|The total is currently at 49.5
Posted: 9/18/2012 11:19:30 PM
For last years' AFC Championship Game, the total was 50. Are we to believe these are virtually the same two teams as last year given the almost identical total points offered?
I can't entirely subscribe to that notion.
Pats D vs. Ravens O:
Most importantly, New England's defense, imo, has certainly improved from the last 2 years worth of subpar performances where they were ranked #25 and #31 in total defense respectively. (However, their PPG allowed was a respectable 19.6 and 21.4. "Bend don't break" at its finest).
Their first 6 draft picks in 2012 were defensive. The two 1st rounders are already starters(LB Hightower and DE Jones).
They also signed Gregory as their starting FS, an upgrade from their revolving door at this spot last season.
With Wilfork, Love, Spikes, Mayo, Ninkovich, Chung, Arrington and McCourty returning, this is an improved and very solid starting D, which can apply pressure from various spots. Underrated and rather unnoticed in my view. They have displayed cohesiveness and played with ferocity and consistency against 2(albeit mediocre) offenses in TN and AZ. They held Chris Johnson to 4 yards on 11 carries and allowed only 1 catch to Fitzgerald.
Given this, I think the Patriots will key on stopping Ray Rice. Flacco is still not a top 10 QB in my mind, nor in Belichick's, imo. He had his best playoff game(and one of his best primetime performances ever) in the AFC Championship last year. However, I am not convinced he will replicate this against an improved NE secondary. Boldin and Smith will get their catches, but I don't see either having a huge game. Pitta will get some throws his way to keep the Ravens moving. However, the uptempo, no huddle offense we have seen so far by the Ravens will likely be altered or used much less to keep Brady off the field. It's simply too taxing on the aging Ravens D to be on the field for potentially more than 30 minutes a game.
Instead, Ray Rice should be a workhorse on Sunday night, especially after Harbaugh and Cam Cameron essentially forgot about him in that last series against Philly. Unacceptable. Rice should get 25 touches at least, but will he get big chunks of yards? Not in my estimation. The Patriots should be able to keep him below 4 yards a carry and limit his YAC on receptions.
One significant change in the Ravens is their improvement on special teams. Corey Graham was brought in to help on coverage and should be useful. New kicker Tucker can boom it, as evidenced against the Eagles, with 2 FG's greater than 50 yards. This may factor into more of a conservative strategy by Harbaugh if the game is close in the 2nd half. No more blunders by Cundiff this year.