This weekend, the Baltimore Ravens will travel to New England to play the Patriots with a trip to Indianapolis at stake. Despite arguments from readers and other writers to the contrary, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. Still, I feel obligated to share this news with the masses. The Ravens' season ends in Foxboro.
The Ravens and the Patriots are virtually polar opposites. The Ravens have a great defense and an offense that's either hit or miss, and when it's "miss," it's ugly. The Patriots, however, have one of the most proficient offenses in the league combined with one of the worst defenses. They don't pretend to have a great defensive unit. They win by scoring, not by preventing it.
With apologies to the Ravens' great, veteran defense, Tom Brady makes virtually every defense irrelevant. Aside from two of the best receiving tight ends in the game, the Patriots also have big threat wide receivers. Simply put, this will turn into a shoot out whether the Ravens want that or not.
That's the problem. Joe Flacco and the Ravens won't be able to keep up with the Patriots. It seems likely that the Patriots will try to take away the Ravens' big play capabilities, forcing them to sustain long drives. The Ravens may try that same tactic against the Patriots, but Belichick has more weapons to play with than John Harbaugh does, and that's what this game comes down to.
All too often, we get caught up by picking winners and asking questions such as, "how many points do the Ravens need to hold the Patriots to for them to have a chance of winning?" Without getting too specific, the Ravens need to hold the Patriots to 20 points to win, maybe less. Is that honestly realistic?
The simple fact of the matter is that the Ravens can only hope to slow down the Patriots and their offensive attack. Even with a sub-par day, the Patriots generally don't have any trouble putting up 24 to 28 points in a game. That's asking too much of the Ravens' offense. The way I expect this game to progress atually looks a lot like the regular season matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Patriots. The Ravens will be able to keep pace early on, maybe even leading the game, but the Patriots will simply pull away in the second half.
The Ravens have had a great season, no doubt about it, but asking the Ravens' offense to outscore the Patriots in Foxboro is a tall order for any offense. The Ravens just don't have enough fire power. If the game was in Baltimore, the scales would be tipped closer to being in the Ravens' favor. Baltimore is on the right track, but this season isn't about them. Their time is coming, but they're not there yet.
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