The New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens both advanced to the AFC Championship Game by winning shootouts last week, with the Patriots routing Houston 41-28 in a game that was not that close as New England once led 38-13, and the Ravens upsetting the top seeded Denver Broncos 38-35 in double overtime.
This is a rematch of a regular season game that was also a shootout with the Ravens rallying to win 31-30 while accumulating 503 yards of offense in a game refereed by the replacement officials. New England is -9 to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl with the total set at a bloated 51.
PATRIOTS – RAVENS 2013 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP BETTING LINE:
1. Why Baltimore will cover the spread: The Ravens will cover this spread if Ray Rice rushes for 100 yards. It has already been proven that as Rice goes, so go Joe Flacco and the rest of the Baltimore offense. Rice was often underutilized this season, and the Baltimore offense usually sputtered on those occasions. However, Rice did rush for 101 yards in the regular season meeting between these clubs, and as a result, Flacco passed for 382 yards and the Ravens scored 31 points. Then in the divisional round vs. the Broncos, Rice rushed for 131 yards and Flacco threw for 331, leading to the stunner.
This time around, the Ravens may rely more on Rice and less on Flacco, as the last thing Baltimore may want is another shootout the way the New England offense looked last week.
2. Why New England will cover the spread: The Patriots will cover the spread if their own running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen run the ball as well as they did last week when New England rushed for 122 yards. While both teams have the same key of running the ball well, the reason for doing so is decidedly different for each team. While the Ravens need to run to eat up clock and keep Tom Brady off the field, the Patriots need to run to force the Baltimore defense to respect the rushing game, because when that happens, Brady becomes practically indefensible. Such was the case vs. the Texans as the fine New England running game allowed Brady to pass for 344 yards and three touchdowns.
3. Total Talk: While last week’s two results and the regular season meeting this year are freshest in everyone’s minds, remember that this is also an AFC Championship Game rematch from last season that the Patriots won 23-20 with that game staying ‘under’. Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs played together for the first time all year the last two weeks, and after holding the Colts without a touchdown, that duo combined for 20 tackles and seven assists last week with the Baltimore defense really allowing only 21 points, as Denver scored on two kick returns by the diminutive Trindon Holliday.
Look for a more typical NFL playoff game here that is lower scoring than the two shootouts last week with the Ravens staying inside the big spread.
4. Betting Trends for Patriots/Ravens: The ‘under’ is 5-2 in the Ravens’ last seven games after allowing more than 30 points in their previous game.
New England 27 – Baltimore 20
GUESS THE SCORE OF THE PATRIOTS – RAVENS GAME BELOW