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AFC Divisional Preview: Ravens vs. Patriots
By Mike Jasko

Since the turn of the century, no two teams have had as much postseason success as the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots. The Patriots have the NFL’s best post season record (18-8) over the past 15 years while the Ravens (15-7) are second in that category. This Saturday, these two teams square off for the fourth time in six years and once again, it’s in Foxboro.

Joe Flacco

With Tom Brady at the helm, the Patriots possess a 12-3 home playoff record, making them as difficult a team to beat in New England. However, if there is once team poised to win in January in Foxboro, it’s the Ravens. Joe Flacco’s seven playoff wins is an NFL record and Baltimore has handed the Patriots two of their three home playoff losses since 2000. Flacco has been on a tear of late; throwing for over 500 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions over the last two games.

Flacco threw for a career high 3,986 yards this season and 27 touchdowns, also a career high. His top target this season has been Steve Smith. Smith notched his eighth 1,000 yard receiving season. Most of Flacco’s TD’s were thrown to the Raven’s #2 receiver, Torrey Smith, who had 12 touchdowns in the regular season. The Ravens’ running game recovered nicely after the Ray Rice fiasco; Justin Forsett became a surprise star, rushing for 1,266 yards on an impressive 5.4 yards per carry.

The Ravens’ defense was strong against the rush (4th in the NFL), and weak against the pass (23rd in the NFL) during the regular season. This could be good news for New England, who boasted the 3rd best scoring offense this season, led largely by Tom Brady’s Passing attack. Brady threw for 4,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. Brady’s top target was Rob Gronkowski during the regular season. Gronk had 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

After starting the season 2-2, the Patriots rattled off seven straight wins en route to a 12-4 record and a bye in the playoffs. Tom Brady threw for over 4,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season, as the 37-year-old quarterback looks for a fourth Super Bowl ring.

The Ravens did well to stop one of the best scoring offenses last week in Pittsburgh; they will have to have similar success this week if they're to find another road playoff victory. The Patriots had the fourth best scoring offense during the regular season.

The last time that these sides met, it was two years ago in the AFC Championship, and the Ravens outscored the Patriots 21-0 in the second half on their way to a Super Bowl title. Few players remain for the Ravens from that team. After knocking off Pittsburgh last week, Flacco is looking to get back to the AFC Championship game and will have to once again find a way to win in Foxboro to do so. 

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