For the seventh time in Tom Brady's career, he will be going to the AFC Championship Game. For those who are partial to statistics, that is 58% success rate. Even better, in these games he is 5-1 (83% win percentage). By the title of this post, you may expect it was written to be pessimistic, but it isn't meant to be. I am merely trying to play devil's advocate. Belichick and the Patriots don't win games by underestimating the opponent, so we here at Patriots Life won't underestimate the Ravens either. Even if the Patriots are a nine point favorite. This fact, incidentally, brings me to my first danger sign for the Patriots:
1. The Ravens are Serious Underdogs
It's easier to stay focused and work hard when you've got everyone telling you that you are going to lose by two scores. Luckily for the Patriots, the Texans were too. So obviously the Patriots know how to handle being the heavy favorite; however, this is just added debris to the Ravens wildfire that has been lit under them with the realization that Ray Lewis will never get another shot at a Super Bowl (or so he says). Taking us into point #2.
2. Ray Lewis
Many think that the stars are aligning for #52 after their win in Denver, and Ray Lewis is an automatic emotional boost whose value cannot be understated.
3. No Billy Cundiff
I'll be candid, I think Stephen Gostkowski is the least reliable kicker ever. Adam Vinatieri set a pretty high bar, so that may be why. (How ridiculous is it that Patriots fans still boo him? Guys, MOVE ON. He won us countless games - be thankful). The Ravens rookie kicker is a stud, so they have the kicker battle won, in my opinion.
4. Joe Flacco (Believe it or not)
Flacco is far and away the worst quarterback left in the playoffs, and his Total QBR can attest to that: 46.8 However, his career against the Patriots is actually pretty good, and Vince Wilfork was very open about this.
“He’s a great quarterback, I don’t care what nobody says about him. He seems to always have a good game against us,” claimed Wilfork in a recent press conference.
Big Vince isn't wrong. Flacco may be 2-3 against the Patriots, he still completes 65% of passes, has nine TDs and four interceptions, and averages over 250 yards passing against the Patriots.
5. Last Second Scores
Perhaps the scariest bit of information I read today featured the Ravens ability to get scores with little time left on the clock in the first and second halves, and the Patriots' tendency to allow this. The Ravens got a late score in the first half against the Broncos that made it a one possession game going into the half, and they of course scored on the 70 yard bomb with 31 seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime. Conversely, the Patriots allowed the Texans to score a touchdown with 1:15 to go, subsequently forced the Patriots to go 3-and-out, and then finished the half with a field goal to make it 17-13 instead of 17-3 in around three minutes elapsed time. Belichick is not blind to this statistic of course, and in a press conference he assessed the topic.
"We have to do what we’re doing better," Belichick said. "It’s definitely a point of emphasis and I’m sure it will be important in this game. We’ll definitely work on it...It’s a combination of better coaching, better playing, maybe better preparation, and hopefully it will be better this week."
There are always worries that must be addressed, or "points of emphasis," that need to be focused on, so this is nothing out of the ordinary for the Patriots.