NFL playoffs 2012: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
Why the Ravens can win: They have the sort of balance that could give the Patriots problems. The Ravens ranked third in the league in scoring defense and 12th in scoring offense during the regular season. They weren’t particularly overpowering on offense in their playoff win at home over the Texans, but turned two Houston turnovers into first-quarter TDs and held on from there. The Ravens probably will need to use the running of RB Ray Rice to control the game on offense, and mix in a few big plays in the passing game with QB Joe Flacco looking to WRs Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. The defense likely needs a significant contribution by LB Terrell Suggs, who tied for fifth in the league with 14 sacks during the regular season but had a quiet pass-rushing day against the Texans and was held without a sack.
Why the Patriots can win: They’ve won nine straight games, including their triumph over the Broncos at home in a conference semifinal when Brady tied the NFL single-game postseason record with six TD passes. They’re 8-1 at home this season, and Brady and Coach Bill Belichick are one win from their fifth Super Bowl appearance together. Three of Brady’s TD passes against the Broncos went to TE Rob Gronkowski, who continued his superb season. A New England defense that ranked 31st in the league during the regular season had five sacks against the Broncos and limited Denver QB Tim Tebow to 136 passing yards on nine-for-26 accuracy.