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Ravens-Patriots: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Patriots: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 20 January 2013 by Luke Jones

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Ravens are the only team in the NFL to have made the playoffs and won a postseason game in each of the last five years.

No other head coach and quarterback have done that to begin their respective careers, but John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco know what follows that narrative. They haven’t been to a Super Bowl, but they’ll have their third opportunity in five seasons as they take on the New England Patriots in Sunday night’s AFC Championship game.

Baltimore travels to Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots in the playoffs for the third time in four years. Of course, the Ravens felt heartbreak last year in the form of a Lee Evans drop and a Billy Cundiff 32-yard miss, but they’ll have their chance for redemption after making an improbable run to the conference title game.

Despite being listed as questionable in the final injury report released on Friday, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, running back Bernard Pierce, and fullback Vonta Leach are all active. It remains to be seen how close to 100 percent each will be against the Patriots, but there was very little doubt surrounding their availability for Sunday’s game.

The only mild surprise on the list of inactives is defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson, who was last deactivated on game day back in Week 6. However, the rookie hasn’t been receiving as many defensive snaps of late and the Ravens wanted to have an extra cornerback in veteran Chris Johnson available against the pass-happy Patriots.

New England tight end Rob Gronkowski was placed on injured reserve on Thursday, so that explains why he wasn’t listed as inactive for the game.

The Patriots are 6-1 in the all-time regular-season series and the teams are tied 1-1 in postseason history.

Sunday night’s referee will be Bill Leavy. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-30s by kickoff and winds will be approximately 17 miles per hour.

The Ravens will wear their white jerseys with black pants while New England sports its blue tops and silver pants.

Here are Sunday night’s inactives …

BALTIMORE
CB Asa Jackson
OL Ramon Harewood
DL DeAngelo Tyson
DT Bryan Hall
S Omar Brown
LB Adrian Hamilton
WR Deonte Thompson

NEW ENGLAND
DB Malcolm Williams
OL Nick McDonald
OL Markus Zusevics
DE Jake Bequette
WR Kamar Aiken
DB Derrick Martin
DL Marcus Forston

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the day as Drew Forrester, Nestor Aparicio, and I bring live updates and analysis from Gillette Stadium.

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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for AFC Championship

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Ravens-Patriots: Five predictions for AFC Championship

Posted on 19 January 2013 by Luke Jones

Coming as close as they possibly could to reaching the Super Bowl last season before heartbreak occurred in the form of a Lee Evans drop and a Billy Cundiff missed field goal in the final seconds of the AFC Championship, the Ravens return to the scene of the crime in Foxborough as they again take on the New England Patriots.

Defeating New England for the first time ever in the regular season by way of a 31-30 final in Baltimore back in September, the Ravens will now try to win their second postseason game at Gillette Stadium in the last four seasons. Aside from their 33-14 blowout victory in the wild-card round of the 2009 season, the Ravens are used to seeing their meetings with the Patriots come down to the wire as each of their other four meetings in the John Harbaugh era have been decided by fewer than seven points.

The Ravens will again hope to extend the career of inside linebacker Ray Lewis by one more game and advance to their first Super Bowl since Jan. 28, 2001. And for Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco, a win means taking another step toward elite status at their respective positions in the National Football League.

Of course, standing in their way are Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the two men who have been at the top of their respective classes for the last decade.

Here’s what to expect as the 12-6 Ravens try to punch their ticket to New Orleans and Super Bowl XLVII …

1. The Ravens won’t have to deal with Rob Gronkowski, but Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez will cause major problems over the middle of the field. It’s no secret that slot receiver Wes Welker and Hernandez are the most dangerous weapons at Brady’s disposal, and they each provide difficult challenges to the Baltimore pass defense. Corey Graham is the clear choice to match up against Welker in the slot as the Ravens will run the nickel package extensively, and the cornerback is playing with more confidence than ever after intercepting two Peyton Manning passes last week in Denver. Welker will get his yards, but the Ravens are confident that Graham can prevent the Pro Bowl wideout from having a monster game. Hernandez will be trickier to cover as defensive coordinator Dean Pees will likely lose a combination of linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and strong safety Bernard Pollard in trying to mix up coverages against Brady. I have my doubts that either player will be able to stick with him as the middle of the field has been a problem all year long. Hernandez will produce 80 receiving yards and a touchdown.

