Two years ago, the Baltimore Ravens traveled to New England to take on the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. The Patriots were heavily favored to win the game, but the Ravens got off to an unbelievable start: an 83-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice on the game's first offensive play, a fumble by Tom Brady to set up a short field and another quick touchdown, and two interceptions by Brady to set up another Ravens touchdown and field goal. By the end of the first quarter, it was 24-0 Ravens. With that type of lead, the Ravens' defense isn't going to cave.
This year, Brady and the Patriots' offense is much more electric. Brady threw for nearly 4,400 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2009. This year, he threw for over 5,200 yards with 39 touchdown passes. 17 of those touchdown passes went to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has become virtually undefendable. Against the Broncos last week, Brady threw for 6 touchdowns, with 3 of them going to Gronkowski. If Brady had wanted, he could have seriously thrown for 10 touchdowns against Denver.
New England finished the season at 13-3. The Ravens don't seem to have been too far behind, finishing at 12-4. They were the league's No. 1 and No. 2 ranked seeds, respectively. Still, the distance between the two teams seems drastic when you consider how the Ravens performed on the road. Including the playoffs, Baltimore was an impressive 9-0 at home this year. On the road, they were 4-4, with losses to Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle, and San Diego. None of those teams made the postseason.
Behind it all, you have Joe Flacco struggling to get the job done. There's no doubt that Ray Rice can be a difference maker. Ultimately, it comes down to Flacco stepping his game up. He didn't last week against a Texans offense that was held back by a couple of questionable throws by rookie quarterback T.J. Yates; the defense was the reason Baltimore won that game. Even if Flacco does throw the ball well, I absolutely hate the way that Cam Cameron has been calling games. There is zero flow on any given series. The Patriots won't have that problem, and I'm leaning toward them prevailing, which would prevent the Harbaugh-vs-Harbaugh Super Bowl.
Who do you think will win the AFC Championship?