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Friday, January 20, 2012
ESPN's Pats-Ravens prediction roundup

By ESPNBoston.com

A roundup of how ESPN's analysts see Saturday’s Patriots-Ravens AFC Championship Game playing out.

PatriotsRavens* ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss: Patriots 20, Ravens 17. A tipped football here or there could decide this game. The Ravens are going to bring their best shot, which is what you expect when you're talking about great players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Ray Rice. This one could come down to the wire. In the end, that look in the eyes of Tom Brady from Saturday still resonates, and I can't pick against him at home in this situation.

* ESPNBoston.com Patriots analyst Tedy Bruschi: Patriots 28, Ravens 24. This will come down to the wire. I see multiple lead changes in this game. The quarterbacks will have to be leaned on, especially in the fourth quarter. It comes down to which quarterback has the ability and experience to get that done. The answer is Tom Brady. Fans of the New England Patriots have been looking for defensive players to step up and make a name for themselves. The next generation is here and look for players like Ninkovich, Chung and Mayo to come up big.

* ESPNBoston.com columnist Jackie MacMullan: Patriots 21, Ravens 20. Tight game, small margin of error, advantage Brady and Belichick.

* ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg: Patriots 33, Ravens 14. The Patriots kick off their Revenge Tour 2011 by atoning for that 2009 wild card loss (just don't expect a 24-point first-quarter outburst like the Ravens, this one will be a little bit more of a grind with New England pulling away late). Two years ago, Ray Rice said after Baltimore's win that "We'll always remember this win." So the Ravens will have that going for them, which is nice.

* ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Rodak: Patriots 24, Ravens 21. This could be the toughest game for the Patriots this season. The Ravens didn't crush the Texans as some expected, but have a running game that could thrash a Patriots defense. The key here for the Patriots, like last week, will be to score early and maintain a lead.

* ESPNBoston.com’s Steve Krasner: Patriots 24, Ravens 10. Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense will find a way to put enough points on the board against a very physical, tough Baltimore defense, and New England's defense will hold Ray Rice in check while forcing Joe Flacco to win the game for the Ravens, which he won't be able to do.

* ESPN Boston Radio’s Adam Jones: Patriots 28, Ravens 20. Despite struggling against the run over the final month of the regular season, I think the Patriots contain Ray Rice, forcing Joe Flacco to beat them with his arm. That's bad news for the Ravens. I also believe Baltimore will do a decent job containing the Patriots tight ends, which will free up Wes Welker and Deion Branch for big days.

* ESPN Boston Radio’s Andrew Brooks: Patriots 34, Ravens 20. Strength vs. strength and weakness vs. weakness would make you think that we are in for a great AFC title game, but I just don't see it. Not that I put a whole lot of stock into the Ravens road record (4-4), I just don't see that team stopping a red hot Patriots team. Brady and the offense are coming off of another record breaking performance and even though the Ravens had the fourth-best pass defense in the league, they haven't been tested by the likes of this Patriot offense. Plus, you know that Belichick has been showing them clips of the last two times these teams met in the playoffs for extra motivation. Not a blowout, but an easy Pats win.

* Grantland's Bill Simmons: New England 37, Baltimore 26. Believe me, I know all the reasons you'd grab the points here. I visited Bristol on Tuesday, ran into Eric Mangini and listened to him break down -- for five solid minutes -- every hard-core football reason why New England was a better matchup for Baltimore than Houston was. The Mangenious put the fear of God in me. Plus, we know the Ravens will have a ton of confidence going back to New England; we know the Ravens looked worse than they actually are against Houston (and the Patriots looked better than they are); we know the Patriots are going to sell out to stop Rice and let Flacco beat them; we know it's going to be a hard-hitting game; and we know the Ravens think they can beat up Brady and New England's receivers. The recurring theme from any die-hard football follower seems to be, "You know it's gonna be close." So why pick the Pats? I'll keep it simple: If you can beat a supremely motivated Patriots team in New England -- especially this particular Patriots team, which has been lights-out offensively for two solid months and wants nothing more than to end this whole "Baltimore owns you" thing -- without a decent pass rush, a shrewd offensive coordinator, fast linebackers, or a genuinely reliable quarterback that your team totally believes in, then Tebow bless you.

* ESPN football analyst Mark Schlereth: Patriots win. I think that Patriots offense can just about outscore everybody. I think they’ll outscore the Baltimore Ravens in this game.

* ESPN football analyst Jerry Rice: Patriots win. I think with Tom Brady they’re going to utilize the no-huddle offense and wear down the old guys on that Ravens defense.

* ESPN First Take analyst Jamele Hill: Patriots 35, Ravens 31. Bottom line, offensively, I just don’t think Baltimore can do it. I think this is going to be a close game. I don’t think New England will cover but I do think the Patriots will win the game. New Engand’s offense is going to be able to keep Baltimore’s defense on the field way too long.

* ESPN First Take analyst Skip Bayless: Patriots 30, Ravens 14. This ain’t going to be close. Apologies to my frenemy Terrell Suggs. He’s about to graduate on Sunday in Foxborough from Fall So Hard University. And his profewssor is going to be one Thomas Edward Patrick Brady. … (Suggs) will be no factor in this game. This game will be completely different from that one in Foxborugh two years ago.

* ESPN experts: Seven of the eight experts pick the Patriots. Only Seth Wickersham picks the Ravens.

* Madden simulation: Patriots 34, Ravens 24. Tom Brady throws four touchdown passes, including two scores to the beast of all beastly tight ends, Rob Gronkowski, as the Patriots simply manhandle the Ravens defense in their 34-24 victory. If anything, it's New England's defense that steps up in the AFC Championship sim, picking off Joe Flacco twice, while holding Ray Rice to just 59 yards rushing.

* AccuScore simulations: Patriots 28, Ravens 21 (average of more than 10,000 simulations). Click HERE to simulate the game yourself.

* Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc. (Insider): Patriots 30, Ravens 17.

* Make your picks with our Pigskin Pick’Em contest.

* What's your prediction for Patriots-Ravens? Leave it in the comments section of this blog post.