2. With the Patriots focusing heavily on Torrey Smith by matching Aqib Talib against the speedy receiver, Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta will combine for 160 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Smith has been a major thorn in the side of New England as the second-year wideout has produced three touchdowns and 209 receiving yards in two contests against New England. The Patriots could use Talib against Smith exclusively – the Baltimore receiver usually lines up on the side of the field on which Talib plays anyway — but they will likely offer safety help as well if they were paying attention to what Smith did against Champ Bailey last week. Deep safeties will allow more room for Boldin and Pitta to work the middle of the field as the Patriots ranked 29th against the pass this season. Though still mixing it their spots to be aggressive with the vertical passing game, the Ravens will try to use Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce on first and second down to create third-and-manageable situations in which Flacco loves to use his tight end and possession receiver. The Patriots will do everything they can to stop Flacco’s deep balls to Smith and Jacoby Jones, meaning the quarterback will instead choose to attack the intermediate portion of the field more frequently.

3. As he has for much of the season, running back Stevan Ridley will add another dimension to the New England offense that will wear down the Ravens in the second half. Pees downplayed the significance of his defense playing 87 snaps in each of the last two games, but you have to wonder how much more a group that’s already less than 100 percent can take if they’re on the field for extended periods on Sunday. Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards this season as the Patriots had the seventh-best rushing attack in the league. The New England offense still centers around Brady, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a heavy dose of Ridley in the second half to see if the Patriots can tire out the Ravens’ front seven, thus neutralizing any potential pass rush in the process. Inside the red zone, the Patriots won’t hesitate to use a quick-snap approach if the Ravens aren’t set and will hand off to Ridley before the defense even knows what’s happening. Any defense spends so much time studying Brady and trying to dissect him, so it’s easy to overlook the New England running game in the process. It will pay dividends in the second half for the Patriots, especially if they have a lead.

4. The team that wins the battle inside the red zone will come away with the AFC title. The objective is clear against the Patriots — even if it’s a difficult one. You know they’re going to score points, but if you can hold them to field goals on at least a few scoring possessions while you score touchdowns on your trips inside the 20, you’ll typically find yourself within striking distance in the fourth quarter. It will be a test of will in that area of the field as the Patriots scored touchdowns on 70 percent of their trips inside the red zone (best in the NFL) while the Baltimore defense was second in the league by allowing touchdowns on only 43.4 percent of opponent’s trips inside the 20. Conversely, Flacco and the offense must come away with touchdowns when they’re knocking on New England’s end zone. This is where Boldin and Pitta will be critical against the league’s 13th-ranked red-zone defense. If you want any chance of beating New England on the road, you cannot trade field goals for touchdowns or you’ll find yourself in a hole early. The Baltimore offense is playing at a high level and shouldn’t have any reason to believe they can’t move the ball against the Patriots at will, but they need to finish drives with touchdowns. Barring an inordinate number of special-teams and defensive scores – like the Ravens win in Denver last week, for instance — the team that prevails inside the red zone will be the one advancing to New Orleans.

