1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Patriots

1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Patriots
January 20, 2013, 9:00 am
Share This Post

1. The Ravens will have at least 30 carries.
The Ravens ran the ball 26 times against the Patriots in Week 3, but they have been committed to the run this postseason, averaging 35 carries a game, although that includes two overtimes. Still, Ray Rice will be a workhorse. The Ravens defense has been on the field a ton the past two weeks, and if the ball is in Rice’s hands, that means it’s not in Tom Brady’s.

2. Torrey Smith will have a catch of 25-plus yards.
Can Smith blow by the Patriots secondary the way he blew by Champ Bailey in Denver last week? The Patriots will keep a close eye – and probably a few hands – on Smith, but he and Flacco will still connect on a big play. Keep in mind Smith can be dangerous in the middle of the field as well.

3. Joe Flacco will be intercepted.
Flacco has been on a roll, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in the past four games. He has gone more than 100 throws without a pick, but the Patriot defense is opportunistic, and that streak will end in New England.

4. Joe Flacco will have a higher quarterback rating than Tom Brady.
Brady owns a career rating of 74.1 against the Ravens, his lowest against any team in the league. Flacco had a higher rating earlier this season (117.7-101.2) and in the AFC title game last season (95.4-57.5). There’s no doubt that Flacco has played some of his best ball against the Patriots. The same can’t be said of Brady against the Ravens.

5. The Patriots will get a turnover.
The Patriots defense might be maligned, ranking 25th overall, but it’s also opportunistic: The Patriots had a turnover margin of plus-25, by far the best in the AFC. The Ravens ranked third at plus-9. The Patriots defense gives up yards but takes away the ball, and they’ll  do that again.

6. Anquan Boldin will have at least five catches.
Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones might make the huge play, but Boldin keeps the chains moving, and that will be a huge objective. He leads the Ravens this postseaon with 11 catches for 216 yards, and he will be among Flacco’s favorite targets again.

7. The Ravens will sack Tom Brady.
The Ravens dropped Brady twice in the Week 3 game in Baltimore, and once in the AFC title game. Peyton Manning had all day to throw in the first half last week, but they were in his face much of the second half. The Ravens need to be careful, because Brady can make them pay against the blitz, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees will dial up pressure at times and it will pay off.

8. Aaron Hernandez will have at least six catches.
The Patriots tight end figures to be a major part of the Patriots offense, especially with Rob Gronkowski out. Ray Lewis has had trouble in coverage, and Dannell Ellerbe is questionable (ankle, back). Safety Bernard Pollard also might be called upon, but Hernandez presents a matchup problem that the Patriots will take advantage of.

9. Jacoby Jones will have a return of 35-plus yards.
Jones was not the Ravens’ kick returner when these teams met in Week 3, and he’s been fairly quiet in the playoffs so far in the return game. Like the Ravens, the Patriots gave up a big return last week (94 yards), and the Ravens will spring a big one.

10. Patriots 30, Ravens 27
Here we go again. Down to the wire with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line. The Ravens are riding the emotional wave of Ray Lewis’ retirement tour and their improbable overtime win over the Broncos. Can they sustain it another week? The Ravens aren’t going to win a shootout with Tom Brady in New England, but if they can keep the score in the 20s, it’s there for the taking. Still, the Patriots are 4-0 in AFC title game at home, and they will further infuriate Ravens fans by having just enough to send the Ravens home again in another thriller.