By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens accomplished what many deemed impossible when they defeated the AFC North Champion Pittsburgh Steelers on Wild Card weekend. Now Baltimore will head to Foxborough to take on the No. 1 seed New England Patriots. It’ll be the fourth time these two teams have met in the postseason with a trip to the AFC Championship game on the line.
Patriots on Offense:
The Patriots are led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. That sentence alone should tell you how difficult a task the Ravens will have keeping this offense in check. But, it’s a task that they’ve accomplished before. The Patriots have had difficulty against the Ravens in the past because they simply don’t match up well against them. The Ravens secondary has been questionable this season and can be taken advantage of with big plays down the field. But, New England does not possess a big play offense. Their offense is predicated on short to intermediate passes down the field. Bill Belichick knows this, and it’ll be interesting to see what his gameplan will be to maybe dial it up a bit and take advantage of the Ravens pass defense.
One thing’s for certain: His plan will revolve around All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. The large athlete is a match up nightmare in his own right and may wreak havoc if Baltimore allows it. One other concern for New England is their offensive line. The Patriots have held opposing defenses to only 26 sacks this season – fourth fewest in the NFL. But the offensive line has struggled and has yet to face a pass rush like the one the Ravens wield since the fiasco in Kansas City earlier in the year. Couple that with the play of Baltimore’s rush defense, and New England may have to think outside the box to get things going offensively. Fortunately for Patriots fans, thinking outside the box is something their team does very well.
Patriots on Defense:
This is where the Patriots can really set the tone in this game. New England hasn’t had a defense this imposing since winning a Super Bowl back in 2002. Ravens fans have to wonder whether their quarterback can keep the magic going against a pretty formidable secondary.
Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner are two of the most physical corners in the NFL. The Ravens historically have done poorly offensively against teams that can get physical with their receivers at the line of scrimmage. The Patriots secondary ranked 17th in pass defense this year, but those numbers are a bit inflated given how often teams played from behind against them.
Revis will likely be asked to cover Torrey Smith, as he’s routinely been placed on the speedy receiver of opposing defenses. That means the matchup between Steve Smith Sr. and Brandon Browner will loom large. Browner can be a little too physical and caught out of position, which has resulted in a large amount of penalties against him. Baltimore may try to use that to their advantage. But with the overall exceptional play of this unit, Baltimore’s best bet will be to try to use the run to set up the pass. New England’s pass rush is subpar, and if Baltimore can get the unit guessing, it could mean big plays down the field in this contest.
The New England Patriots are a two-headed monster: Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick. Coupled with Tom Brady, Belichick has won three Super Bowl Championships out of five appearances during his time with New England. Including the playoffs, the Patriots hold an 8-3 All-Time record against the Baltimore Ravens
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.