5. Joe Flacco will continue a tremendous postseason with 250 passing yards and two touchdowns, but the Ravens will again fall excruciatingly short in Foxborough with a 31-27 loss. The Baltimore quarterback is playing the best football of his career over the last month and will have another strong performance against the Patriots on the second-biggest stage the NFL has to offer. However, Flacco needs to advance to the Super Bowl to truly receive the recognition he deserves. As was the case last week, the Ravens are matched up against a better overall team, but they have every opportunity to win against the Patriots, who have some clear deficiencies unlike the Broncos. Regardless of what happens on Sunday, this season should be viewed as a success considering the number of injuries this team has sustained and how badly it was struggling just over a month ago. In the end, however, the Patriots will just have a little too much offensively for the Baltimore defense to handle and for the Ravens offense to overcome. This one could very well come down to the final possession of the game, but I just can’t bet against Brady and the Patriots in the conference championship, a game in which they’re 5-1 in the Belichick era. It won’t come down to a devastating dropped touchdown or field-goal miss, but the Ravens will fall short yet again despite a terrific effort in New England.

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Pierce, Ellerbe, Leach questionable for AFC title game

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Pierce, Ellerbe, Leach questionable for AFC title game

Posted on 18 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Finishing preparations for their second consecutive AFC Championship appearance, the Ravens listed three key players as questionable for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.

Running back Bernard Pierce, fullback Vonta Leach, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, and David Reed were all listed as questionable after participating in Friday’s practice on a limited basis. Pierce had missed Thursday’s practice, but the rookie reiterated on Friday that he would play on Sunday despite dealing with a right knee injury for the last few weeks.

Rookie cornerback Asa Jackson was the only player not to participate in Friday’s workout and was ruled out with a hamstring injury. The Ravens listed 16 players as probable.

Coach John Harbaugh painted a positive picture from a health standpoint as the Ravens try to even the score in conference championship games against the Patriots. There is little concern about the availability of any of the players listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, though Ellerbe was downgraded to a limited participant in Friday’s workout after being full-go on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We look good,” Harbaugh said. “We are very similar to what we have been the last few weeks. I don’t think there will be any surprises — barring any surprises. We should be in good shape injury-wise.”

The Patriots listed five players as probable for Sunday’s game, including defensive end Chandler Jones and running back Danny Woodhead. Jones was a full participant in the Patriots’ Friday practice after previously being limited all week.

Expressing quiet confidence throughout the week despite being deemed a clear underdog as they were against the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, the Ravens are a confident group traveling to Foxborough.

“We had a really great practice and had a good week of preparation,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, a team of this caliber in this kind of situation will get everybody’s attention. This game has had our full attention, and we are excited to go play on Sunday.”

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Asa Jackson (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back), FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), RB Bernard Pierce (knee), WR David Reed (thigh)
PROBABLE: RB Anthony Allen (head), WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), CB Chykie Brown (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (ankle), G Gino Gradkowski (head), DT Arthur Jones (thigh/knee), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), WR Torrey Smith (back), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles/bicep), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

NEW ENGLAND
OUT: TE Rob Gronkowski (IR – forearm)
PROBABLE: CB Marquice Cole (finger), DE Chandler Jones (ankle), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), DE Trevor Scott (knee), RB Danny Woodhead (thumb)

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Picks and Comment – Conference Championship Weekend

Posted on 18 January 2013 by Luke Jones

Here are this weekend’s picks as The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction will pick every NFL game this season.

Drew Forrester finished 2-2 last week and Luke Jones was also 2-2 in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Forrester is now 166-80 and Jones is 158-88 overall. Jones holds the edge in the postseason, however, with a 6-2 mark compared to Forrester’s 5-3 record. Official standings are only kept based on the NFL picks.

To hear their full explanation, click HERE.

Ravens at Patriots: Baltimore 33-24 (Drew), New England 31-27 (Luke)
49ers at Falcons: San Francisco 38-24 (Drew), San Francisco 30-24 (Luke)

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Ravens hoping T. Smith continues big production against Patriots

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Ravens hoping T. Smith continues big production against Patriots

Posted on 17 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Much has been made about the acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib and the effect it’s had on the New England secondary, but you’ll forgive the Ravens and wide receiver Torrey Smith if they aren’t overly impressed.

