New England Patriots: Baltimore Ravens

Countdown Live: AFC Championship Game

January, 20, 2013
1/20/13
2:30
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com and ESPNBoston.com NFL experts for the AFC Championship Game between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

ESPN's Pats-Ravens prediction roundup

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
3:52
PM ET
A roundup of how ESPN's analysts see Sunday’s Patriots-Ravens game (8:20 p.m., on NBC) playing out.

PatriotsRavens* ESPNBoston.com’s Tedy Bruschi: Ravens 27, Patriots 20. The Patriots will be better after Thanksgiving than they are right now. They are still getting used to the way Josh McDaniels calls a game. Their offensive line needs more time to improve and Aaron Hernandez's injury is big. Couple that with the concerns on special teams and you have a recipe for a loss.

* ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss: Ravens 24, Patriots 20. I expect a much better effort from the Patriots. This should be an electric environment. Given the home-field advantage, and some of the shaky play we've seen from the Patriots' offense in recent weeks, the Ravens look like the pick. Both teams have been excellent after a loss -- the Patriots are 27-3 the week after (since 2003), and the Ravens are 13-0 since 2009. The Ravens have also won 11 in a row at home. That's a lot to overcome.

* ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan: Ravens 23, Patriots 20. Had this down as a loss even before Welkergate. Tough place to play on the road against a well coached team. No need to panic if the Patriots go down -- it's a long season and New England is a work in progress.

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* ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Rodak: Ravens 28, Patriots 24. Last season, when the Patriots were on a two-game losing skid and heading to the Meadowlands, this reporter said the Patriots were heading into a hornet's nest, and predicted a Patriots loss. Battered and bruised, they pulled out that game in perhaps their best performance of the season, but this one will be different. The last time the Patriots were in Baltimore in 2007, they were 11-0 and still barely escaped with a victory over the 4-7 Ravens. Without Aaron Hernandez and coming off a surprising loss at home, the Patriots will return to New England with their first losing record since 2003.

* ESPNBoston.com’s Field Yates: Ravens 24, Patriots 23. Despite Week 2 losses, these teams remain among the most talented in the AFC, and could see each other again down the road. For the Patriots, the offense will find itself in a week of transition as it adjusts to playing without tight end Aaron Hernandez, but don't rule out Wes Welker becoming a primary target, much like he has been during his previous five seasons in New England. Ultimately, the Ravens, led by a perpetually tough defense, eke out the win, with the difference being the home field advantage.

* NFL Live: Former New England tackle Matt Light backs the Patriots: "There's a lot of hatred between these two teams. New England is gonna get back on track, get back to the basics, they're gonna be hungry for this one. They don't lose twice in a row very often." But Jerry Rice takes the Ravens, saying, "Give the ball to Ray Rice." (video below)


video * ESPN experts: Eleven of the 12 pick the Ravens. Only Mike Ditka takes the Patriots.

* AccuScore simulations: Ravens 28, Patriots 24.

* Madden 13 simulation: Patriots 35, Ravens 31. Talk about a game that lives up to the hype. The Ravens and Patriots battle for four quarters, trading scores and Hit Sticks, with the Patriots winning late thanks to Tom Brady's fourth touchdown pass of the night. Brady hits running back Stevan Ridley for the game winner, while also hitting Wes Welker for a 34-yard touchdown pass earlier in the quarter, as the Pats bounce back from an embarrassing loss last week to take down the hard-hitting Ravens in Week 3.

* Ken Moll, Scouts Inc. (Insider): Ravens 28, Patriots 27.

* 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.

Video: AccuScore report for Pats-Ravens

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
3:33
PM ET


In the video above, Cary Chow goes inside the numbers to see how the Patriots-Ravens game (8:20 p.m., NBC) plays out in AccuScore game simulations.

Among the findings:

* The Ravens won 60 percent of more than 10,000 AccuScore simulations by an average score of 28-24.

* Tom Brady is projected for nearly 300 yards passing and two scores, but in simulations the Ravens win, he averages more than one interception.

* Joe Flacco is putting up big numbers in simulations, but the key is Ray Rice. When Rice has at least 70 rushing yards on more than 4.5 yards per carry, the Ravens are 76 percent favorites.

* But in simulations in which Stevan Ridley outrushes Rice, the Pats are 61 percent favorites.

