Wednesday, January 16, 2013

AFC Championship Preview: Ravens @ Patriots

     With 00:31 seconds left on the clock, Baltimore wide receiver Jacoby Jones waltzed into the end zone after catching a 70 yard pass from Joe Flacco, tying the game at 35 against Denver in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. The Denver coaching staff is now under scrutiny for their decision to take a knee, sending the game into overtime. One overtime was not enough, where, with less then a minute left, Peyton Manning threw his 13th interception of the season, and Baltimore went on to kick a game winning field goal in 2OT. This week, they will be preparing to play Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Brady threw for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 41-28 victory of Houston. The score does not properly show the intensity of this game. For the majority of the game, the Texans were losing to New England, but were not too far away from mounting a comeback. In the end, though, Tom Brady earned his 17th playoff victory, an NFL record, and will be battling against the Ravens for his second straight Super Bowl appearance. Be sure to comment, subscribe, or like us on Facebook at Facebook.com/thenflreport! Also, subscribe to us on YouTube, where we create monthly highlight videos for some of the most exciting NFL players!


New England Patriots: Similar to last season, the New England Patriots were dominant in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. After a slow start to 2012, the Patriots finished the season with a 12-4 record, earning the number two seed in the playoffs. Their first opponent was the Houston Texans, where Brady faced off against JJ Watt and the intimidating Houston defense. However, the Houston front 7 was no match for Tom Brady, who was sacked just once, and hit 7 times by the defensive line. Brady was able to find a groove towards the end of the game, and it is likely that the same thing will take place against Baltimore. The last time these two teams played was during the dark ages of the 2012 NFL season, where replacement referees wreaked havoc throughout the league. A controversial field goal sealed the deal for Baltimore, who despite losing for the majority of the game, managed to win 31-30 over New England. However, the loss to Baltimore came after a disappointing loss to Arizona, so clearly the Patriots had not yet reached their full potential. As the season progressed, Brady began to roll, even without his star tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Unfortunately, Gronk returned in Sunday's game against Houston, just to be taken out within the first quarter due to a a new injury to his arm, and the Patriots will be missing Gronkowski for the rest of the season. Running back Shane Vereen filled the void at wide receiver, but it is likely he will not have back to back incredible performances. Baltimore is bound to double-team Wes Welker, leaving Brady targets such as Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, and the option of both of the Patriots running backs. New England's defense has proven to get the job done, but a lot of pressure will be on Brady to put a lot of points on the board, and without Gronkowski, it may be difficult.


Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore started off 2012 showing true potential, where the only two losses came against Philadelphia and Houston. However, the last five regular season games went poorly for Baltimore, who lost three straight games, two of which came against playoff teams. Week 16 brought the Ravens reassurance as they entered the playoffs, where Joe Flacco routed the New York Giants defense. Flacco has been under scrutiny for his inability to lead a very talented Baltimore team through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl. However, last Sunday against the Broncos proved Flacco can compete with the best of them. In a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game, the Baltimore Ravens have a chip on their shoulder, where a missed field goal lost them a spot in last year's Super Bowl. The fate of the Ravens all depends on Joe Flacco and his success with the deep ball, which proved to be the ultimate difference maker against Denver. There were two things, apart from Flacco's leadership, that can taken away from Baltimore's performance against Denver: a). Both Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis were dominant forces on the defensive side of the ball, and clearly this team is feeding off of Ray Lewis' last ounce of emotion, as he looks to retire at the end of this season b). Baltimore's special teams looked atrocious, as they allowed two touchdowns on special teams, which nearly cost them a shot at the AFC title. Tom Brady will already be putting points on the scoreboard, and if New England were to add to the lead thanks to kick returns and punt returns, Baltimore would not stand a chance. If Flacco starts off the game with two big scores, Baltimore could be looking at a trip to New Orleans. However, if his bombs were to be intercepted, those turnovers would cause a dramatic momentum shift in favor of New England.


Bottom Line: Even though New England is young and talented, this is likely Tom Brady's last shot at another Super Bowl ring. Baltimore will not be able to pull off a miracle on the road, and once again their season will come to a close at Gillette Stadium.
Patriots over Ravens 31-27



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