Of course, Baltimore wouldn’t share such a sentiment publicly about the Patriots’ 29th-ranked pass defense, but a 38-35 victory over the Denver Broncos in which Smith shredded All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey for two long touchdowns won’t exactly cause you to fear New England’s underwhelming unit. Talib has provided a boost to New England’s defense, allowing the Patriots to move cornerback Devin McCourty to free safety, but they still struggle against the pass.

In two career games against the Patriots, Smith has caught nine passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns. His Week 3 performance in which he reined in two touchdowns less than 24 hours following the tragic death of his younger brother was one of the most inspiring efforts in the NFL this season.

“It’s not that there’s any difference against those guys,” Smith said. “I just play the game. I just happened to play well against them the past few times. It’s not like I have their number or anything. I just go out there and run our offense. I’ve been able to be OK against them – hopefully, it continues. But it’s going to be tough.”

During the regular season, the Patriots allowed a league-worst 74 passes of 20 yards or more, which should leave quarterback Joe Flacco licking his chops as the Ravens completed 62 passes of at least 20 yards and have repeatedly gone vertical in each of their two postseason wins this month.

Acquired for a fourth-round pick from Tampa Bay on Nov. 1, the mercurial Talib has stabilized the New England pass defense, but it’s difficult to imagine offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell shying away from the Patriots’ No. 1 corner after the Ravens went after Bailey repeatedly in the divisional round. In six regular-season games with New England, Talib made 19 tackles, broke up two passes, and intercepted one.

Labeled a “riverboat gambler” by Caldwell, Talib will likely be entrusted with slowing down Smith or Jacoby Jones in the vertical passing game, but the Ravens proved once again last Saturday that they won’t hesitate to attack any cornerback in the league.

“You don’t always go into a ballgame [with the thought] in mind that you are going to go after this guy or that guy,” Caldwell said. “You try to spread it around and look at what they do from a schematic standpoint and see where you can attack what best suits your offense. That’s kind of how we look at it more so than anything else.”

In other words, if Smith or Jones is matched up in single-man coverage against Talib with no safety help, you can bet Flacco will be ready to take a shot vertically.

Pees hiring hit man?

Asked how to make life uncomfortable for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees offered a humorous but candid suggestion about the man he watched closely in his days as a New England assistant to Bill Belichick.

“Hire Tonya Harding,” said Pees as he laughed. “If they were getting off the bus, I’d spray water outside the bus and hope it freezes. He is who he is. I went against him up there in practice for six years. He’s as competitive of a person as I’ve ever been around.”

In addition to trying to pressure Brady inside the pocket, Pees explained how critical it is to mix up coverages against New England’s many talented weapons, ranging from Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez to Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen out of the backfield.

Welker operates almost exclusively from the slot as he was targeted 125 times for 1,040 receiving yards from that position, according to Pro Football Focus. Cornerback Corey Graham will draw the daunting task of staying with Welker as the Ravens are expected to play the nickel package extensively, with Graham sliding inside as No. 3 cornerback Chykie Brown enters the game to play on the outside opposite Cary Williams.

“He is a very quick guy. He catches the ball well,” Graham said. “Brady is looking for him a lot, and he makes a lot of guys miss with fakes and things like that, so he is a complete receiver. I have my hands full in the slot, but I am up to the challenge.”

The Ravens will not have to deal with the matchup nightmare that is tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was placed on injured reserve Thursday after re-injuring his forearm against Houston last Sunday, but Hernandez also provides a unique blend of speed and athleticism at the position. Such an athlete at that position creates matchup problems as Pees must decide whether to use a linebacker such as Dannell Ellerbe or strong safety Bernard Pollard in coverage.

The answer will vary depending on the situation while facing a Hall of Fame quarterback, according to Pees.

“You can’t go in there and say, ‘The whole game, OK, I’m going to put a strong safety on this guy.’” Pees said. “That’s not going to take Brady very long to figure that one out, nor is it going to be the same if we end up putting a linebacker on him all the time. The key is to let them have to figure it out after the ball is snapped, who’s on him, and then you just can’t keep doing the same thing over and over with Tom, or he’ll gash you.”

