Tag Archive | "Joe Flacco"

Tags: , , , , ,

Ravens sign veteran quarterback Schaub

Posted on 31 March 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Tuesday, 6:15 p.m.)

Eyeing a replacement for former backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Ravens have found their man in 12th-year veteran Matt Schaub.

On Tuesday afternoon, the sides agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million. The contract includes $2 million in base pay and another $1 million that can be earned in incentives, according to Pro Football Talk.

The 33-year-old visited with the Ravens after head coach John Harbaugh said last week that they would like to upgrade the backup spot behind starter Joe Flacco. Schaub provides the most experienced backup the organization has had since Marc Bulger in 2010.

The New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons had also shown interest in Schaub and his decision was expected to come this week. The 2004 third-round pick out of the University of Virginia began his career in Atlanta.

After spending seven years in Houston with Gary Kubiak, Schaub is familiar with the Ravens’ current version of the West Coast offense that will be overseen by new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

Schaub is coming off his lone season in Oakland in which he was beaten out by rookie Derek Carr and released earlier this month. Appearing in 11 games, Schaub attempted only 10 passes, completing five for 57 yards and throwing two interceptions. In his final year with the Texans in 2013, Schaub posted a 73.0 passer rating and threw 14 interceptions before he was benched.

The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback has a career 89.5 passer rating with 130 touchdown passes, but his struggles and elbow issues over the last couple seasons make you wonder how much he has left in tank as even a backup option.

Cost was considered a big question with Schaub as the organization hadn’t invested much in its backup quarterback position in recent years. The Ravens had just over $8 million in salary cap space, but they also invested a sixth-round pick in quarterback Keith Wenning last season before he spent the entire year on the practice squad.

After serving as Flacco’s backup for the last four years, Taylor signed a three-year, $3.35 million deal with the Buffalo Bills earlier this month.

 

Comments (1)

Tags: , , , , ,

Ravens backup quarterback Taylor off to Buffalo

Posted on 12 March 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will have a new quarterback backing up starter Joe Flacco in 2015 after Tyrod Taylor agreed to a deal with the Buffalo Bills on Thursday.

His departure was not unexpected after head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged last offseason that the Ravens wanted to see better play from Taylor. The 2011 six-round pick out of Virginia Tech has never started an NFL game playing behind the durable Flacco and did not even attempt a pass last season.

In four seasons with the Ravens, Taylor completed 19 of 35 passes for 199 yards and two interceptions and rushed 27 times for 136 yards and a touchdown.

Baltimore is expected to bring in a veteran to compete with 2014 sixth-round choice Keith Wenning, who spent the entire 2014 season on the practice squad. The Ravens have shown over the last four years with Taylor that they don’t want to spend significant money on a backup for Flacco, who’s never missed a game in his seven-year career.

During the 2014 preseason, Wenning completed 10 of 17 passes for 140 yards. The 6-foot-3 Ball State product doesn’t have a big-time arm, but he completed 63 percent of his passes during his collegiate career.

Veteran quarterbacks currently on the open market include Jason Campbell, Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson, Colt McCoy, Matt Moore, Christian Ponder, and Michael Vick.

 

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Kubiak calls “elite” Flacco as good as anyone he’s coached

Posted on 18 February 2015 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has fielded countless questions about the future of Peyton Manning since becoming the head coach of the Denver Broncos last month.

At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, a reporter asked Kubiak an oft-repeated question about his old quarterback in Baltimore.

Is Joe Flacco elite?

“You bet he is. He helped me. It’s probably why I’m standing up here today,” said Kubiak as he laughed. “Joe was tremendous. I really enjoyed working with him — as talented a young man as I’ve ever coached and as good a person as I’ve ever coached. I think we’ll be talking about Joe for a long, long time. I really appreciated my time with him, and I wish him the best.”

