The 2012 AFC Championship game is here and let the fun begin people. Welcome the Baltimore Ravens for the second time in as many years, and hopefully we’ll be waving goodbye on the way to New Orleans. The New England Patriots seem loose, Bill Belichick isn’t throwing around military quotes this week, but he’s been hunkered down trying to figure out what he needs to do to stop the brash Ravens.
No need to burn your brain out Bill, we got that for you right here. Here's our key focus:
Worry about Torrey – Torrey Smith is the Ravens top deep threat and simply put, he can run very fast. Aqib Talib is an excellent cornerback, but he’s going to need over the top help from the safeties to keep the speedster in check. Bump him, jam him, but don’t give Smith a free release, because once he gets going, he’s gone.
Joe Cool – Joe Flacco has out performed Tom Brady in recent contests and he’s dying to get some respect from the public. He can throw the ball a country mile as evident against Denver when he out-threw the Broncos secondary and hit Jacoby Jones to tie the game late, setting up the overtime win. The Patriots defense has to mix it up, but blitzing him is the way to go. Don’t give him time, force him to stay in the pocket, and punish him every chance they get.
Shine a bright star - Tom Brady needs to have a great, not good AFC championship game. Yeah, we know it’s the Ravens and Brady struggles against them, but it’s time to buck that trend. He has his weapons and offense in place, all he needs is some protection and he’ll let it rip. Forget Ray Lewis or Ed Reed, it’s all about Brady here and he knows it.
Young dumb and brain numb – That may sound negative, but it’s a positive for the Patriots' running backs. Sometimes it's better being new and not knowing the magnitude of the situation. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are the biggest difference from the 2011 Super Bowl run to the 2012 team, and they'll be the reason in the fourth quarter when the Raven defense, who's playing their 3rd playoff game in as many weeks begin to wear down. If Brady can get a lead into the 4th quarter, the young bucks have to finish it for him.
This isn’t the old Ravens defense – The older and slower than ever before, they aren’t the stellar team against the run, and as proven in Denver, they can get thrown on. It’s time to forget the reputation, and realize the reality. 60 minutes of football and the Ravens defense after playing 87 snaps the past two weeks will run out of gas.
Ravens-Patriots Injury Report
OUT: B Asa Jackson (thigh).
QUESTIONABLE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back), FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), RB Bernard Pierce (knee), WR David Reed (thigh). All four were limited in practice Friday. Pierce didn't practice Thursday, and Ellerbe had a full practice on Thursday.
PROBABLE: RB Anthony Allen (head), WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), CB Chykie Brown (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (ankle), G Gino Gradkowski (head), DT Arthur Jones (thigh/knee), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), WR Torrey Smith (back), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles/biceps) G Marshal Yanda (shoulder).
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
OUT: TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm).
PROBABLE: CB Marquice Cole (finger), DE Chandler Jones (ankle), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), DE Trevor Scott (knee), RB Danny Woodhead (thumb).
Three and Out
Brother against Brother: No, we're not talking about a possible Harbaugh Super Bowl; today it's the Chandler Bowl. Siblings Chandler Jones and his brother Arthur, a 3rd year DE for Baltimore, both of course want to win, but rookie Chandler's a better player truth be told. "It's fortunate to have the opportunity to play against my brother," Jones said via USA Today. "But it all boils down to us trying to win and achieve that goal."
Dean Pees turns corny: “Hire Tonya Harding,” was his response when asked how to stop Tom Brady, referring to the 1994 attack that Harding and Jeff Gillooly plotted on Nancy Kerrigan to take her out of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit. Geesh Dean, can we get a joke the kids can remember?
Including the playoffs, the Ravens trail the Pats big time in the all-time series 2-7. Baltimore's two victories were the 2009 season's playoff debacle and this season's close September win in Baltimore.
The @ home Patriots are 7.5 point favorites, O/U is 51.5.
Officiating: Al Riveron and crew
Weather: clear / windy 35 degrees, Wind: W @ 20mph