Bouncing back from “special” kind of nightmare

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Backup running back Pierce sits out Thursday’s practice

Posted on 17 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The uncertain status of running back Bernard Pierce took another dip as the rookie did not take part in Thursday’s practice as the Ravens continued preparations for the New England Patriots in Sunday’s AFC Championship.

A day after practicing on a limited basis, Pierce was again sidelined as he continues to deal with a sore right knee. The 2012 third-round pick told reporters on Wednesday that he will be ready to play in Sunday’s game.

Cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh) was the only other Ravens player not to participate in Thursday’s workout.

Fullback Vonta Leach (knee/ankle) and wide receiver David Reed (thigh) each practiced on a limited basis. The Pro Bowl fullback was a full participant on Wednesday, but he’s dealt with a sore ankle since the early portion of December and has periodically missed practices or been limited to rest over the last several weeks.

Running back Anthony Allen and offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski were upgraded to full participation and were no longer wearing red-contact jerseys during Thursday’s practice, an indication that each had passed a baseline neurological test required to clear a player for contact. Both worked on a limited basis a day earlier.

Meanwhile, New England only had one player missing from the practice field as tight end Rob Gronkowski will not play this week due to a forearm injury that officially landed him on injured reserve on Thursday. Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones was the only Patriots player to work on a limited basis as four others, including running back Danny Woodhead, were upgraded to full participation.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Bernard Pierce (knee), CB Asa Jackson (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), WR David Reed (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Anthony Allen (head), G Gino Gradkowski (head), WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), CB Chykie Brown (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back), DT Arthur Jones (thigh/knee), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), WR Torrey Smith (back), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles/bicep), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Chandler Jones (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Marquice Cole (finger), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), DE Trevor Scott (knee), RB Danny Woodhead (thumb)

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Brady standing in way of Ravens’ redemption run to Super Bowl

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Brady standing in way of Ravens’ redemption run to Super Bowl

Posted on 16 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have made no secret about their satisfaction in seeing the New England Patriots once again on the same stage in which they fell painfully short last January.

With few believing they could reach their second straight AFC Championship game after being left for dead just a few weeks ago, the Ravens are embracing the opportunity but also know the truth about Sunday’s game in Foxborough. The game they’ve worked toward over the last 12 months only has one acceptable outcome in their eyes.

“Nothing matters unless we’re going to win in New England this weekend,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Then we’re back to the same position we were in last year.”

As compelling as their run has been to watch, the same man is once again standing in the way of their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2000 season. While the Ravens were finally able to topple Peyton Manning, future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady has goals of his own, mainly atoning for last year’s Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants. The most successful quarterback of this generation, the 35-year-old hasn’t won a championship since the 2004 season and has twice fallen in the Super Bowl since then.

Leading the top-ranked offense in the NFL in yards and points scored, Brady will try to do what Manning couldn’t do in Denver last Saturday. And the Baltimore defense will try to pick up where it left off in the divisional round when it held Denver’s explosive offense to just seven points in the second half after the Broncos returned a kickoff for a touchdown to begin the third quarter.

Even with every reason to be confident, the Ravens know that Brady will be waiting and ready after the Patriots scored 41 points against a tough Houston defense last week.

“He is a smart guy. We all know that is the reason he is probably a Hall of Fame quarterback,” cornerback Corey Graham said. “He is smart with the ball. He makes great decisions. He looks for matchups, and we have to just go out there and make plays.”

The Ravens’ multiple-look defense has given Brady difficulty over the years compared to most units as the Patriots were held to just 23 points in last year’s AFC Championship. The New England offense fared better in the Ravens’ 31-30 win in Week 3, but Brady acknowledges how difficult it is to play against a unit led by Lewis and free safety Ed Reed. In five career regular-season games against the Ravens, Brady has thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions and has posted an 83.3 passer rating, a modest mark for such a decorated quarterback. He has posted worse ratings against only four other teams over the course of his 13-year career.

