Perception is Reality
Reality: The Ravens are ranked 28th in the NFL in Rushing Offense.
West now has 650 yards rushing this year. Career high is 673 in rookie year with Browns (2014) #RavensTalk
— Bo Smolka (@bsmolka) December 4, 2016
Perception: If you were to just read that stat about Terrance West you might think the Ravens are doing well on the ground, but they are ranked at the bottom of the league in total yards, average yards per carry, rushing touchdowns and rushing yards per game.
Now, I believe that most of that is because of the play calling. The Ravens RBs haven’t done a bad job when given a chance, but West and Kenneth Dixon had a total of just 16 carries last week against the Dolphins, while Joe Flacco passed it 47 times. The running game went for over 100 yards despite the light load. In the previous game, again, Dixon and West ran 16 times and fell just 3 yards shy of 100 for the game, while Flacco tossed it 36 times. Three weeks ago, West and Dixon ran it just 14 times for 82 yards, while Flacco threw it 35 times.
So over the last few weeks, it’s nearly a 2-to-1 ratio of passes to runs. For the Ravens, over the years, that has not worked. A balanced attack has always seemed to help Flacco be successful, and I believe it will be needed in New England. It’s going to be very cold Monday night in Foxboro. Baltimore will need to find a way to use their two big backs, as Ray Rice and Willis McGahee used to do, to beat up the Patriots defense. That will only help open up the offense, giving Flacco time to use play action.
New England is balanced on defense, ranking 10th against the run and 12th against the pass. So the Ravens will need to mix it up to keep the secondary on their toes.
Reality: For the Ravens, it is simple in their final 4 games: Win and they are in.
The Ravens will control their own playoff destiny no matter what happens in New England. If Ravens win final 3 games, they win AFCN crown.
— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) December 5, 2016
Perception: Believe it or not, Monday night is not a “must win”. It’s a “want to win” and will be a playoff atmosphere, but the Ravens can still win the AFC North, even if they lose to the Patriots. The Ravens should be able to beat the Eagles at home next week, and in Cincinnati in Week 17, so that leaves Christmas Day in Pittsburgh as the big game. If the Ravens were to win that game, they would win the AFC North and head to the playoffs. But if the Ravens lose that game, they very well could lose the tiebreakers and miss out on the playoffs altogether.
Since Buffalo hosts the Steelers this week, Baltimore will be big Bills fans Sunday, as that would really help make things a bit easier for the Ravens.
So just like most other seasons, nothing comes easy for the Ravens. They have to grind out every game they play in order to land a coveted playoff berth. And once you are there, anything can happen.
Reality: The Patriots and Ravens have, both, given up 207 points so far this season.
Perception: For as much talk as the Ravens defense is getting this year, being ranked #1 in yards allowed, the Patriots defense isn’t too bad either. They are ranked #9 and have played pretty well. The biggest different will come on the offensive side of the ball. The Patriots have scored 73 more points in 12 games than the Ravens and the Patriots have scored 13 more touchdowns than the Ravens.
It will come down to which defense can pull out the bigger stops, which probably means turnovers. Can Flacco stay upright and play clean? Can the Ravens d-line get to Brady?
It will be a real chess match. Defensive Coordinator Dean Peas will need to be ready to go against his former team with a great game plan. The Ravens will need a healthy defense on the field Monday night and one that will go after the ball as they did against Miami.
Reality: The Patriots lead the all-time series against the Ravens 9-3 (including playoffs).
Perception: The perception of this series is very interesting. You’ll see most national sports analysts saying things like “The Ravens aren’t scared of the Patriots” and “If there is one team that can go into Foxboro and win, it’s the Ravens.” But maybe that is really based on the Patriot dominance over the rest of the league, more than it is about the Ravens.
The Patriots lead the regular season series 7-1, with the Ravens only win a 1-point victory in Baltimore in 2012. So tell me how that makes me optimistic as a Ravens fan?
The difference is in the postseason, but it’s still not dominance, it’s .500. All four of those games have been played in Foxboro, with the Ravens winning two. (Yes, there should have been a third in there if not for Lee Evans or Billy Cundiff.) To me it shows that pretty much no-one else in the league has been able to go into Foxboro and win at all, since the Ravens have only done it twice and are thought of as the biggest threat to the Patriots at home.
Let’s hope since it’s a regular season game (which the Ravens have not fared well at all against the Patriots), but has a playoff atmosphere, that Baltimore can be a Ravens team that thinks it’s a playoff game, and play that way.
I am really struggling to pick this one. It’s the old cliché… my heart says one thing and my head says another.
Honestly, I have been standing here for the last 5 minutes debating my prediction and my mind keeps racing back and forth.
Okay, now it’s been another 10 minutes and I have to get to work.
I think I have my reasoning. Since this is my family’s Super Bowl (my wife and all my in-laws are from New England and root for the evil empire), I only have one outcome:
Ravens 24, Patriots 21.