1. The Ravens will score at least 25 points. My actual bet is 30 or more, but after a weak showing in the predictions game last week (or rather, missing my two hundred yard rushers) I’ll go easier. Did you hear Joe Flacco on Mike and Mike in the Morning the other day? He sounded so cool, so collected, so confident in this team’s abilities; it was astounding. Mike Greenberg even said post interview that he regretted not picking the Ravens for the Super Bowl because Flacco clearly had it all. The Patriots cannot, will not stop the Ravens as easily as they assume.
2. Randy Moss will disappear - for a half. Moss is one of the league’s greatest receivers - in history. Talent-wise, he might be unmatched. But like any receiver, he can be minimized. He can disappear. He is not a 10-reception-per-game machine, as much as he is made out to be. I think early in the game the Patriots will throw towards Moss frequently, trying to expose the height and power advantage against the Ravens secondary. As the game progresses, however, and the Ravens adjust, Moss will be quieted a bit. Brady will be relying more on his other options. Braylon Edwards disappeared last week because the Ravens doubled him all game long - think similar.
3. The Chargers will dominated the Steelers. Vicious pass rush plus dangerous offense against weak offensive line and slightly hobbled defense? Did we mention struggling special teams unit? The Steelers look completely discombobulated, and the Chargers are not a push over. No Troy Polamalu = a big day for Philip Rivers. And the Steelers offense can’t run with those boys.
BONUS! Browns-Bengals will be closer than expected. I’m going outside of this game again, simply because I have a gut feeling on this one. I don’t know why - we certainly didn’t see any life from the Browns in Baltimore - but I think they will bounce back a bit this week at home. I’m almost leaning towards picking the Browns… hah!
1. Will the Ravens pass rush even matter? I’ve heard a lot of talk about the blitz schemes the Ravens are preparing and how the Patriots are planning to defend against those schemes. But two points should be made here: (1) The Ravens defense is not the Jets defense. You shouldn’t expect the Ravens to blitz like the Jets or have the same success rushing the pass. (2) The Ravens pass rush has been weak recently. I expect Greg Mattison to focus a lot more on tight plays against the receivers (fixing that problem from San Diego) than rushing Brady.
2. Can the Ravens slow their offense and eat clock? The true key for the Ravens will be to keep Tom Brady off the field as much as possible. We’ve seen the Ravens score quickly. In fact, in San Diego they were almost scoring too quickly at times. The Ravens struggled more later in the game when trying to drive the ball for longer times to keep Philip Rivers on the bench. The Ravens should be able to move the ball deliberately, but it’s not a given.
3. What put Bill Belichick’s panties in a twist? Seriously, I’ve been wondering for a while. Football is a game, not a war, not a “way of life.” Win or lose, close game or blow out, your opponents are simply opponents, and they deserve your respect. Walk across the field, shake some hands, and act like a man.