His playoff loss to the Ravens on Jan. 10, 2010 was the worst performance of his postseason career as he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the 33-14 final.

Of course, the Baltimore defense hasn’t been the dominating unit this year that it was for more than a decade, but the Ravens were able to create pressure and force Manning into mistakes in the second half as the Denver quarterback turned the ball over three times in defeat. Instead of their simple “bend, but don’t break” performance, the defense made countless big plays in the second half to keep Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense within striking distance.

“It’s not like you beat this team 50-0,” Brady said at a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s always a tight game, there’s tight coverage, there’s tight throws, there’s tough reads, because schematically they do quite a few things.”

The discussion last week centered around the countless chess matches between Lewis and Manning, but the Ravens’ battles against Brady have been just as compelling. New England won’t hesitate to use the no-huddle offense and quick snaps on occasion to catch the Ravens on their heels, especially after Baltimore played a total of 174 plays and 77:38 on defense over the last two weeks.

The Ravens take pride in disguising their schemes and changing up coverages, the latest example coming on Denver’s final offensive play when cornerback Corey Graham and Lewis flipped coverage on wide receiver Brandon Stokley and baited Manning into throwing a critical interception. However, New England will try to use similar tactics in hopes of creating a mismatch with its wide array of offensive weapons.

“They switch it up. When they make plays, they hurry up to the line, and they speed the game up on guys,” Graham said. “If you’re not ready, if you’re not prepared for it, it will catch you off guard. They have been catching a lot of guys off guard, a lot of guys not set up and prepared for the play.”

Even when the correct matchups are identified, defensive backs and linebackers must play disciplined as Brady will try to look off receivers and make defenders pay for the softer coverage they typically employ to prevent the big play. The Patriots also won’t hesitate to go against the grain such as when they sent backup Shane Vereen deep on a 33-yard touchdown out of the backfield against the Texans.

The Ravens’ best chance in slowing Brady is to make him uncomfortable in the pocket like they did to Manning in the second half in Denver, but even then, the task in the secondary is daunting against the likes of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez in the short-to-intermediate portion of the field — an area in which the pass defense has been vulnerable all year. In many cases, the ball simply comes out too quickly to get to the veteran signal-caller when he employs three-step drops.

“We have to have great eyes. We can’t stare him down in the secondary,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “We have to be on our men. They have great receivers and running backs. We have to go out there and play our game.”

Unlike past seasons when playing the Patriots, the Ravens must also account for the New England running game as starter Stevan Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards this season. The offense is one-dimensional as it’s been in the past when you could simply count on Brady to throw it 50 times with an ineffective rush offense behind him.

The Ravens were clearly content in keeping plays in front of them against the Broncos, evident by using Reed and Pollard in two-deep coverage for much of the game, but it will be interesting to see what defensive coordinator Dean Pees dials up against New England. Brady attempted only 19 passes that traveled more than 30 yards in the air all season and lacks the deep threats that the Broncos possessed in both Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but the Patriots are never afraid to change things up.

Baltimore is in store for another chess match, again playing one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game. And while the Ravens have been described as a team on a mission, there’s no arguing that the Patriots are motivated to not only get back to the Super Bowl but to finish the job after last year’s narrow loss.

Even though the Ravens beat the Patriots in the postseason three years ago and were one end-zone catch away from doing it again last season, they also know Brady is 5-1 in conference title games. As was the case last week, it won’t be easy to survive and advance for the underdog Ravens.

“That does not scare us,” Pollard said. “We’re going to go out, and we want to outhit you and outplay you and we want to go to the Super Bowl.”

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Early Vegas money going on Ravens plus 10

Posted on 16 January 2013 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv,  Twitter: @BovadaLV).

