AFC Championship Preview: Ravens at Patriots
BALTIMORE RAVENS (13-4)
at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (14-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, 3:00 p.m. EDT
Line: New England -7, Total: 50
The Ravens try to win a playoff game in Foxboro for the second time in three years when they face the Patriots for the AFC Championship on Sunday afternoon.
New England is 6-1 SU (2-4-1 ATS) in seven meetings with the Ravens since they relocated to Baltimore in 1996. But the one loss came in January 2010 when the Ravens destroyed the Pats 33-14 in the first round of the playoffs. Ray Rice scored on an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage and the defense forced four Tom Brady turnovers (3 INT, 1 fumble) in the blowout. They played again last season, with the Patriots winning 23-20 in overtime despite two Brady interceptions. But New England was clearly the better team last weekend, pummeling Denver 45-10 behind Brady’s 6 TD passes, while the Ravens needed four Houston turnovers to edge the Texans 20-13. Can the Patriots get back to the Super Bowl and cover the big spread, or will Baltimore shock them again on their home turf in the postseason? The StatFox Pro Football Pass gets you all the insight you need for Sunday's games and, of course, the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
The Patriots have played seven straight games Over the Total and this pair of four-star FoxSheets trends also backs the OVER for Sunday’s game.
Play Over - Home teams against the total (NEW ENGLAND) - after covering the spread in 3 out of their last 4 games, top level team, winning 75% or more of their games, in the second half of the season. (29-4 over the last 5 seasons.) (87.9%, +24.6 units. Rating = 4*).
NEW ENGLAND is 9-0 OVER (+9.0 Units) when playing against a team with a winning record in the second half of the season over the last 2 seasons. The average score was NEW ENGLAND 36.2, OPPONENT 18.7 - (Rating = 4*).
The Ravens are 9-0 at home this year, but are just 4-4 (SU and ATS) on the road. Baltimore’s offense sputtered Sunday versus Houston, gaining just 227 total yards (3.6 yards per play). Rice was held to a mere 60 yards on 21 carries, failing to gain 10 yards on any of his rushing attempts. But he has loved playing New England in his career, piling up 350 rushing yards (5.7 YPC) and 2 TD, while adding 87 yards on 13 catches in three lifetime meetings. Second-string RB Ricky Williams rushed for 27 yards on six carries against the Texans and also has a long history of running over Patriots defenders with 917 yards (3.9 YPC) and 7 TD in 13 career games versus New England. The Pats run defense has been decent this year (118 YPG), but has allowed a hefty 4.5 yards per carry.
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco has won playoff games in each of the past four seasons, but he hasn’t always been great, completing just 53% of his passes for 5.81 YPA, 6 TD and 7 INT. In the big playoff win at New England two years ago, Flacco attempted just 10 passes all game, going 4-of-10 for 34 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT. Last week against Houston he made some nice throws, but he finished 14-of-27 (52%) for 176 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT, and took five sacks. His favorite target was WR Anquan Boldin who caught four balls for 73 yards and scored his first touchdown since Nov. 20. The Patriots defense allowed the second-most passing yards in the NFL this year (294 YPG), but only gave up 108 passing yards on 9-of-26 completions to Broncos QB Tim Tebow on Saturday.
Brady has a 15-5 record in his playoff career, throwing for 239 passing YPG (6.66 YPA), 36 TD and 17 INT. He was incredible in Saturday night’s win, completing 77% of his passes (26-of-34) for 363 yards, 6 TD and 1 INT. Three of those TD tosses were to TE Rob Gronkowski who now has a ridiculous 20 touchdowns in 17 games this year. Gronkowski caught 10 passes against Denver for 145 yards. WR Deion Branch (3 rec, 85 yds), WR Wes Welker (6 rec, 55 yds) and TE Aaron Hernandez (4 rec, 55 yds) each had one touchdown reception against the Broncos. Branch was the most targeted receiver in last year’s OT win over Baltimore, catching nine of his 12 targets for 98 yards and a touchdown. But the Ravens were fourth in passing defense during the regular season (196 YPG) and allowed a league-low 58.8 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks.
Despite the excellent pass defense, the Ravens have struggled trying to stop the run lately, allowing 125 rushing YPG (4.4 YPC) in the past four games, considerably more than the 86 rushing YPG (3.3 YPC) they surrendered in the first 13 games this year. New England has also done a better job rushing the football in the past four games, totaling 544 yards (136 YPG). Hernandez led the team Saturday with 61 yards on just five carries. RB Danny Woodhead added 25 yards on just four attempts, and also led the Patriots with 63 yards (5.7 YPC) in last year’s OT loss to Baltimore.
It’s no secret the Ravens won Sunday because of going +4 in the turnover battle (and committing zero penalties), but that’s not likely to happen against New England. In the past nine games, the Patriots have turned the ball over just five times. And if Baltimore fails to sack Tom Brady like it failed to sack Houston quarterback T.J. Yates, it could be a long afternoon for the Ravens defenders.