Tale Of The Tape: Baltimore Ravens At New England Patriots

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
  • Quarterback
    There are a lot of sharp observers around the NFL who tend to lob grenades in the direction of Joe Flacco, and that’s a huge mistake. He has proven to be one of the most effective postseason quarterbacks, as he brings a 10-4 postseason record into this game. Flacco has size, strength and a powerful arm, and he throws one of the best deep balls in the NFL.
    Most observers believe the Patriots have their best team since the 2011 team that went to the Super Bowl, and it would be a disappointment if they don’t take advantage of their homefield advantage and get to the title game once again. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, and his razor-sharp passing keyed New England’s surge this season. He is battle-tested and dynamic.
  • Offense
    The Ravens had a productive and dependable ground game this year as Justin Forsett is capable of making big plays and putting the ball in the endzone. In addition to rushing for 1,266 yards, Forsett had 17 runs of 20 yards or more. Steve Smith is a hard-nosed receiver who can catch the ball in traffic and run after the catch. Torrey Smith knows how to get free and catch Flacco’s deep passes.
    The Patriots don’t appear to have an impressive ground game because none of their backs gained more than 412 yards, however Jonas Gray, LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen are all capable of making game-changing plays. Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the league and is a beast after the catch, while Julian Edelman runs tight routes and has excellent hands. Brandon LaFell can stretch the field.
  • Defense
    The Ravens have some vulnerability on defense, but they were impressive in slowing Pittsburgh’s explosive passing attack. The Ravens are going to try to get after Brady with outside linebackers Elvis Dumervil (17.0 sacks) and Terrell Suggs (12.0 sacks), and if they are successful the Ravens may be able to walk out of Foxboro with the win. Powerful Haloti Ngata can shut down the interior run.
    The Patriots have done a solid job on defense all year, and cornerback Darrelle Revis will be asked to shut down the Ravens’ deep passing game. Linebacker Jamie Collins has had a sensational season and he led the Patriots with 116 tackles and he also had 4.0 sacks. Outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich led New England with 8.0 sacks, while Vince Wilfork is a nasty and quick run stuffer.
  • Special Teams
    Both teams have gotten excellent production from their special teams. Jacoby Jones is a legitimate game-breaking threat as a punt and kickoff returner, while the Ravens are excellent in coverage. Placekicker Justin Tucker did not miss a FG attempt under 50 yards this season.
    The Patriots have blocked FG attempts and punts at crucial points this season, and if they can do it here, it could turn the game around. Edelman (punt) and Danny Amendola (kickoff) are superb return specialists, while Stephen Gostkowski (35-of-37 on FG attempts) almost never misses.
The Patriots know that the Ravens are one of the few teams capable of battling them for 60 minutes and stealing a road victory. If the Pats can’t contain the Baltimore pass rush, the Ravens have an excellent chance of pulling the upset.