probable with a thumb injury.
S Patrick Chung is questionable with a shoulder injury.
G Dan Connolly is questionable with a back injury.
S Nate Ebner is questionable with a hamstring injury.
TE Aaron Hernandez is questionable with an ankle injury.
LB Dont'a Hightower is questionable with hamstring and shoulder injuries.
DE Chandler Jones is questionable with an ankle injury.
WR Brandon Lloyd is questionable with a knee injury.
G Logan Mankins is questionable with an ankle and calf injury.
LB Jerod Mayo is questionable with an elbow injury.
T Nate Solder is questionable with a abdomen injury.
LB Brandon Spikes is questionable with knee and ankle injuries.
CB Aqib Talib is questionable with a hip injury.
T Sebastian Vollmer is questionable with back and knee injuries.
WR Wes Welker is questionable with an ankle injury.
CB Kyle Arrington is questionable with a knee injury.
NT Vince Wilfork is probable with an illness.
RB Shane Vereen is questionable with a foot injury.
Players to Watch
Baltimore: WR Torrey Smith
Smith has been quiet at times this season as he has been the focus of opposing team's coverages. The speedy wide out responded against the Denver Broncos last week with a two-touchdown performance after scoring only one touchdown in the past eight games.
The Patriots know Smith all too well, too. He burned them multiple times in his 127-yard, two-touchdown outing in the Ravens Week 3 win at M&T Bank Stadium. Belichick's defense will need to account for Smith at all times if they hope to advance to the big dance.
New England: WR Aaron Hernandez
More pressure will be on Hernandez with Rob Gronkowski out for the season after breaking his forearm last week against Houston. He might play second fiddle to Gronk when the big-play TE is healthy, but he's done an excellent job producing with him on the sidelines.
Tom Brady will utilize Hernandez frequently as coverages will attempt to take away Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd down the field.
Keys to a Ravens Win
Ray Rice is an integral part of what Baltimore does on offense. Rice ran for over 100 yards during the last time these two teams met. He will need to be able to produce like that again if the Ravens have any shot at advancing to the Super Bowl.
New England has been stingy against the run this season, though, giving up just over 100 yards per game. Vonta Leach and Bernard Pierce are both nicked up, so much of the burden of this running game is going to fall on Rice's shoulders.
Keys to a Patriots Win
The New England Patriots have lived and died by scoring points and creating turnovers. Their defense won't be confused with an elite bunch, by any means, but they have produced the best turnover ratio in the entire NFL.
Forcing turnovers will be the biggest key for the Pats' defense. If they can get a few key takeaways, they should be able to distance themselves from the Ravens with their potent and balanced quick-strike offense.
The Patriots are rolling after a systematic beatdown of the Houston Texans in the divisional round. Their defense's ability to clog running lanes, pressure Flacco and force turnovers will be too much, again, for the Ravens QB.
On the flip side, their offense is a finely-tuned machine that is going to keep on rolling on its way to the Super Bowl.
New England wins 34-21
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