Not only leading the Ravens offense to franchise-best marks in total yards and points scored, Kubiak guided Flacco to arguably the best regular season of his seven-year career. The 30-year-old threw a career-best 27 touchdowns and completed 62.1 percent of his passes, his best completion rate since 2010.

And while Kubiak already owned a coaching résumé that included an eight-year stint as the head coach of the Houston Texans, the 53-year-old once again praised the Ravens organization for the opportunity it provided last season. He’s using that experience in Denver, a place he previously spent two decades as a player and assistant coach.

“I took a lot of things,” Kubiak said. “I went there because I knew what the organization stood for. I knew what John [Harbaugh] stood for. That’s what I wanted to be a part of — the tremendous expectations there. I just think the job that they do as an organization, everybody’s on the same page and working together. I think Ozzie [Newsome] was tremendous for me to watch him in the draft and Eric DeCosta. That was very beneficial for me.

“To watch the team go through [the Ray Rice] situation early in the season and watch the organization deal with that. For me as a head coach, watching them deal with that situation and bring the football team out of it in a very positive way was very beneficial. Football-wise, a very experienced staff [with] Dean Pees and some of the coaches I got a chance to work with. The bottom line is watching a successful organization go about it every day — one that’s been there each and every year — I take a lot of that with me.”

Kubiak reiterated Wednesday that he wants Manning to return as the Broncos quarterback and said all indications are pointing toward that happening in 2015. Though the schedule won’t be finalized with dates until this spring, the Ravens will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos this coming season.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

McCown-Trestman reunion likely not worth investment for Ravens

Posted on 11 February 2015 by Luke Jones

The speculation began as soon as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced the release of veteran quarterback Josh McCown on Wednesday.

With an uncertain backup quarterback situation for 2015, might the Ravens consider reuniting the 35-year-old with offensive coordinator Marc Trestman? McCown experienced the best season of his career under Trestman in Chicago, throwing 13 touchdowns and just one interception while posting a 109.0 passer rating in eight games (five starts) during the 2013 season.

It makes sense strictly from a football standpoint, but their highly-publicized salary-cap issues make a signing unlikely. The Ravens haven’t invested real money in a backup quarterback since 2010 when they paid veteran Marc Bulger — who never took a snap — $3.8 million in an uncapped season that preceded a new collective bargaining agreement a year later. General manager Ozzie Newsome saved plenty of cap space over the last four years simply rolling the dice with 2011 sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor as the backup.

Even if franchise quarterback Joe Flacco fails to continue his streak of never missing a start in 2015, it’s difficult to justify pumping real money into a backup who might never play. If a short-term injury were to occur, the Ravens will try to survive with a cheaper option — 2014 sixth-round pick Keith Wenning is a clear possibility — and perhaps look for a veteran on the free-agent market. If Flacco were to go down with a long-term ailment, the Ravens — like any team lucky enough to have a franchise quarterback — aren’t winning a championship with McCown anyway.

On the flip side, McCown likely wouldn’t view the Ravens as an ideal destination if he has any interest in actually playing in 2015. A number of teams with shaky quarterback situations would be better landing spots and willing to pay him more money.

After signing a two-year, $10 million contract last offseason, McCown struggled in his lone season with Tampa Bay, throwing 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 11 starts. With McCown’s release, the Buccaneers are expected to draft Florida State’s Jameis Winston or Oregon’s Marcus Mariota with the first overall pick of this year’s draft.

If he’s interested in a veteran-minimum contract, it makes sense for Baltimore.

Anything beyond that would be a poor investment for a team with Super Bowl aspirations and a number of other important positions to address this offseason.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

If not Torrey Smith, then who for the Ravens?

Posted on 04 February 2015 by Luke Jones

No Ravens free-agent-to-be has sparked more debate over the last several months than wide receiver Torrey Smith as he’s set to hit the open market in a few weeks.

So much time is spent picking apart his shortcomings in running routes and arguing that he’s not a No. 1 receiver — there aren’t 32 of them in the entire NFL, by the way — that we lose sight of what Smith has brought to the table in his four years with the Ravens. Prior to his selection in the second round of the 2011 draft, the Ravens lacked any kind of a vertical threat for quarterback Joe Flacco and were regularly suffocated by any defense simply playing Cover 2 with aggressive cornerbacks. From the moment he arrived, the speedy receiver brought an ability to not only stretch the field, but make plays in the process of doing so.

The University of Maryland product ranks third on the all-time franchise list in receptions and is second with 30 touchdown catches while never missing a game in four years. After a 2013 season in which he caught 65 passes for 1,128 yards — both career highs — his numbers dipped to 49 catches for 767 yards under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, but Smith still caught a career-best 11 touchdowns and drew an impressive 261 yards on pass interference calls. The six-foot, 205-pound wideout wasn’t a great fit in Kubiak’s system that focused on short-to-intermediate passing, but his skill set is something that would be hard to replace.

By all accounts, Smith is also one of the best men in the Ravens locker room, a factor that shouldn’t be lost in the wake of last offseason when five players were arrested and after the recent reports of Will Hill and Terrence Cody being in trouble with the law. Character can’t be everything when it comes to valuing a player, but it should count for something.

It’s true that Smith profiles best as a good No. 2 receiver, but that still carries substantial value, evident by a CBS Sports report indicating the Ravens offered him a five-year, $35 million contract prior to the 2014 season. And even if the 26-year-old won’t cash in on his gamble in the same way that Flacco did in his walk year two years ago, offers in that same neighborhood — or slightly better — will still be thrown his way on the open market. Resources such as Spotrac.com have projected Smith to be worth slightly above $7 million per year, and that’s before learning whether top free-agent receivers such as Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Randall Cobb will even hit the market.

If you’re convinced the Ravens shouldn’t pay Smith what they offered him a few months ago or sweeten the deal a bit to potentially get it done, then what?

Even if Bryant, Thomas, and Cobb find their way to the market, the Ravens won’t have the salary cap space to make a competitive offer. Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin would be next on the list, but most project him to fetch more than Smith in free agency. A look at contracts signed in recent offseasons likely puts Smith in line with the deals received by Eric Decker and Golden Tate last offseason, but the final price will depend on the supply of quality receivers on the market and the number of teams willing to spend.

Whether re-signing Smith or not, the Ravens will take a long look at the wide receiver position in the draft, but Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White will be long gone by the time they pick 26th overall. And let’s not forget that general manager Ozzie Newsome’s sterling draft reputation doesn’t extend to the wide receiver position where Smith is the Ravens’ biggest success story in two decades. Going into the draft needing to find a starting receiver with a late first-round pick isn’t a recipe for success for a playoff-caliber team.

Drafting a wideout such as DeVante Parker, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong, or Devin Funchess could pay off in the long run, but few positions are as unpredictable as wide receiver, especially if you’re expecting one to play a significant role immediately.

Should Smith depart, the Ravens would be looking at a 36-year-old Steve Smith as one starter and a competition among the likes of Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro, and Jacoby Jones (if he isn’t a cap casualty) for the No. 2 spot. Those receivers are complementary parts — not NFL starters — at this stage, and the Ravens can’t depend too much on Steve Smith, who slowed down at different points last season after a blazing start.

As they have in the past, Baltimore could look for another short-term veteran fix, but there’s only so much upside to be had with receivers on the wrong side of 30, especially if you’re looking for someone to stretch the field.

Of course, Smith will also need to prove just how much he wants to remain in Baltimore as he told WNST.net last week that he won’t necessarily go to the highest bidder and complimented the organization for giving him a chance to win every year. If the Ravens are still offering the fifth-year receiver what they did a few months ago and are willing to offer a little more as a show of faith in him, Smith can’t accuse them of disrespecting him after a season he’s described himself as less than stellar.

Most agree that Smith needs to be “the right player at the right price” for the Ravens to continue their relationship with him, but his departure would spell bad news for a team trying to build on a 10-6 season that ended in the divisional round.

His detractors have had few problems pointing out what Smith isn’t, but replacing him would be more difficult than many are willing to admit.

 

 

Comments (3)

Tags: , , , ,

Flacco, wife welcome third son on Tuesday night

Posted on 21 January 2015 by Luke Jones

After declining an invitation to play in Sunday’s Pro Bowl to remain with his expecting wife, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco welcomed his third son into the world Tuesday night.

Flacco’s wife, Dana, gave birth to Francis Michael, who weighs nine pounds, seven ounces. The Ravens announced the birth during a conference call for new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who sent his congratulations to his new quarterback with a text message.

“Joe was fired up. He was fired up about it,” head coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. “He had to decide [between] Dana or the Pro Bowl. We can all agree he made the right choice, right?”

The timing of the birth had created some discussion about Flacco’s potential availability had the Ravens advanced deeper into the playoffs, but the 30-year-old missed the birth of his second son, Daniel, that took place hours before Baltimore’s home opener in 2013. The couple has a rapidly-growing family after welcoming first son Stephen in the summer of 2012.

 

 

 

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Flacco turns down invitation to Pro Bowl

Posted on 20 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has never made the Pro Bowl, but he’s choosing family over an invitation at the conclusion of his seventh year.

With many fans surprised to see Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton selected to replace the Super Bowl-bound Tom Brady and the injured Aaron Rodgers, it turns out Flacco was invited to participate in Sunday’s game in Arizona. However, the 30-year-old elected to remain with his wife, Dana, who is expecting the couple’s third child this month.

Ravens wide receiver and teammate Torrey Smith broke the news via his official Twitter account after initially questioning why Dalton was chosen for the game instead of Flacco.

 

In his only season under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak — who has now become the head coach of the Denver Broncos — Flacco set career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdown passes (27). His 91.0 passer rating was his highest since the 2010 season, and Flacco completed 62.0 percent of his passes, the third-highest completion percentage of his career.

In addition to head coach John Harbaugh coaching one of the rosters, the Ravens are sending four players to this year’s Pro Bowl including linebackers Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley and right guard Marshal Yanda. Initially a first alternate, running back Justin Forsett was added to the game last week after Houston’s Arian Foster bowed out with an injury.

Vinny Testaverde is the only quarterback in franchise history to be chosen for the Pro Bowl, and that selection came in the Ravens’ inaugural 1996 season.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Five thoughts on Kubiak’s departure

Posted on 18 January 2015 by Luke Jones

(Editor’s note: Kubiak was hired by Denver on Sunday night after this was published earlier in the day.)

Waiting on the inevitable.

That’s what it’s come to for the Ravens as all signs point directly to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak becoming the next head coach of the Denver Broncos. According to ESPN, the sides will meet in Houston — where Kubiak lives — Sunday and the 53-year-old will accept the job if it’s offered by general manager John Elway.

A formal announcement reportedly wouldn’t come until Tuesday following the Martin Luther King holiday.

Below are five thoughts on Kubiak’s expected departure:

1. Kubiak didn’t pull a fast one on the Ravens.

Yes, the timing of Kubiak’s statement committing to staying in Baltimore last Sunday night was peculiar amidst the whispers about John Fox being let go in Denver, but labeling him Benedict Arnold is too harsh as he enjoyed being in Baltimore and even bought a home here. After 20 years with the Broncos as a player and assistant coach, Kubiak likely wouldn’t have reconsidered his stance for any other job but this one. The truth is he had committed to the Ravens for less than 24 hours before the Broncos job became available and the timing of his expected departure isn’t much different from when Jim Caldwell accepted the Detroit job on Jan. 14 of last year, so the Ravens aren’t “behind” in the search with their season having ended only last Saturday. If some want to call Kubiak disloyal, they can, but many of them would have also clamored for his dismissal if the offense faltered next year.

2. Even with the uncertainties, the Denver job is still a good one.

Make no mistake, there will be much to figure out for Kubiak and the Broncos with the uncertain future of Peyton Manning and a less-than-enviable salary cap situation, but those trying to suggest the coordinator is taking a “bad” job must forget why most NFL head coaching positions come open in the first place — because those teams are bad. Even if Manning retires or flounders in one final year, the Broncos have proven they’re committed to winning and are considered one of the finer organizations in the NFL. Unlike many situations around the league, Kubiak has a long track record with Elway, who will practice more patience for his close friend and former teammate if things are rocky in the first year or two. You could make the argument that the Denver situation isn’t ideal for a potential offensive coordinator with the Manning factor, but there are only 32 head jobs to be had.

3. Baltimore knew this would be a possibility from the moment Kubiak was hired last January.

When the organization enticed Kubiak to come to Baltimore rather than take a year off following his dismissal in Houston, it wasn’t a secret that this could be a one-year marriage. Instead of lamenting over his departure, the Ravens will gladly take his fingerprints in moving forward with a 30-year-old quarterback in the prime of his career and an offensive line that showed plenty of stability and ability in a record-setting season for the offense. The Ravens have had plenty of success in the Harbaugh era, and the cost of doing good business is frequently having your assistants plucked away by other teams. With eight years of experience in Houston that included two AFC South titles, Kubiak warranted a second chance as a head coach at some point and Baltimore was aware that his hiring was unlikely to be a long-term fit.

4. The offensive line — not Joe Flacco — should be the first factor considered in finding his replacement.

The Ravens are facing the prospects of having their fourth offensive coordinator in four years, but the focus in hiring their new man should come with a goal of maintaining the success of the offensive line above anything else. The ability to run the football and protect the pocket were the biggest keys in Flacco having the finest regular season of his career. Assuming general manager Ozzie Newsome is able to add some more talent at wide receiver and tight end this offseason, Flacco will be fine in adjusting to a new offensive system, but the Ravens should find someone whose philosophy meshes will with Kubiak’s zone-blocking concepts that were executed so well by the current line. This is why Rick Dennison and Kyle Shanahan are such attractive options to replace Kubiak as very few adjustments would be needed.

5. Contrary to popular opinion, the Ravens will survive without Kubiak.

The Ravens are still just two years removed from a Super Bowl title that had nothing to do with the current offensive coordinator, making some of the fan panic over Kubiak’s departure somewhat amusing. It’s certainly disappointing to lose him, but Harbaugh has a track record of finding replacements who do just fine — and have even moved on to become head coaches themselves. The NFL is much more about having talent on the field than it is about brilliant offensive schemes as there are few secrets in how most offenses operate. With a strong front office and Harbaugh firmly in place, the Ravens will continue to be successful and Kubiak’s departure will register as little more than a speed bump in the big picture. With one of the better quarterbacks and offensive lines in the league, the new offensive coordinator will be walking into a good situation in Baltimore.

Comments (2)

Tags: , , , , ,

Torrey Smith doesn’t want to leave place “more like home now”

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even as he cleaned out his locker on Sunday, wide receiver Torrey Smith once again made it clear where his heart lies as he approaches free agency for the first time in his career.

He wants to stay with the Ravens.

“For me, it’s more like home now. It’s kind of tough to leave home at times,” Smith said. “But also, it’s a great organization. I genuinely love the people here, from the owner to everyone who makes this building go. I really love being here.”

But Smith knows it isn’t a certainty that he’ll be back as the Ravens must carefully weigh his value after a disappointing 2014 season in which he caught only 49 passes for 767 yards, career lows in both categories. On the flip side, the University of Maryland product posted a career-high 11 touchdown catches and drew an NFL-high 12 pass interference penalties for 261 yards, which must be acknowledged as part of his overall production.

Baltimore would like him back, but the 2011 second-round pick fits the profile of a No. 2 receiver, meaning the Ravens can’t break the bank for him. That philosophy could lead to Smith testing the market to see if other suitors would look to his 1,128-yard season in 2013 as evidence that he can be a No. 1 receiver.

“I honestly went the whole year without worrying about it, but when things kind of get tight, it’s like, ‘Man!’” Smith said. “You start looking around saying, ‘This could be it.’ But I’m not really going about it that way. I understand it’s a business. I’m just going to worry about things I can control and see what happens.”

Smith brings additional value to what he produces on the field as a leader by example and one of the Ravens’ most active players in the community. He’ll also be part of a crowded market of free-agent wideouts that could include the likes of Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, and Michael Crabtree, which may keep the price reasonable for Smith’s services.

As is always their mantra, the Ravens will view Smith within the scope of being the right player at the right price. With Steve Smith entering his 15th season, tight end Dennis Pitta’s future uncertain, and Baltimore already wanting to add another pass-catcher at either the receiver or tight end position, it only makes sense to retain the soon-to-be 26-year-old who wants to remain a Raven.

In listening to his words, it’s clear Smith doesn’t think his time in Baltimore is over.

“I’ve been saying all year I didn’t play the way I wanted to play this year,” Smith said. “Was it the worst? No. Was it what I wanted? No. But everything will take care of itself. I feel like I’ve done some pretty good things since I’ve been here, and there’s still so much more left to do.”

Canty contemplating future

Defensive end Chris Canty just completed his 10th NFL season and isn’t sure if there will be an 11th.

The 32-year-old acknowledged Sunday he is contemplating retirement after missing five games this season due to a staph infection in his wrist and an ankle injury.

“You have to think about your future,” Canty said. “You have to think, ‘Can your body take the pounding going through a regular reason and being able to stay healthy?’ The last couple of years, I’ve been pretty banged up, so it’s a situation where I’ll take some time away from the game, spend some time with my family, and make a decision when we have to make a decision.”

Even if Canty decides to continue his career, it may not be in Baltimore as he’s entering the final season of a three-year, $8 million contract and carries a $3.32 million cap figure for 2015. The Ravens were pleased with newcomer Lawrence Guy and drafted the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Brent Urban in the fourth round last May despite the rookie missing the entire season with a knee injury.

Canty has future plans to work in the media, but he acknowledges he still has a passion for the game. He just doesn’t know if that will be enough to carry him into another grueling season.

“Ultimately, it’s whether I can do it or not at a high level,” Canty said. “I don’t want to go out on the football field and not be able to play at a high level. When you turn on the tape and you don’t recognize yourself, that’s a problem, and I never want that to be the case.”

The former Dallas Cowboy and New York Giant finished with 33 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and 1/2 sack this season.

Urschel a future Pro Bowl selection?

While James Hurst received more attention in becoming the first undrafted rookie to start a playoff game at left tackle in NFL history, fellow rookie John Urschel turned plenty of heads with his performance.

Filling in at right guard with four-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda shifting to right tackle in place of the injured Rick Wagner, Urschel played at a high level in the playoffs and more than held his own against Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork in the Ravens’ 35-31 loss to New England.

“Honestly, I really feel like Urschel in a few years is going to be a Pro Bowler himself if he gets the opportunity,” starting left guard Kelechi Osemele said, “if he gets in there and plays [like he’s capable of doing].”

The high praise makes you wonder if the Ravens would consider an increased role for the fifth-round pick from Penn State as early as next season. He became the backup center on game days this season and could be examined as an eventual upgrade over current starter Jeremy Zuttah.

Baltimore will also face tough financial decisions next winter with both Yanda and Osemele scheduled to become free agents after the 2015 season, which could open the door for Urschel to replace one of them. For now, the 2014 fifth-round pick sees an important offseason in front of him as he’ll try to improve on a successful rookie campaign in which he made five starts counting the postseason.

“Lots of hard work, dedication. It’s different,” Urschel said. “This is my first real offseason. In college, you have eyes on you — you have people telling you what to do. This is the first time I’ve had about three months to myself since high school. It’s on me to motivate myself.”

 

Comments (1)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for Saturday

Posted on 09 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have made a mostly-pleasant habit of traveling to Foxborough in January to take on the New England Patriots.

The latest chapter in this underrated rivalry will be written Saturday with Baltimore eyeing its fourth trip to the AFC Championship game under head coach John Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the No. 1 seed Patriots are seeking their first championship in a decade with 37-year-old quarterback Tom Brady not getting any younger.

Joe Flacco will try to continue an impeccable postseason run in which he’s thrown 20 touchdowns and just two interceptions over his last nine playoff games. The seventh-year signal-caller has thrown 13 touchdowns without an interception in leading the Ravens to wins in their last five postseason contests.

Who will win on Saturday?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Patriots meet for the fourth time ever in the playoffs — all have been in Foxborough — with Baltimore holding a 2-1 edge. New England leads the all-time regular-season series by a 7-1 margin despite the Ravens’ postseason success at Gillette Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to hand New England another loss in the postseason …

1. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will be chased by Will Hill most of the day while catching a touchdown and posting 100 receiving yards. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will throw the kitchen sink at New England in trying to cover the All-Pro tight end, but Hill will draw most of the responsibility with little success. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound safety did an admirable job in holding New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham to six catches for 47 yards in late November, but Gronkowski has played at a different level than anyone at his position this year and is more physical. Brady will go to him early and often to try to offset a Baltimore pass rush bearing down on him.

2. Three of the Ravens’ sacks against Brady will come from inside pressure. Four has been the magic number for the Ravens as they’ve collected at least four sacks in their last eight wins and are 0-4 when failing to reach the plateau over that stretch. Brady was sacked just 21 times this year, but his quick release was a bigger factor in that statistic than an offensive line that’s been shaky in pass protection this year. The Ravens will exploit rookie center Bryan Stork and guards Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell with A-gap blitzing as well as the presence of Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee, and Timmy Jernigan in passing situations. Inside pressure will force Brady backward and give Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil time to reach him off the edges.

3. Steve Smith will have a quiet game, but Torrey Smith will catch a touchdown and fetch a key pass interference call. Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis is expected to match up against Steve Smith, which will spell trouble for the veteran wideout as Revis will match the 35-year-old’s physicality with press coverage. This will leave the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner against Torrey Smith in a matchup that could determine the outcome of the game. The Maryland product will be challenged by Browner’s physicality, but the former Seattle defensive back is prone to penalties, drawing 15 flags in nine games in the regular season. The speedy fourth-year wideout draws pass interference calls as well as anyone and will fetch a big one inside the red zone in addition to catching a first-half touchdown.

4. Brady will pass for more yards, but Flacco will throw more touchdown passes. The Patriots will try to establish the run with their extensive collection of running backs, but they won’t find much room against the league’s fourth-ranked run defense, meaning the ball will be in their franchise quarterback’s hands all day. Brady will make amends for his 56.8 passer rating in his three previous playoff games against the Ravens, but Baltimore will clamp down inside the red zone. In contrast, the Ravens will find enough running room to keep Justin Forsett involved, and Flacco will have another efficient game like he did in Pittsburgh with 220 yards and two touchdowns to put his team in position to grab a victory in the fourth quarter.

5. Justin Tucker will kick the game-winning field goal to give the Ravens a 24-23 win. New England was the better team this season, but Baltimore has history on its side and — more importantly – the right tools to match up with the Patriots. If the Ravens are able to pressure Brady inside and out, it will make up for potential problems in the secondary and allow the Baltimore offense to keep up as it deals with an improved Patriots defense. This game could go either way, but it’s getting to the point where you just can’t pick against Flacco in the playoffs until someone finally cools him off. The Ravens won’t be scared playing in familiar Foxborough, and they’ll find a way to win there once again in January.

Comments (1)