NFL Nation: Ravens-Patriots Quick Take 2012

Quick Take: Ravens at Patriots

January, 15, 2012
1/15/12
5:54
PM ET
Three things to know about Sunday's AFC Championship Game between the second-seeded Baltimore Ravens (13-4) and top-seeded New England Patriots (14-3):

1. Protect Joe Flacco: The Ravens quarterback will get criticized for the fact that he completed 14 of 27 passes against the Houston Texans. But Flacco didn't get much help from the offensive line. He was sacked a season-high five times (matching his total at San Diego last month) and it was mainly against Houston's front four. New England showed an aggressive pass rush against Denver, sacking Tim Tebow five times. The Patriots ranked 14th in the NFL in the regular season with 40 sacks.

2. Cover the tight ends: The focus of the Ravens' pass defense will be slowing New England's tight ends. Rob Gronkowki and Aaron Hernandez combined for 14 catches for 200 yards and four touchdowns in the divisional playoffs. Baltimore hasn't faced many elite tight ends this year, but it has contained a few good ones. The Ravens limited the likes of San Diego's Antonio Gates (two catches for 31 yards) and San Francisco's Vernon Davis (four for 38 yards). Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham (five for 72 yards) and Pittsburgh's Heath Miller (five for 73) have had solid games against Baltimore.

3. Get the ball in Ray Rice's hands: The Ravens are 9-0 this season when Rice gets at least 20 carries in a game, even though he was held to 60 yards on 21 carries (2.9 yards per attempt) in the divisional-round win against Houston. The last time the Ravens played a postseason game in New England, Rice scored on the first offensive play of the game -- running 83 yards for a touchdown. It was the second-longest run in NFL postseason history and set the pace for a 33-14 win for the Ravens. New England ranked 24th in yards given up per carry (4.6) this season.

Quick Take: Ravens at Patriots

January, 15, 2012
1/15/12
4:48
PM ET
Three things to know about Sunday's AFC Championship Game between the Baltimore Ravens (13-4) and New England Patriots (14-3):

It's only fitting: The Ravens and Patriots have been the best teams in the AFC all season, so it's only right that they settle it on the field to see who represents the conference in the Super Bowl. Baltimore and New England did not meet during the regular season. The teams last met in 2010 when New England won in overtime. The Patriots and Ravens also split two meetings in 2009, with New England winning in the regular season and Baltimore winning in the playoffs.

Quarterback disparity: New England's biggest advantage will be at the most important position: quarterback. The Patriots have Tom Brady, who is coming off an NFL-playoff record six touchdown passes and 363 yards passing against the Denver Broncos. Brady is peaking at the right time. Meanwhile, Baltimore counterpart Joe Flacco is inconsistent. Flacco had another shaky postseason outing against the Houston Texans on Sunday, completing 14 of 27 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Clearly, Flacco must play better at New England.

Patriots' D needs to keep momentum: Was it New England's defense, or was it the opponent? The Patriots played their best defensive game of the season, holding the Broncos to just 10 points and 252 yards. New England baffled Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, holding him to 136 yards passing and sacking him five times. New England will be tough to beat if its defense maintains this level of play. Of course, the Ravens have more dynamic weapons on offense and present a stiffer challenge than the Broncos.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFL SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/18
Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22
WEEKLY LEADERS