With the Patriots and Ravens both advancing to the AFC Title game this Sunday, two teams who are basically exact opposites of each other on paper are set to square off. Lets look at the match ups, both team and individual that are sure to make this game one of the best in a while.

Patriots Offense- With one of the most prolific offenses in the league the least of the Patriots worries are on the offense. Look for the Patriots to come out quick with the hurry up offense to start off. I don’t expect to see many runs from the Patriots at all, maybe a few out of the shotgun, but that’s all. Also look for the Patriots to big TE’s, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, to start strong. The Patriots really rely on these two guys to set the tempo. If Hernandez, Gronk, or Branch can stretch the field relatively early, look for Wes Welker to catch some passes underneath. If not look for Welker on some screens or out patterns toward the sidelines. Brady will have to watch out for Ed Reed on the long passes, though.

Ravens Offense- Make no mistake about it, the Ravens offense heavily relies on the running of Ray Rice. Look for the Ravens to come out with a run heavy offense on their first possessions. They’re going to try to slow down the Patriots hurry up offense by keeping Brady and the offense on the sidelines. I expect Rice to get upwards of 25 carries if he is gaining yards. If Ray Rice isn’t gaining yards or the Ravens are playing from behind, than the offense is in trouble. Joe Flacco is a solid QB, but not a top-level QB. If the Patriots defense gets to Flacco early, it may be hard for him to recover. With Anquan Boldin not the threat that he used to be, the Ravens offense could be in trouble.

Patriots Defense- With the Patriots defense getting healthy at just the right time, they might not be as bad off as some think. Yes, they did give up a huge amount of yards and ranked 31st in total D. But what many overlook is that the Patriots also ranked 2nd in takeaways. If the Patriots D can force the Ravens offense into some untimely turnovers, the already sluggish Ravens offense is going to have a tough time. With Chung and Spikes returning to help sure up a defense that has seen a large amount of injuries, the Patriots are better off than they were during the regular season. With McCourty seeing more time as a safety, his speed should make Flacco think twice about throwing it long down field. As long as Wilfork and the rest of the D line can at least slow down Ray Rice, they should be fine.

Ravens Defense- The Ravens defense has been it’s staple for many years. It’s also been the reason why the Ravens have been successful. With Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, two all time great players at their positions, the Ravens defense is definitely the strong suit of their team. With these two guys getting up there in age and slowing down, other players are beginning to step up. This is not to say that Reed and Lewis aren’t still good. Reed is still one, if not the top safety in the league. Lewis is still a beast in the run game, and the best pass reading linebacker I’ve ever seen. Two guys who  are following in their footsteps though are Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. These two guys are the ones who really make opposing QB’s read the defense a second time. Pair this to the fact that Reed and Lewis are on the field, and you’ve got four of the NFL’s best players trying to stop you.

Individual Match Ups

Look for Ray Lewis to cover Gronkowski with help over the top from either a safety or a corner. When Hernandez and Gronk are on the field at the same time look for mismatches on either Hernandez or Welker. The mismatches will be there.








Suggs Vs. Brady- When Terrell Suggs comes after Tom Brady it’s going to be quick and hard. Look for Brady to get knocked down by Suggs once or twice. If Brady’s blocking calls are off then he’s going to be in trouble.

Score: Patriots 34- Ravens 24

Patriots offense is just going to be too much for the aging Ravens D. The heavy run offense of the Ravens is going to have to go to the air and try to play catch up to the high-powered Patriots offense.