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NFL Playoffs AFC Championship, January 20th, 2013 6:30 EST
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots -9 OvUn 51.5
For the second season in a row, the Baltimore Ravens will head to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots in the AFC Championships game.
The Ravens won a double overtime thriller last week against the Denver Broncos at Mile High. Coming from behind several times and tying the game with just under a minute to go, they ultimately prevailed on a kick by Justin Tucker with just 1:42 left in the second overtime, 38-35.
Quarterback Joe Flacco had the best playoff performance of his career, connecting deep with multiple receivers and outdueling Peyton Manning in the victory. He ended with 331 yards passing on 18-34 attempts and threw three touchdowns.
Baltimore was picked apart by Peyton Manning, who threw for three touchdowns, as well. But he accounted for all three Denver turnovers, two interceptions and a lost fumble. Though Baltimore prevailed, the Ravens defense gave up 400 yards of offense. Their special teams also gave up two return touchdowns to kick returner Trindon Holiday.
The Patriots took care of their opponents last week, the Houston Texans in a much more impressive fashion.
Tom Brady threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns as the Pats downed Houston 41-28. Houston stopped New England on their first two drives, forcing a punt but had trouble stopping them the rest of the day.
The seldom utilized Shane Vereen had three touchdowns on the day as the Patriots dominated in the 2nd half, leading 31-14 as the 3rd quarter ended. All around, it was another dominant performance for New England.
However, they did lose tight end and top red zone threat Rob Gronkowski to injury. He fractured his forearm early in the game and had surgery on Monday. Running back Danny Woodhead also did not play in the loss, but should be available against the Ravens.
Baltimore may have lost back up running back Bernard Pierce in the win after he left the game in the third quarter with an aggravated knee injury. More will be known about his status later in the week.
The Ravens and Patriots played during Week 4 in a game Baltimore won 31-30. However, the Patriots are quite different now. They will not have Gronkowski on offense, and their defensive secondary has been revamped. Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard now start at cornerback and Daniel McCourty, and Steven Gregory has been moved to safety.
This game opened at New England -9.5 and has come down just a tad to -9 at most books. Some are offering -8.5. The total opened at 51 and has moved up slightly to 51.5.
We’re shocked that Flacco and the Ravens pulled out a victory last week, but the NFL has been full of upsets all year long. Nothing is surprising anymore.
The Patriots clearly are not the same team that lost to the Ravens in Week 4, and their revamped secondary has been tremendously effective over the past few weeks. Schaub finished with an okay stat line against the Patriots last week, but he was forced to throw the entire second half and the Patriots were giving him underneath routes.
It is only fair to give plenty of credit to Flacco for last week’s performance, but almost all of the Ravens touchdowns came off a blown coverage or Champ Bailey getting beat over and over again by Torrey Smith. Denver’s defense lost that game for them.
We cannot envision a scenario where Flacco has a game like he did last week. The Patriots, have also been stalwarts against the run this season, ranking 4th during the regular season in rushing defense. It is likely Ray Rice will have trouble gaining yards against New England, making Baltimore’s play-action passing game a lot less effective.
The Ravens just are not a very good team. They lost four of their last five games to end the season and barely hung on to win the AFC North. The Broncos clearly were not ready last week; Belichick and Brady won’t make the same mistake.
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