Friday, January 8, 2010

2010 NFL Playoff Preview: Wild Card Weekend – Ravens at Patriots

The 2010 NFL playoffs begin this Saturday. I’ll gaze into my crystal ball and try to predict the outcome of each game, while also providing you with an in-depth preview and broadcast information. Sunday, CBS starts things off with NFL Today at noon, followed by their coverage of the Ravens and Patriots squaring off, while FOX gets things going with FOX NFL Sunday at 4pm before the Packers-Cardinals game.

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots, Sunday, 1:00pm, CBS
Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in the booth.

The Patriots suffered a huge loss when Wes Welker was injured last Sunday against the Texans. While Julian Edelman can run Welker’s routes, he can’t do all the same things. Welker is fast and agile, and earns a lot of yardage after the catch. He’s basically made a living in the NFL running crossing routes just beyond the line of scrimmage.

It will be interesting to see how New England adjusts without Welker, their leading wide receiver. Randy Moss is obviously their biggest threat but the Ravens’ defense can focus more on him with Welker missing. The running game will likely be important for the Patriots, with Laurence Maroney playing great and Fred Taylor returning from an injury he suffered at the hands of this same Baltimore defense.

The Ravens have played sort of an up-and-down year. At times, they’ve looked great with a dominating defense and an incredible run game. Other times, they’ve looked sloppy, with an old defense and weak receivers.

Lately, though, we’ve seen Ray Rice emerge as one of the game’s best runners and Willis McGahee return to the same form as early in his career, when he too was one of the best in the business. Derrick Mason is again having a good but underappreciated season and Joe Flacco, when on point, does not make many mistakes.

While it’s always crazy to bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, I think I’ll do just that. The Patriots defense isn’t as mighty as it once was and the Ravens, although a little older and less dominating, are still one of the better defenses in the league. I could see Baltimore’s two-headed rushing attack running through New England and on to the second round.

Prediction: Ravens 17, Patriots 14

No comments: