AFC Divisional Playoffs
(6) Ravens at (1) Patriots
Ravens: I was very unsure what to expect from them as the season was coming to an end. They lost a heartbreaker to San Diego and looked awful against the Texans in week 16 but they’re in the playoffs at the end of the day. It’s been a roller coaster of a season for the Ravens. Ray Rice gets released and everybody wondered how would they replace him. That’s when we were introduced to Justin Forsett who is truly the feel-good story of the NFL. Another big piece of their offense is Steve Smith who’s shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon. He’s become what Boldin was to Flacco in his time in Baltimore. The defense as a whole has improved. When you look at their front seven, they have a top three pass rushing tandem in Sizzle and Elvis Dumervil, a run stopper in the middle in Haloti Ngata who just got back in time after a four-game suspension and the secondary which has been awful this year has improved. They kept Antonio Brown out the end zone in their win at the Steelers last week. With a win Saturday, the Ravens will appear in their fourth AFC Championship game under Harbaugh. They’ll face a rival to get there.
Patriots: I was never once worried about them when they were struggling in the beginning. You never count the Patriots out of it because they’ll fix their issues and get back to what they do best and that’s winning football games. This is the best Patriots team I’ve seen in quite some time. Brady is still Brady and has played inspired football this season, they run the ball and Gronk back is making the biggest difference. It really does help when your best players are on the field. What’s really caught my eye has been their defense. They lose Jerod Mayo for the year with a knee injury but others have stepped up. Chandler Jones has become their best defensive player and the secondary has been what we expected. Revis has become that number two corner on the depth chart and Browner has covered the number one receiver. For the fourth straight season, the Patriots are looking to advance to the AFC Championship game.
Prediction: This is a very intriguing match-up. The Ravens have shown they aren’t afraid of the Patriots. They’ve given New England fits over the years especially in the postseason. As expected, I think the Patriots will play with a chip on their shoulder. The Ravens have to put the confidence from last week behind them and move forward. I like the Ravens in this one. Ravens 28 Patriots 20.