First, I am sorry for the complete failure to post for the last 6 weeks or so. The holidays with an infant, as well as being an Athletic Trainer are exhausting and draining and something had to give and blogging was one of those things.
Secondly, FINALLY! We are on to the playoffs and this years divisional round will be no patsy like the previous 3: Tebow-led Denver, Sorry Matt Schaub led Texans and the well quarterbacked but ultimately lousy Colts.
This year brings in the big, bad Baltimore Ravens which is a team I hate, but they basically embody everything you need to win in the playoffs:
1) Battle tested QB who can make plays.
2) Good if not great OL and dangerous running game.
3) Physical, smashmouth defense
4) Confidence that they are indeed one tough team that will not be pushed around.
One of the best FA signings of last year was their signing of Steve Smith. He’s a perfect Raven: Tough, extremely physical, a playmaker and also a total asshole. I really wanted NE to get him but he’s where he belongs.
The Ravens do have a new offensive scheme thanks go Gary Kubiak, and it seems to have fit Justin Forsett to a tee. What that also means is that there will be a lot of cut blocking by the Ravens and Patriots’ defenders are going to have to have their heads on a swivel for some borderline cheap-shots in the run game.
As for the Patriots, they are FINALLY healthy and have almost all of their players for once in the playoffs. The only one their missing however is one that is tailor-made for this game and that is Jerod Mayo. He’s great in these trench-warfare type of games.
So, since they are healthy for the most part, and have home field advantage they should win this game right?
One would think so, but this game will come down to nothing but a willingness to jump into the pig pen with the pigs (Ravens) and love the dirt and mud more than they do. They want a steel cage match, fist-fight, what-have-you…the Pats have to prove they can because that’s what it takes to beat the Ravens this time of year.
1) Our O-Line/TE’s and RB’s be better than their front 7.
2) Tom Brady needs to be willing to take shot after shot and keep standing in their and firing bullets because I don’t think we’ll stick with the running game long enough to see it be effective.
1) This is the game we got Browner and Revis for. Flacco is going to take shot after shot downfield and it’s absolutely imperative that we do not allow them big plays.
2) Win in the trenches. I like our chances because we have 3 big NT’s in Wilfork, Branch and Sealger. If our end’s and OLB’s can set the edges…Collins and Hightower should be able to clean up the cutback lanes.
3) Pressure Joe Flacco. Last time we played, when we had Talib for the first half our D which was much less talented was able to slow them down to the point of holding them to 7 points at half and that was with no pass rush, whatsoever. This year I expect Flacco to be under much more duress than in any other time he’s faced NE in a playoff game.
Keys: Special Teams
1) Most crucial is not allowing Jacoby Jones to get started. He’s a massive weapon and while our guys are good, occasionally, they have lapses and that cannot happen today. He’s too good.
2) No turnovers on returns. Sometimes Edelman takes chances…and most of the time that’s a good thing but he and Amendola are not big, and prone to putting it on the deck. I think they are really going to try and wipe out Amdendola on KO’s so I am not sure I wouldn’t put Blount back there and let him pound away.
At the end of the day, this is all about which team is more physical over 60 minutes. If the Pats play to their ability, they will win this game and they might even blow them out. If they are reactive, and are forced into mistakes they will lose again like they have 2 of the last 3.