Rex Ryan told WFAN’s Mike Francesca the following, concerning the AFC Championship Game:
“First off, the Ravens are going to win this game.”
“The Ravens, in my opinion, are going to take a similar approach to how the Giants played ’em… I don’t know of how many guys can block Terrell Suggs. I’ve got the answer: none of ’em. I think Suggs is going to be huge. They’ve gotta be physical.”
“Let’s face it: I’m cheering for the Ravens.”
He also mentioned how the teams – other than the Bills – who’ve defeated the Patriots in the last three seasons are all physical teams.
Here is my pick.
When Baltimore is running: Ray Rice ran 22 times for 159 yards (7.23 ypc) and 2 TDs in the 2009 postseason win (their defense averaged 4.4 ypc, tied for 20th), and 28 times for 88 yards (3.14 ypc) in 2010 against New England (their defense averaged 4.2 ypc that season, tied for 13th). Rice and Williams have had success at times, been stuck behind shaky blocking at times. With Leach as the lead blocker – and this New England defensive line not having faced a lot of good runners (only 2 of the top 9, Willis McGahee and LeSean McCoy, and those teams ran for four TDs in those games) -, I think the Ravens will have enough success. Edge: Baltimore, slightly.
When Baltimore is throwing: Baltimore is said to have a pretty simplistic offense, where the wide receivers can’t get separation and must win one-on-one when the ball is in the air. The dirty secret is that the Ravens have a top 3 receiving back in Ray Rice, three dynamic wide receivers, and two big, fast tight ends. Their passing offense has been disjointed, and they need to go shotgun-spread more because that’s what Flacco is good at. The pass-blocking has been suspect, making the spread less appealing to Cam Cameron, but I expect the line to elevate its game, knowing where the Patriots weakness is. Edge: Baltimore.
When New England is running: The Texans, Chargers, and Browns have had success running on the Ravens defense. No other teams have in the last two seasons. The Patriots’ O-line is better in pass protection than run-blocking (4.0 ypc this year, tied for 21st in the NFL; their 18 rushing TDs are decent, but they virtually live in the red zone), and – looking at last week’s 131 yards allowed to the Texans -, only the Eagles ran for more regular season yards over the last two seasons than the Texans. Edge: Even.
When New England is throwing: While New England has started 9 different defensive line-ups, inserting two wide receivers into the secondary, the Ravens have had the same starting unit almost the whole season. The Patriots have a legendary group of weapons, but it’s mostly three guys. I don’t see Woodhead, Branch, Ochocinco or Underwood making plays against the Ravens secondary. Supposedly, Bernard Pollard is a liability in coverage, yet the Ravens have allowed just 11 passing TDs in 17 games. Edge: Even.
Intangibles: This is game where intangibles could be huge. There is no doubt that the Patriots want this bad, especially on offense. However, there is also no doubt that a lot of Ravens on offense and defense ? know how special this opportunity is, and the abundance of leaders on the Ravens defense will keep them playing physical for 60 minutes. There is a “win one for Ray and Ed” urgency on the Ravens. They have been painted into this corner as a team that can’t pass and is going to be the road dog against the face of the NFL, Tom Brady, and 3-time Super Bowl-winning head coach. “Flacco can’t throw.” “Suggs has gone missing.” Ray Lewis often talks about what happens when you test a warrior. I believe they are going to be the more physical team on Sunday.
PREDICTION: Ultimately, I don’t think the game will be that close that intangibles would be the tipping point. While the Patriots can score 21 on any team including the Ravens, the Patriots will not overcome the talent gap. The Ravens have more elite players and more great players in their prime or in their twilight. Ravens 28, Patriots 9.
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