AFC Championship preview: Ravens at Patriots
Line: Patriots favored by 9.5.
A rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game is set for Sunday as the Baltimore Ravens will travel to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots were able to squeeze out a nail-biter in last year’s game on their way to the Super Bowl in a 23-20 victory. Kicker Billy Kundiff missed a late-game field goal that would have tied the game and sent it to overtime.
Joe Flacco missed several opportunities during the final drive in Patriots territory that could have potentially won the game.
The Ravens were able to avenge the championship loss in Week 3 in a comeback victory in which the Ravens rallied from 9 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Patriots. Rookie kicker Justin Tucker was able to get redemption by hitting a 27-yarder as time expired to beat the Patriots 31-30.
Flacco passed for 382 yards and three touchdowns in that game.
The game was the first time the Patriots had been under .500 since 2003 at 1-2, according to ESPN.
The game was followed by a well-documented incident of Bill Belichick chasing down and grabbing a referee. Belichick was later fined $50,000 for the incident.
The Patriots will have to make due without one of their most valuable weapons, Gronkowski, who broke his arm during Sunday’s win against the Texans.
The Ravens are 9 point underdogs in this game as they were against Denver in last weekend’s Divisional round.
Torrey Smith is coming off of a two-touchdown performance in which he sped past a Denver secondary that had rarely been burned all season. It is expected that the Patriots will match up Smith with their upgraded corner, Aqib Talib, whom the Patriots acquired in mid-season.
Smith had 127 yards and two touchdowns in the Week 3 meeting with the Patriots.
Smith spoke to reporters Monday about his likely 1-on-1 matchup with Talib.
“I just know about what I knew beforehand. He is a great corner. He is a playmaker. He is more of a man-coverage guy, but they kind of do more zone stuff up there. I’m sure he is versatile and can do a little bit of both. It will be a nice challenge for us,” said Smith.
Smith added that he feels his offensive line’s play has been instrumental in Flacco and Smith’s success through the air this post-season.
One would expect this one to be a gun-slinging offensive exhibition, but the freezing conditions in New England this week could make this one more of a close struggle once again.