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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey  
Conference NFC : Giants at 49ers AFC : Ravens at Patriots

Prediction: BAL 20, NE 31

Line: NE by 7.5. OU = 50.5

Interesting game that should answer whether or not "defense wins championships" still has any meaning. The Patriots have almost no defense to speak of while the Ravens have little more than Ray Rice for an offense to add to their top defense. But another problem has to be acknowledged. The Patriots have won eight games in a row and are at home where they are 7-1 this season. The Ravens are only 4-4 in road games though and the only non-divisional team they could beat away from Baltimore were the Rams. The Ravens squeaked past the the Texans who had a rookie quarterback and almost nothing more than Arian Foster. Now the Pats at home will put up a far better offense and the Pats biggest weakness on defense is the same as the Ravens weakness on offense.

Baltimore Ravens
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 PIT 35-7 10 @SEA 17-22
2 @TEN 13-26 11 CIN 31-24
3 @STL 37-7 12 SF 16-6
4 NYJ 34-17 13 @CLE 24-10
5 Bye - 14 IND 24-10
6 HOU 29-14 15 @SD 14-34
7 @JAC 7-9 16 CLE 20-14
8 ARI 30-27 17 @CIN 24-16
9 @PIT 23-20 19 HOU 20-13
Ravens Report | Statistics | Roster
BALTIMORE Rush Catch Pass
QB Joe Flacco - - 250,2
RB Ray Rice 50 60 -
TE Ed Dickson - 20,1 -
WR Anquan Boldin - 70 -
WR Lee Evans - 40 -
WR Torrey Smith - 60,1 -
PK Billy Cundiff 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The entirety of this game revolves around either Joe Flacco stepping up like never before or the defense somehow knocking out Tom Brady from the game. The defense is going to be challenged like they have never been this year and the defense is going to have to respond but on the road - it just has not gone well for the Ravens who have problems preparing for and making adjustments against non-divisional opponents.

QUARTERBACK: This is the chance for Joe Flacco to show up in a playoff game in a big way - he is facing the #32 defense against both quarterbacks and wideouts. Flacco scored in al but three games but has not thrown for more than two scores since week three. His last seven games all came in with fewer than 230 passing yards.

The Patriots have allowed high yardage in most games but only once gave up more than two touchdowns to an opposing quarterback and Flacco has not been exactly prolific. The Ravens will look to run Rice as much as they can to control the ball and keep Brady off the field.

RUNNING BACKS: As good as Ray Rice has been this year, away from home he has not been very productive along with the rest of the Ravens. He has scored four rushing touchdowns but all were against divisional opponents. In five away games he failed to gain 50 rushing yards thought he has been consistently good for around 30 to 40 receiving yards every week if not more.

The Patriots have been great at home against the run because only two runners had more than 17 carries thanks to falling so far behind. Rice has yet to score on the road against a non-divisional opponent but is always good for yardage at the least. Six different runners did score in New England so Rice has a shot at a score.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Anquan Boldin has a chance for a big game here thanks to the bad secondary of the Patriots but he only has four touchdowns on the season and has not gained more than 75 yards over the last eight games. He also only scored once in a road game and that was the loss in Jacksonville. Torrey Smith has been the leading scorer for the Ravens with seven touchdowns but he's done little over the last three games. As a plus, five of his scores were on the road. Smith was shut down by Jonathan Joseph last week - the Pats have no decent cornerback.

Both players are going to need to show up this week and the trend would have Smith more likely to score.

TIGHT ENDS: The Patriots have been good against visiting tight ends with only two scoring against them and only ne had more than 50 yards. Ed Dickson has been a marginal fantasy tight end at best and scored only twice over the last nine games. Dennis Pitta sometimes figures in as well. With two passing scores likely, one may end up here but the yardage should remain low.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 24 4 29 11 9 7
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 32 20 32 3 6 3


New England Patriots
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @MIA 38-24 10 @NYJ 37-16
2 SD 35-21 11 KC 34-3
3 @BUF 31-34 12 @PHI 38-20
4 @OAK 31-19 13 IND 31-24
5 NYJ 30-21 14 @WAS 34-27
6 DAL 20-16 15 @DEN 41-23
7 Bye - 16 MIA 27-24
8 @PIT 17-25 17 BUF 49-21
9 NYG 20-24 19 DEN 45-10
Patriots Report | Statistics | Roster
NEW ENGLAND Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady - - 310,3
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis 20,1 10 -
TE Rob Gronkowski - 80,1 -
TE Aaron Hernandez - 50,1 -
WR Chad Ochocinco - 20 -
WR Deion Branch - 40 -
WR Wes Welker - 60,1 -
PK S. Gostkowski 1 FG 4 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Pats are on a roll and apparently are intent on proving that defense is overrated for winning a championship. The reality here is that the Pats have never allowed more than 24 points in a home game despite the plentiful passing yardage so it is bend but don;t break at work. At home, the Pats not only normally win, they win big and love to pour it on.

QUARTERBACK: Nothing says Tom Brady is on a mission than throwing for six touchdowns last week against the Broncos when two was plenty to win the game. But regardless, Tom was out there throwing bombs merely because he could in the fourth quarter. Brady scored in every game this year and more often had three or more touchdowns. He topped 300 yards 13 times.

But the Ravens have not allowed any quarterback to pass for more than one touchdown against them. Then again, the Ravens never faced a top quarterback all year and still gave up three 300+ yard games. Brady is a lock for high yards and two scores this week and three is not out of the question for a team that just set the NFL playoff passing record with six touchdowns.

RUNNING BACKS: The Ravens have been weaker against the run when on the road and allowed six rushing touchdowns in just the last five away games. Three different runners posted 90+ yards on them as well. That's unlikely in New England where the load is split up into fourths but BenJarvus Green-Ellis is clearly the most likely to score a touchdown with 11 of the 13 rushing scores this year.

WIDE RECEIVERS: While Chad Ochocinco has been a non-factor all year, at least Deion Branch has been effective in the last two games with one touchdown in each and 85 yards on three catches against the Broncos. But Branch has been more off than on this year and has been a marginal play all year. Wes Welker has cooled off in recent weeks but still had one touchdown versus the Broncos and yet only six catches for 55 yards. No doubt that the Ravens direct attention towards Welker but he's not even the primary receiver in recent games.

The Ravens have only allowed four scores by a wideout in a road game this year and never more than one. That makes Welker a decent play for a score and yet likely only moderate yardage.

TIGHT ENDS: What the Patriots have done with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez almost defies explanation. Gronk has proven to be almost impossible to cover and had his best game of the year just last week with 10 catches for 145 yards and three scores. He has scored more than once in eight different games. Hernandez has scored in three of the last four games and is being a bigger factor here late in the season. Both are always a decent play at worst and usually come up big. Gronk alone is going to force NFL defenses to change over the offseason.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NE 3 21 13 1 3 6
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 2 5 4 8 4 17

Conference NFC : Giants at 49ers AFC : Ravens at Patriots

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