Three-point stance: Baltimore Ravens

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
8:00
AM ET
After Week 3 either the Patriots or Ravens will have a losing record, unfamiliar territory for both teams.

RavensThe Patriots haven’t had a losing record since 2003, a season-opening 31-0 loss to the Bills days after releasing safety Lawyer Milloy -- cue images of big Sam Adams returning an interception for a touchdown. Similarly, the Ravens haven’t had a losing record since being 2-3 in 2008. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Patriots have the longest active streak of games played without a losing record (145) and the Ravens have the second longest (61). Neither of these teams will need a history lesson about the other after last year’s AFC Championship Game.

Here are three areas to watch for when these heavyweights clash Sunday night in Baltimore:

1. Not surprisingly, Ray Rice is near the top of running back leaderboards again this season. Among 37 running backs with at least 20 touches this season, Rice ranks fourth with 245 yards from scrimmage (behind C.J. Spiller, Reggie Bush and Stevan Ridley) and second with a 7.0-yards per touch average. Only Ridley (18) and LeSean McCoy (14) have amassed more total first downs than Rice (13), and a lot of the credit should go to Rice’s offensive line. Rice has averaged a league-best 5.3 yards before contact per rush, a reflection of line play as much as Rice’s ability to find holes. The Patriots’ defense has been much better at containing Rice in their last two meetings, with the 2011 AFC Championship game being the first time the Patriots had held Rice to fewer than 100 total yards of offense. Bill Belichick has made a concerted effort to slow Rice and make Joe Flacco beat the Patriots, priorities that are unlikely to change Sunday night.

2. So what about Joe Flacco? Inconsistency still seems to be the lone constant for Flacco, even on a week-to-week basis. Flacco opened the season by shredding the Bengals, with a 95.1 Total QBR that ranked third best of any Week 1 quarterback. A week later, Flacco’s 24.6 Total QBR against the Eagles was sixth worst among qualifiers. Flacco’s inconsistency as compared to the threat of Rice sparked the shift in the Patriots' defensive strategy, which is reflected in the splits from the four meetings between the teams. As the Patriots’ defense focused on Rice more, Flacco had more opportunities to throw the ball. Flacco averaged seven more attempts in their last two meetings than in the first two, and on Sunday night Flacco should get his chances to throw some more. How effective he is will go a long way toward determining a winner.

3. The Ravens’ pass defense has long been the team’s calling card, between a fierce pass rush and stellar secondary play. Taking away the deep ball was an effective hallmark of Baltimore’s defense. The Ravens allowed a 40.1 completion percentage and 10.6 yards per attempt on throws at least 15 yards downfield from 2010-11, but their numbers have jumped this year. They have the eighth-worst yards-per-attempt allowed on throws at least 15 yards downfield this season and have allowed a 61.1 completion percentage, fifth worst in the NFL. The Ravens’ pass rush has been adequate without Terrell Suggs, recording six sacks through two games to rank sixth in the league. Generally speaking, Suggs is not easy to replace. Since 2008, the Ravens have averaged one sack every 16.4 dropbacks with Suggs on the field, and one every 25.6 dropbacks without Suggs.

ESPN Patriots-Ravens prediction roundup

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
10:35
AM ET
A roundup of how ESPN’s analysts see Sunday’s Patriots-Ravens game playing out:

* ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss: Patriots 24, Ravens 21. Well rested coming off a bye, this is a good spot for New England in facing a Ravens team that is already playing its fourth road game of the season. The Patriots have built some solid momentum and a win would vault them into the discussion of the NFL's elite.

* ESPNBoston.com’s Tedy Bruschi: Patriots 21, Ravens 17. This is a tough Ravens team, but I think we could be seeing an offensive rebirth with Tom Brady spreading the ball around to every receiver with a flying Elvis on his helmet. Jerod Mayo breaks through this week and makes a big play that wins the game.

* ESPN.com's Bill Simmons: PATRIOTS (-3) over Ravens. Because that little creep Justin Bieber lit a fire under Patriots Nation. Because Deion Branch never should have left. Because I'm a giant homer.

* Hank Goldberg: Picks Baltimore to beat New England. Here's the video:

* ESPN experts: Of the eight experts, only Adam Schefter and Seth Wickersham pick the Patriots over the Ravens.

