The New England Patriots find themselves in a familiar situation – the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. Tom Brady keeping up the tempo, finding someone to fill in for Rob Gronkowski and stopping their opponents on the ground will be the keys to a Super Bowl trip.
Tom Brady setting the tempo, just like in the wins against the Houston Texans, might be the biggest key on offense for the Patriots. A slower, smashmouth style game is going to benefit the Baltimore Ravens, and that means Tom Brady, who wasn’t at his best last season against Baltimore (239 yards, two interceptions) needs to get going quickly or demons and problems of the past come rising up again. The Ravens’ already playing two postseason games, one of the road, should have an effect if the Pats keep a high tempo going on.
Home advantage in Gillette Stadium is something that can’t be cast aside. The Patriots are 14-3 all-time at home in the postseason and 4-0 at home in conference title games, Brady winning all three previous conference championship games played at home, including the 23-20 win against the Ravens last year. They did kinda get away with one there, but they went to the Super Bowl nonetheless.
Someone stepping up from the injured Rob Gronkowski is crucial. Michael Hoomanawanui will be the man who keeps the two-tight end lineup going, but he’ll be mostly used for blocking, while Shane Vereen might be the man who gets the spotlight, while Welker, Lloyd and Hernandez need to chip in a little bit more than usual. Vereen, a running back, was used as a wide receiver on plenty of plays, in the slot or in other positions, caught 5 passes for 83 yards, scoring two touchdowns.
Stopping Ray Rice and keeping the Baltimore Ravens from establishing a running game is going to be vital. The Texans ran for only 91 yards on 23 carries against the Patriots. Keeping Baltimore and Flacco from feeling comfortable in play-action passes might shut down the entire Ravens offense, or at least for enough of a stretch to build up a comfortable lead.