It seems like yesterday we opened up the season by beating the CRAP out of Pittsburgh. Let’s relive that one more time!
But now, it’s time to get serious. We’ve got the AFC Championship game coming up Sunday at 3 pm eastern. This game will match up the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Pansies/ Patriots. We get to see two completely different styles of play: offensive and defensive. Whichever team gets the other to play their style gets the advantage.
KEYS TO THE GAME
· Eliminate Wes Welker– Wes Welker had a career year in 2011, with over 120 receptions, over 1500 yards, and 9 TDs. When he goes up against a physical cornerback, his numbers go down drastically. He only had 2 caches against Brandon Flowers, 4 catches for 40 yards against Champ Bailey, and had less than 40 yards against Ike Taylor (COME ON MAN!!!!!! It’s Ike Taylor!!!!!!). Fortunately, The Ravens have a young, fast, and physical CB named Lardarius Webb. Have Webb on Welker all day, and neutralize the catalyst of that receiving core.
· Pressure Brady– Probably the most important aspect of this game is to put pressure on Tom Brady. However, put on the pressure without blitzing. Put on the pressure by closing in the pocket around him. If Brady can’t move his feet, he is not nearly as effective as he is when he can step up in the pocket. If I were the defense, I’d look at the footage of the four best teams the Patriots have played: the Steelers, Giants, Cowboys, and only the first quarter of the first Bronco game. The Cowboys are awful, how did they hold Brady to 20 points, 2 TDs, force 2 interceptions, prevent a pass over 20 yards, and sack him three times? Look at the other games, but more importantly look at the Broncos in the 1st quarter. For every call that Brady made at the line, Brian Dawkins made one to match it. The Patriots didn’t have an answer for the Broncos until Dawkins hurt his neck and didn’t play another down of football. All of these teams have one thing in common. They hemmed Brady in, and prevented him from stepping up into the pocket. History shows again and again that if Brady can’t move his feet, he is not effective.
· Run Ray Run– Remember the last playoff game in New England where we won with a dose of instant Rice? You don’t… well here’s the first 10 minutes. Wasn’t that nice? As bad as the Pats defense was that year, it’s even worse this year. That’s right; the Ravens have gone from playing the 2nd best defense to the 2nd worst defense. Use Ray Rice to run the football, and for the check downs. If for some crazy reason the Patriots stop that, line him up in the slot and have him run slants over the middle. The minute we stop giving Rice the ball is the minute we concede. I think that if he gets 20+ carries, it will be a satisfying outcome.
What to Watch for
· Bernard Pollard vs. the Patriots… Round 3– Remember the last two times that Bernard Pollard played the Patriots? The first time involved a hit to Brady’s knee that ended up as an ACL tear. The 2nd game involved him being the nearest defensive player when Wes Welker tore his ACL. Any recurring themes? We’ll see whose next…
· Bernard Pollard vs. Rob Gronkowski– Rob Gronkowski is usually able to beat everybody. Usually there isn’t anyone on the defense fast or physical enough to stop him. Well, we have one player. Pollard is just the guy to cover Gronkowski. He can’t win with his speed, he wins with his physicality. The Ravens may have the guy to finally answer Gronk.
· The Patriots secondary vs. the Ravens receivers– The Patriots have one of the worst pass defenses in the history of the NFL. Their corners aren’t physical enough to compete with Anquan Boldin, and they are nowhere near fast enough to keep up with Torrey Smith. This is a mismatch, advantage- Ravens. The key is to catch the football. This is a situation where any kind of drop can cost you dearly. Also, if I was Cam, I wouldn’t be afraid to take SEVERAL deep shots to Lee Evans. Yes, I am aware that I said Lee Evans. Boldin is physical, but not fast. Smith is incredibly fast, but he can get slowed down easily. This leaves Lee Evans. He is faster than everyone in the Pats D, and is more physical than everyone in the secondary other than MAYBE Patrick Chung. Send him deep, and maybe some good things can happen for the veteran making his first appearance in the post-season. We saw what he could do last week with that one-handed 30 yard catch.
· Watch out for the refs in this game. We go against the favored son of the NFL, and you KNOW that any contact won’t be tolerated of the zebras. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Alberto Riverón leads the officiating crew for this game.) I hope the refs call this game fairly and let them play. If you haven’t noticed already, Brady whines like a little girl for a flag every time he is hit! Wait a second…
· The Patriots have yet to beat a team that finished above .500. How do you get all the way to the AFC title game without beating a winning team? The only winning teams they’ve played were the Giants and the Steelers. They lost both games and Brady was sub-par in both outings. The Ravens need to use this to their advantage and show the Patriots what it is like to play a winning team.
· This is going to turn into a rant very quickly. Isn’t it a coincidence that the Patriots re-hired Josh McDaniels as there OC just after the second round of the playoffs began and just before they played the Broncos? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Josh was the HC of the Broncos last year, and he DRAFTED Tebow. At the time of the hiring, there were 8 teams left. Isn’t it also a coincidence that McDaniels coached for the Rams this year against a select group of teams: the Ravens, the 49ers, the Giants, the Packers, and the Saints? That means that he has inside information on EVERY team left other than the Texans. I’m sorry Belichick, but NOT COOL!!!! It’s bad enough that you videotaped every other team to win 3 Super Bowls.
The NFL needs to step in here, this should not happen. If you want to hire a coach in the post-season, make his tenure start AFTER your team’s season is over.