* Sunday Countdown: Keyshawn Johnson picks the Patriots and Mike Ditka, Cris Carter and Tom Jackson all pick the Ravens.

* AccuScore simulation: Patriots 22.3, Ravens 21.5 (on average). You can simulate the game yourself here (Insider).

* Madden simulation: Ravens 33, Patriots 23. With the Patriots up 20-19 heading into the fourth quarter, the Ravens' offense went to work, scoring 14 points in the final minutes of the game while holding New England to just three fourth-quarter points. The Ravens' game-clinching touchdown came on a 41-yard pass from Joe Flacco to T.J. Houshmandzadeh as the Ravens move to 5-1 on the season.

* Ken Moll, Scouts, Inc.: Ravens 23, Patriots 21. (Insider)

* NFL Live: In this video clip, Mark Schlereth picks the Ravens to win and Herm Edwards takes New England.

* Make your Week 6 picks with our Pigskin Pick’Em contest.

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

Video: NFL Live Pats-Ravens breakdown

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
9:18
AM ET


Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth and Herm Edwards break down Sunday’s Patriots-Ravens game in the NFL Live clip above.

Schlereth on why he likes the Ravens to win: “When you’re playing football, the team that controls the line of scrimmage wins nine times out of 10. And I think the Baltimore Ravens can control that line of scrimmage, get that running game going and keep Tom Brady and that offense off the field.”

Edwards on why he likes the Patriots to win: “New England plays a different brand of football ... they’re going to take the Ravens’ strengths away from them. In other words, they’re going to play outside the numbers with bunch formations, moving tight ends outside the numbers to get guys out of the box so when they want to run the ball they have the ability to do that.

“But when they really want to do is throw short passes and let their athletes make plays outside the numbers, and that is why, to date, the New England Patriots are the highest scoring team in the National Football League.”

Video: Three keys for Patriots vs. Ravens

October, 14, 2010
10/14/10
10:11
AM ET


In the video clip above, Mike Reiss gives his three keys for the Patriots against the Ravens on Sunday:

* Run defense: Baltimore gained 233 rushing yards against the Broncos last week, and, if you remember, plowed over the New England defense on the ground in last year’s playoff victory to the tune of 234 yards rushing.

* Turnover differential: Ravens have just 3 takeaways and 9 giveaways. Their minus-6 differential tied for 30th-worst in the NFL. This is an area the Patriots will need to capitalize on.

* Energy and emotion: Patriots will have to match the always-fired-up Ravens.

By the numbers: Rough first quarter

January, 10, 2010
1/10/10
2:29
PM ET
A handful of notes from the wizards at ESPN Stats and Info:

* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 24 points allowed in the first quarter is the most allowed by any team coached by Bill Belichick in any quarter, regular season or postseason.

* The Patriots haven't allowed more than 20 points in a home playoff game since their last home playoff loss -- the 1978 AFC divisional, when they fell to the Houston Oilers, 31-14.

* The Ravens are the first team to lead a playoff game 24-0 at the end of the first quarter since the Jaguars led the Dolphins, 24-0, in a 1999 AFC wild card. The final score that day: 62-7.

* The Patriots were 8-0 at home in the regular season and the most points allowed in a game at Gillette Stadium this season was 24 in a Week 1 win over Buffalo.

* The 24 points allowed is already the second-most allowed at home by the Patriots in the playoffs. How the Patriots have fared in the postseason in Foxborough:

2007 AFC Championship NEW ENGLAND 21, San Diego 12 (January 20, 2008)
2007 AFC Divisional NEW ENGLAND 31, Jacksonville 20 (January 12, 2008)
2006 AFC Wild Card NEW ENGLAND 37, N.Y. Jets 16 (January 7, 2007)
2005 AFC Wild Card NEW ENGLAND 28, Jacksonville 3 (January 7, 2006)
2004 AFC Divisional NEW ENGLAND 20, Indianapolis 3 (January 16, 2005)
2003 AFC Championship NEW ENGLAND 24, Indianapolis 14 (January 18, 2004)
2003 AFC Divisional NEW ENGLAND 17, Tennessee 14 (January 10, 2004)
2001 AFC Divisional NEW ENGLAND 16, Oakland 13 (OT) (January 19, 2002)
1997 AFC Wild Card NEW ENGLAND 17, Miami 3 (December 28, 1997)
1996 AFC Championship NEW ENGLAND 20, Jacksonville 6 (January 12, 1997)
1996 AFC Divisional NEW ENGLAND 28, Pittsburgh 3 (January 5, 1997)
1978 AFC Divisional Houston 31, NEW ENGLAND 14 (December 31, 1978)
OK, so the Patriots have dug themselves quite a hole here, but is all hope lost? Chat with ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss and Chris Forsberg, ESPN.com AFC East blogger Tim Graham, AFC North blogger James Walker, Jeremy Green and Matt Williamson from Scouts Inc. and the folks at ESPN Stats and Info to get in-game analysis and share your thoughts.

