As the NFL playoffs begin to draw to an end, all focus falls on the remaining games to decide who will fight for the coveted Super Bowl trophy. For the AFC, a champion will be named Sunday night as the Baltimore Ravens travel to face off against the New England Patriots.
Emotions will be running high for the Ravens as this could be the last game of legendary linebacker Ray Lewis’ career. The future hall of famer will make sure his team heads into this matchup fully prepared and ready to take on Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady and the rest of the offense.
For the Ravens to succeed on offense in this one they will have to rely on quarterback Joe Flacco to control the ball and make the big throws when they need it. They best way Flacco can accomplish this is to get the ball to running back Ray Rice.
Whether the talented running back gets the ball from a hand off or Flacco dishes it out in the flats, when Rice has the ball his explosion and speed can get the offense moving and put points on the board. The rest of the Ravens’ offense have to step up when their names are called but the biggest impact on offense must come from Rice.
Defensively for Baltimore, the defensive line has to find a way to pressure Brady and knock him out of rhythm. If he is able to stand tall in the pocket, he will pick apart the Ravens’ secondary and march his team down the field.
Safety Ed Reed has to be a leader in that secondary and close down the passing lanes from Brady and New England’s wide receiver Wes Welker.
As for the Patriots, their focus on defense will be containing Rice and making sure he does not get to the edge for a big gain. When Rice is shut down on offense, the success rate of Baltimore drops far lower than when he’s a major impact.
Along with the Ravens’ running back, New England has to key on receiver Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith whose speed and size can cause problems for any secondary.
Offensively, the Patriots have really one job to do, protect their quarterback and allow him to control the game. With a quarterback like Brady, all they have to do is give him time and he will find the open man for a big gain.
This will be an emotional battle for both teams as they fight for their spot in the final game to decide who will be crowned Super Bowl champions.