NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (1-1)
at BALTIMORE RAVENS (1-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, 8:25 p.m. EDT
Line: Baltimore -3, Total: 44˝
The Ravens seek payback Sunday night in an AFC Championship Game rematch with the Patriots, who have won all six regular-season meetings since Baltimore relocated from Cleveland.
The Pats are coming off their worst game in recent memory, looking completely out of sorts against Arizona after losing TE Aaron Hernandez to a high ankle sprain. Hernandez won’t play in this one, as he’s out 4-to-6 weeks. The Ravens are playing with a chip on their shoulder after they felt they were robbed in Philly last week, and because of their AFC title game loss in New England. The Ravens have lost their past two SU to the Patriots (both in Foxboro), but got an ATS win and a push. They’re 3-1-1 ATS against the Pats since 2007. Baltimore’s no-huddle was a hit in its opener at home against Cincy (44 points, 430 yards), but was less effective in Philly last week (23 points, 325 yards).
Can the Ravens avenge their AFC title game loss in New England? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL game throughout the 2012 season and playoffs.
Patriots QB Tom Brady has certainly been flustered by this Ravens defense in his career, winning all four regular season meetings, but completing just 56% of his passes for 979 yards (245 YPG), 4 TD and 3 INT. He has also faced them twice in the postseason, completing 58% of his throws for 393 yards (5.0 YPA), 2 TD and 5 INT. Although Brady will probably throw the football 30-to-35 times, New England needs to establish the running game to leave town with a victory. The Patriots have outrushed the Ravens 223 to 215 in the past two wins, and with Stevan Ridley carrying the offense this year (196 rush yds, 5.0 YPC), they will look to chew up yards against this stout Baltimore defense. With Hernandez out, veteran TE Kellen Winslow was signed to take his spot on the roster. However, Hernandez’s targets will likely go to Wes Welker, who has been on the field much less this season than what he’s used to seeing. Welker had six catches for 53 yards in the 23-20 win in the AFC Championship in January. Despite an offense out of sync (5-for-15 on third downs last week), the Patriots defense has performed above expectations so far, ranking second in the NFL in total defense (265 total YPG) and fourth in scoring defense (16.5 PPG), while forcing four turnovers in two games.
The Ravens were denied a trip to the Super Bowl last year when Lee Evans dropped a TD pass in the closing seconds before Billy Cundiff missed a game-tying, 32-yard field goal at the end of regulation. QB Joe Flacco played pretty well in that heartbreaking loss, completing 22-of-36 passes for 306 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT. He’s also been strong during two regular-season losses to New England, completing 54-of-82 passes (66%) for 549 yards, 4 TD and 1 INT. Flacco is looking to bounce back from a subpar performance in Philly though, when he was 22-of-42 for 232 yards (5.5 YPA). Another player that has given the Patriots trouble is RB Ray Rice, who has 278 total yards over two regular-season meetings and 237 total yards and 2 TD in two postseason meetings. Defensively, Baltimore has done a great job turning New England over, forcing nine Patriots miscues in the past three meetings. They also forced four Eagles turnovers last week, but still allowed Philly to rack up 486 total yards, the most Baltimore has allowed in a loss since 1998.