Gostkowski's range on FGs

January, 10, 2010
1/10/10
12:15
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski appeared to experience troubles at both ends of the field during pregame attempts at Gillette Stadium as the ball did not carry well at either end.

To the closed end, with the wind and where the ball tends to carry better, Gostkowski connected from 49 yards, then made his second attempt from 53 (the first came up short).

At the open end of the stadium, Gostkowski missed from 48 and two attempts at 50 (the first short, the second wide).

The ball doesn't seem to be carrying well in the cold with Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff experiencing similar troubles at both ends (Cundiff appeared to miss attempts from 49 and 53 to the closed end, coming up short from both distances).

Wendell should ease loss of Connolly

January, 10, 2010
1/10/10
11:47
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots first-year offensive lineman Ryan Wendell, signed back to the 53-man roster on Dec. 31, is active today and likely to aid in the loss of injured Dan Connolly (ankle).

Wendell appeared in the Patriots' first two games of the 2009 season, utilized in special teams roles against the Bills and Jets. He was released on Sept. 22, but signed back to the practice squad two days later.

Wendell could be utilized as the fullback in short-yardage situations, while also providing depth on the interior of the line.

The Patriots elevated Wendell back to the active roster late last month, while releasing defensive lineman Titus Adams.

Connolly headlined the list of today's inactives, but there were not any surprises among the bunch. What's more, the Patriots sacrifice no playoff experience none of the eight inactives have appeared in a postseason contest.

Most of the inactives appear to be depth decisions. Those that have played larger roles this season like running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and offensive lineman Mark LeVoir were simply squeezed out by needs at other spots. The Patriots can lean on Sammy Morris and Wendell if needed at fullback role, while rookie Sebastian Vollmer provides depth at tackle.

Today's inactives

January, 10, 2010
1/10/10
11:34
AM ET
Here are today's inactives:

New England Patriots
QB/WR Isaiah Stanback
DL Ron Brace
OL Dan Connolly
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
OL Mark LeVoir
OL Rich Ohrnberger
CB Terrence Wheatley
LB Thomas Williams

Baltimore Ravens
QB John Beck (third QB)
WR Justin Harper
DB Marcus Paschal
DB Keith Fitzhugh
OL David Hale
OL Tony Moll
DT Kelly Talavou
LB/DL Paul Kruger
A roundup of how folks at ESPN are picking Sunday’s playoff game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots are favored by 3½ points.

  • ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss: Patriots 20, Ravens 17. In a game that could go in either direction, the Tom Brady-led Patriots will find a way to get it done.

  • ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg: Patriots 23, Ravens 20. It's been 23 months since Tom Brady walked off the field in Glendale, Ariz. following the Patriots' shocking loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots probably don't have the talent (or health) for a trip to Super Bowl XLIV, but it's hard to imagine No. 12, he of the perfect 8-0 postseason record in Foxborough, settling for a one-and-done after waiting this long for another taste of playoff football.

  • Bill Simmons: Patriots 24, Ravens 16. The Pats were a smoke-and-mirrors team to some degree; they didn't play one great game against a good team, struggled mightily against the pass and were predictable offensively. It had all the makings of one of those "we just didn't have it" years, but everyone was overrating them as a contender. Now, Wes Welker's soul-crushing injury and news of Brady's various injuries restored the natural order for them: They went from overrated and undefinable to slightly underrated and definable. They're the banged-up, grind-it-out, everyone's-underestimating-us, teeming-with-pride Patriots again. The crowds have been spotty for the past few years, but I'm expecting a monster effort Sunday. Everyone loved Welker: players, coaches, fans, everyone. The rest of the season is for him. Too bad it probably won't last past next week.

