It has been nearly two decades since two teams met in back to back conference title games but here we have it, the Baltimore Ravens will again challenge the New England Patriots for the AFC Championship. The game takes place this Sunday at 6:30pm ET in Foxboro on the Patriots’ home turf. The odds are stacked against the Ravens but the odds seemed stacked against the Ravens last weekend before they defeated the Denver Broncos despite being the 9 point underdog.
For this weekend, the Patriots are favored to win the game with a 9 point spread and an over/under that is at 51.5 points
Before we get to all the reasons why the Patriots should win this game, let’s look at some reasons why the Ravens can win this game. Ravens QB Joe Flacco has a career total of 5 post-season wins on the road, tied for first with Eli Manning for 1st in NFL history for a starting QB. As an organization, the Ravens have the 3rd best post-season road win record in the NFL. Flacco has consistently thrown deep passes in the playoffs for multiple TDS and no INTs on such passes; which might be a big problem for New England’s weak pass defense. RB Ray Rice is the highest 2012 post-season rusher left in the playoffs, he has 199 yards over his past two games. Flacco’s 2012 post-season passer rating is better than Patriot QB Tom Brady’s despite having played an extra game. Ravens’ WR Anquan Bolden is thus far the NFL’s top post-season receiver for 2012.
While New England lost to Baltimore 31-30 in Week 3 in Baltimore, Brady is 86-15 throughout his career when playing at home. Brady has the most post-season wins of any NFL QB past or present. The Patriots beat the Ravens in last year’s AFC Championship in New England. This season the Patriots scored an average of 34.8 points per game to Baltimore’s 24.9 points per game. Baltimore’s defense allowed an average of 21.5 points a game this season and New England’s defense allowed 20.7 points a game. All-time, Brady has a 94.9 QBR against four or fewer Ravens pass rushers and this season Brady has the league’s second best passer rating against five or more pass rushers. New England had an 11-1 conference record this season while the Ravens were 8-4, teams in your conference play each other more often and are thus more likely to have better scouting and preparation.
Now let’s think of some reasons why New England might not cover the spread. While at home this season the Patriots beat Denver 31-21 just two weeks after losing 31-30 at Baltimore; and last week Baltimore beat Denver at Denver 38-35OT. That seems like a pretty competitive grouping right there. With Ray Lewis retiring at the end of this season, the Ravens are playing outstanding and inspired football. Their win over Indianapolis 24-9 in the wild card round was a phenomenal score when the spread only 7.5 points favoring Baltimore. Baltimore’s win last weekend at Denver was in the face of a 9 point spread favoring Denver. And, last year’s AFC title matchup between these teams ended in a score of 23-20 for New England. New England star TE Rob Gronkowski will be out this weekend because he broke his arm last weekend; yes the Patriots held onto the lead last week weekend after he left the game, but against the Ravens’ defense that could be a different story. Finally, if Ray Rice continues to run the ball so often for the Ravens, the Ravens defense gets more rest and that means that Tom Brady will be on the field less.
All the numbers this season say that this game should go over 52 points. As for the spread, many people are considering this to be a spread that has been set too wide. Yes, Tom Brady at home in the playoffs is a fantastic bet; but looking at the way the Ravens are playing as a team right now makes that spread seem much more difficult to cover than it might have a month ago. New England deserves to be the favorite but the spread is questionable.
Sportsbooks offering NFL Betting for US Players:
Sportsbooks offering NFL Betting for Canadians: