The list of quarterbacks to best New England’s Tom Brady twice in the postseason is quite short. Eli and Peyton Manning have each beaten Brady twice, and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is the only other quarterback to do so. Flacco and Brady have squared off three times in the postseason, with Flacco owning the all-time series 2-1, including his 21-for-36 performance with 240 yards and three touchdowns in the AFC title game en route to the Super Bowl in 2012.
Brady specifically struggled against the Ravens secondary. He’s tossed three touchdowns to seven interceptions and twice completed less than 55 percent of his attempts in the three playoff games. Brady is 12-3 at home in the postseason, but two of those losses have come to the Ravens.
Brady and the Patriots have a chance to even the score in Saturday’s AFC Divisional matchup at Gillette Stadium.
Owning the best record in the AFC and the No. 1 seed, the Patriots largely rested Brady in their regular season finale loss to Buffalo and the two-time All-Pro got even more rest with an extra week off during the Wild Card round.
No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman also got some much needed time off after suffering a concussion in Week 15. Edelman’s return is of special importance for Brady and the Patriots. Enjoying the best season of his career with 92 receptions for 972 yards and four touchdowns, Edelman lining up alongside first-team All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski is a big reason why the Patriots are seven-point favorites over the Ravens.
Gronkowski played more than 11 games in a season for the first time in two years, totaling 82 receptions for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games this year.
The Ravens, however, are coming in hot after a 30-17 victory over rival Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round. Winning four of the last five games, Flacco improved his impressive playoff resume by completing 18 of his 29 pass attempts for two touchdowns. In his last five playoff starts, Flacco has totaled 13 touchdowns with no interceptions and his passer rating hasn’t dipped below 106.2.
Nearly half of Flacco’s 259 passing yards against Pittsburgh went to veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr., who racked up five receptions for 101 yards. During the regular season, Smith recorded the eighth 1,000-yard season of his career, and he also has a solid postseason track record against New England. Back in 2003, Smith snagged four balls for 80 yards and a touchdown with a Carolina Panthers squad that fell to New England by a field goal in the Super Bowl.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens might have an edge. Baltimore’s pass rush was far more formidable than New England’s, finishing third in the NFL with 49 sacks, 29 of which came from linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs.
But the Ravens secondary could be one weak spot. The unit was 23rd in the NFL with 248.7 yards allowed per game, and could only force 11 interceptions.
The Patriots defense ranked 17th against the pass and ninth versus the run this season. Their run defense will likely playing a huge role against Ravens' running back Justin Forsett. He only mustered 40 yards against the Steelers last week, but Forsett’s been a force all season for Baltimore, totaling 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns along with 44 receptions for 263 yards.
But Forsett and Flacco’s production could be hampered against the Patriots with offensive tackle Eugene Monroe likely to sit out again. Monroe missed the Wild Card round and the Ravens offensive line only surrendered one sack and four quarterback hits against Pittsburgh. But they’ll face a whole other animal in the Patriots pass rush. New England recorded 40 sacks this season, led by defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Start Time: 4:35 P.M. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Betting Odds: New England -7
Over/Under: 48 points
Prediction: New England over Baltimore, 27-20