  • Tedy Bruschi: Patriots 24, Ravens 17.

  • ESPN's experts: Five of the eight pick the Patriots to beat the Ravens.

  • Sunday Countdown: Cris Carter, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson pick the Patriots. Mike Ditka picks the Ravens.

  • Hank Goldberg: Takes Baltimore (with the points). Looking for the Baltimore running game to keep them alive in this one and at least keep it close. The one thing you should know, this is not the old New England team. Yes they are 8-0 at home and with Brady they are 8-0 in home playoff games, but only 4-3-1 against the point spread in home playoff games with Brady.

  • Mike and Mike: Mike Golic predicts the Patriots will really miss Wes Welker, but still thinks they’ll beat the Ravens. Mike Greenberg also takes the Patriots.

  • Herm Edwards: Patriots 24, Ravens 17. “We’re talking about a team, the New England Patriots, that can score a lot of points, and I think they score big this week.”

  • Mark Schlereth: Picks the Patriots. “One thing we know about New England is they don’t lose playoff games at home.”

  • Madden simulation: Patriots 31, Ravens 17.

  • AccuScore simulation: Partriots 25, Ravens 23

  • Pick all of this weekend's playoff games yourself in our Gridiron Playoff Challenge.


AccuScore predicts that Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco will play a determining role in whether Baltimore stands a chance against New England on Sunday.

Jenny Dell breaks it down in the video clip above:

If Flacco can throw for at least one touchdown and no more than one interception while getting an average of 4.5 yards per carry from the running game, the Ravens are a 56 percent favorite.

But if Flacco is sacked more than three times and turns the ball over two or more times, the Patriots are 77 percent favorites.

Enjoying the experience

January, 7, 2010
1/07/10
12:32
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One prevalent theme during Wednesday's media access at Gillette Stadium was how much veteran players have learned to savor the playoff experience, many noting that you never know if you'll get another opportunity to simply compete for a Super Bowl crown. Here's a sampling of their thoughts on the second season:

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady

Brady expressed excitement at being one of just 12 teams still playing this season and, while talking about his last playoff experience, a loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, he found a silver lining for the Patriots' 2009 squad.

"I think that one always sticks with us," said Brady. "I think the thing you take from it in a positive way, is that [the Giants] were a team that didn’t look like they had as good a chance as other teams to advance that far, as a [fifth] seed... I think that really means any team is alive, whether it’s the six-seed Ravens or the three-seed Patriots, or going right up and down the list. It’s really pretty cool to be in this position and to have the opportunity to play here in the playoffs. There are only 12 teams playing this week and a lot of teams’ seasons are ended and guys are home and we still have the good fortune to still be playing, so I think you have to try to take advantage of that opportunity."

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis

Speaking of Super Bowls against the Giants, Lewis noted that, eight years removed from his team's triumph over the G-Men in Super Bowl XXXV, he's learned to enjoy postseason football.

"I think we just have to -- and this is something that we talk about -- enjoy the ride. It’s just football. It doesn’t change, it’s just football. Nobody is asking us to go build a rocket, or go fly to the moon. No, we are just going out there to play football. Football doesn’t change and that is the beauty of the way us guys understand it. We went to the AFC Championship last year and we lost it. But guess what? We are back in it again for another opportunity to go back and all you can ask for is an opportunity, and that what we want, just an opportunity. Bottom line is if you can get that opportunity, grab the moment man, don’t let everybody push you away with ‘There’s so much pressure. What if this, what if that?’ Forget about the what ifs and just go have fun and play football and that’s what we’re focusing on. Wherever we end up, that’s where we end up."

Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas

After the Patriots went 11-5 last year, only to be shut out from the postseason, Thomas noted that you have to play like you might never get another chance in the playoffs.

“You never know when you’ll ever get a chance to do it again," said Thomas. "It’s amazing that you kind of take it for granted when you go for the first five years of your career then you can take it for granted. But then you have some guys that have never been and they’ve been in the league six or seven years and this is their first time going to the playoffs, then it becomes a humbling experience. You definitely have to take advantage of the opportunity whenever you have the chance to go out there and play in the playoffs. It’s win or go home.... A lot of people are at home. You get the opportunity to go back out there and play one more time, so you have to be excited about that.”

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