A quick hit preview of the AFC Championship Game between Baltimore and New England
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The high-powered offence of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots meets the hot hand of Joe Flacco and his Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship.
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) @ New England Patriots (12-4)
Where & When: Monday 21 January, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, New England
Coverage: 10:30 AEDT LIVE on ESPN and One HD
So, the AFC Championship game is here again and it’s a rematch of last year’s thriller. You might remember, that game ended with the Pats winning 23-20 on a missed field goal with eleven seconds left. In Week 3 this year, the Ravens turned the tables by winning another great game 31-30. These teams are no stranger to each other and the stage is set for a tough battle.
Last week, the Baltimore Ravens created a major upset by beating Denver in a fantastic overtime game 38-35. The Ravens had big play after big play to topple Peyton and the Broncos – particularly Torrey Smith who Joe Flacco hooked up with on just three catches, a 59 yard TD, a seven yard catch and then a 32 yard TD.
Baltimore’s defence has been solid without being the spectacular beast that we’re used to in 2012, finishing the season ranked 17th overall with injuries and age being major factors.
Somehow, the New England Patriots have managed to be an offensive juggernaut again this season. Despite injuries to their key weapons the Patriots scored 557 points this year (that’s 34.8 points per game) – 76 points more than second ranked Denver. They also ranked first in total first downs (444 – that's 62 more than anyone else), third down conversion percentage (48.7%) and total yards per game (427.9) amongst a stack of others. In other words, New England can score better than anyone.
Their defence though? Ranked 25th in the NFL – and that’s the key to the Patriots chances at making the Super Bowl. While they have been effective stopping the run how they deal with Joe Flacco's big arm will be key.
Final word and prediction:
As much as everyone will be talking about Tom Brady and the Patriots offence versus Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defence, this game is actually about the horrible New England pass defence. The Pats secondary is ranked 29th in the league and it’s going to have its hands full against an in form Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.
No doubt that this will be a high scoring shootout and because of how bad the Patriots secondary is, I’m picking the big upset – give me Baltimore 38-34!