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Friday, January 8, 2010
AFC North Final Word: Ravens-Patriots

By James Walker

AFC: Ravens-Patriots: Graham | Walker Jets-Bengals: Graham | Walker
NFC: Cowboys-Eagles: Mosley Packers-Cardinals: Sando | Seifert

Ed Reed
Despite a nagging hip injury, Baltimore safety Ed Reed will make his presence felt against the Patriots.
Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens (9-7) and New England Patriots (10-6):

Reed factor: Ravens Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed is banged up with a hip injury. But Reed usually finds a way to make a big play in Baltimore's most important games. Last year Reed took an interception back for a touchdown in a wild-card victory over the Miami Dolphins. If he gets his hands on the ball Sunday, it could spell trouble for the Patriots. Look for Reed to be important in trying to defend against the dangerous combination of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Randy Moss. The season-ending knee injury to Wes Welker should help Reed narrow his focus.

Patriots are trendy: If you're into trends, New England has a lot of reasons to be favored in this game. The Patriots are 8-0 at home this season, while Baltimore is 3-5 on the road. New England also is 5-0 all time against Baltimore, which includes the Patriots' 27-21 victory in the regular season on Oct. 4. The quarterback matchup between Brady and Joe Flacco also heavily favors the Patriots. There are a lot of advantages statistically and on paper for New England.

Talking about Willis: Baltimore starting tailback Ray Rice will get a lot of attention from New England's defense. But an under-the-radar player who could have a key role is Ravens backup running back Willis McGahee. The seven-year veteran had the hot hand with 167 rushing yards and three touchdowns in last week's win over the Oakland Raiders. It was McGahee's first 100-yard game in more than a year. McGahee leads Baltimore with 12 rushing touchdowns and could be asked to get some important carries this week in the red zone.