AFC Conference Championship Matchups: Brady, Welker And Lloyd Lead Patriots Passing Attack vs. Ed Reed And Ravens Secondary
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have a chance to repeat last years AFC Championship, and beat the Baltimore Ravens to advance to the Super Bowl. Baltimore will look back to Week 3, and their dramatic win in a shootout over the Patriots at home. The Patriots are looking to improve to 5-0 in home conference championships, and Tom Brady is chasing Joe Montana and Super Bowl history with two more wins. New England lost Rob Gronkowski to a broken arm against the Texans, but Brady still has an assortment of weapons to employ for the Patriots success. Brady targeted the Ravens cornerbacks in their previous match, and Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd both had big games. Welker and Lloyd are looking forward to the mismatches they represent facing the Ravens cornerbacks.
AFC Conference Championship Matchups: Patriots Offensive Line vs. Haloti Ngata And Ravens Defensive Line
The Patriots once again had a top tier offensive line, tied for 3rd fewest sacks with 27, and 14th in rushing yards per carry. The Patriots offensive line is a huge part of their success. Center Ryan Wendell is one of the leagues best run blockers, and tackles Nate Soldier and Sebastian Vollmer are excellent pass protectors. The Ravens are tied with the Patriots for 15th in sacks, but having Terrell Suggs back will improve a mediocre pass rush. Nose tackle Terrence Cody against Wendell will be an interesting match, Cody and defensive end/tackle Haloti Ngata will need to beat the double teams in the Patriots offensive line, and help Suggs create pressure on Tom Brady. Ngata had 51 tackles and 5 sacks, showing again his amazing disruptiveness and athleticism for a 300 pound man. Will linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is questionable, but expected to play, and the Ravens will be better with him, Ellerbe is quick and decisive in his attack on the run, and can pressure the quarterback with his speed. The Ravens defensive front seven has been its strength for the better part of a decade, and the Patriots offensive line is one of the best in the NFL.
The Ravens transitioned more to the pass during the regular season, resulting in one offensive coordinator’s termination for not utilizing Rice more. Despite the transition, the Ravens had the 11th ranked rushing attack in the NFL. The Patriots have the 9th ranked rush defense, mostly because of the large leads teams have been forced to come back from. Yet, Rice may have an advantage against the rookies on the right side of the Patriots defensive front seven. Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones is an emerging pass rusher for the Patriots, but has played over aggressively at times, and has struggled defending the run. Rookie linebacker Dont’a Hightower had 60 tackles and 4 sacks this season, but has struggled in reading the running back, and to get off blocks. Middle linebacker Jerod Mayo will have the Rice assignment, and Mayo’s success or failure may determine what kind of game Rice has. Standing in Mayo’s way will be Pro-Bowler Vonta Leach, who is questionable for this game, but is one of the leagues best fullbacks blocking for run or pass. Rice also accumulated 61 receptions for 478 yards and a touchdown during the regular season.
AFC Conference Championship Matchups: Michael Oher Leads Ravens Offensive Line vs. Wilfork, Ninkovich And Patriots Defensive Line
The match between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots features a heavyweight slugfest in the trenches. 321-pound mountain of a man, and Pro-Bowler, Vince Wilfork squares off with 315-pound right guard, and fellow Pro-Bowler, Marshall Yanda on Sunday. While it would be smart for Yanda and center Matt Birk to double team Wilfork, Yanda will get his one on ones as a top caliber guard. This will be a fight, as one immovable object takes on another immovable object. If Yanda can take Wilfork alone part of the time, it will open up doubles in other areas of attack for the Ravens. Baltimore’s offensive line is a powerful run-blocking unit, ranked 12th in yards per carry, but has shown deficiencies in pass protection, ranked 20th in the NFL with 38 sacks given up. The Patriots pass rush is tied with the Ravens for 15th in the NFL with 37 sacks, and may have a mismatch against a Ravens offensive line that has given up 6 sacks in two games this post season. Ravens tackles Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie are veterans, but have struggled at times against first rate pass rushers.
AFC Conference Championship Matchups: Flacco, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin-Led Ravens Passing Attack vs. Aqib Talib And Patriots Secondary
Joe Flacco threw the lights out of Mile High Stadium in last weeks upset of the Denver Broncos. Flacco is showing the amazingly strong arm he lauded coming out of college, and has combined it with better downfield accuracy. Flacco threw confidently downfield, with throws of 59 and 70 yards to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones against the Broncos. Against the Colts, Flacco hit Anquan Boldin for a 50-yard completion downfield. Flacco has 613 yards and 5 touchdowns with zero interceptions in the playoffs, and is currently playing at the highest level of his career. Torrey Smith has been the NFL’s most targeted receiver downfield, and after exploding last week, look for the Patriots to assign outstanding corner Aquib Talib to Smith, hoping to reduce his impact.