 

“I am not too shocked that the public is pounding the 49ers after their performance last week, or should I say Kaepernick’s, hence the early line move going from 3.5 point to 5 point favorites already and is not really making a difference as 75% of the money is still coming in on them.  Last week the bettors had no problem taking New England -10 over Houston, costing the book a pretty penny on Sunday, but this week is a little different as believe it or not 70% of the money is on Baltimore getting 10 points, and is one of those rare weeks as a bookmaker I get to root for the Patriots.”

Kevin Bradley, Sports Book Manager, Bovada.lv

 

Odds to win the 2013 Super Bowl XLVII

New England Patriots                            11/10

San Francisco 49ers                              9/5

Atlanta Falcons                                     6/1

Baltimore Ravens                                  15/2

 

2013 Super Bowl XLVII – Exact Super Bowl Matchups

Baltimore Ravens vs Atlanta Falcons                              10/1

Baltimore Ravens vs San Francisco 49ers                      5/1

New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons                        5/2

New England Patriots vs San Francisco 49ers                5/6

 

Super Bowl XLVII – Early Line 

AFC      -2½

NFC      +2½

 

Super Bowl XLVII – Early lines

Atlanta Falcons             +6

New England Patriots    -6

 

Atlanta Falcons             -1½

Baltimore Ravens          +1½

 

San Francisco 49ers      +2

New England Patriots    -2

 

San Francisco 49ers      -4

Baltimore Ravens          +4

 

NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP

San Francisco 49ers                  -5                    O 48½

Atlanta Falcons                         +5                    U 48½

 

Team to score first in the game           

San Francisco 49ers                  -130

Atlanta Falcons                         EVEN  

 

Who will be leading after the 1st Quarter?       

San Francisco 49ers                  -140

Atlanta Falcons                         +110    

 

Total 1st Half Team Points – San Francisco 49ers        

Over/Under 1st Half Points                    13½

 

Total Team Points – San Francisco 49ers        

Over/Under Points                                 26

 

Total 1st Half Team Points – Atlanta Falcons   

Over/Under 1st Half Points                    10½

 

Total Team Points – Atlanta Falcons    

Over/Under Points                                 21½

Total QB Sacks in the game    

Over Sacks                               O 3½  (-150)

Under Sacks                             U 3½ (+120)

 

Total QB Sacks in the game by the 49ers        

Over/Under                               2 ½

 

Total QB Sacks in the game by the Falcons    

Over/Under                               1 ½

 

Will there be a defensive or special teams TD scored in the game?     

Yes                  +160     (8/5)

No                    -200     (1/2)

 

Will the game go to OT?         

Yes                  +800     (8/1)

No                    -1900    (1/19)

 

Total Passing Yards – Colin Kaepernick (SF)   

Over                             235½

 

Total TD Passes – Colin Kaepernick (SF)         

Over/Under                   2 ½

 

Total Interceptions – Colin Kaepernick (SF)     

Over/Under                   ½

 

Total Rushing Yards – Colin Kaepernick (SF)   

Over                             60½

 

Longest Rush – Colin Kaepernick (SF)

Over                             15½

 

Total Rushing Attempts – Colin Kaepernick (SF)          

Over                             7½

 

Total Rushing Yards – Frank Gore (SF)            

Over                             75½

 

Total Receiving Yards – Michael Crabtree (SF)

Over                             85½

 

Total Receptions – Michael Crabtree (SF)         

Over                             6

 

Will Michael Crabtree (SF) score a TD in the game?    

Yes                              -140     (5/7)

No                                +110     (11/10)

 

Total Receiving Yards – Vernon Davis (SF)      

Over                             40½

 

Total Receptions – Vernon Davis (SF)  

Over                             3

 

Total Passing Yards – Matt Ryan (ATL)            

Over                             280½

 

Total TD Passes – Matt Ryan (ATL)       

Over/Under                   2

 

Total Interceptions – Matt Ryan (ATL)   

Over                             ½  (-175)

Under                           ½ (+145)

Total Rushing Yards – Michael Turner (ATL)    

Over                             50½

Total Rushing Yards – Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL)           

Over                             25½

 

Total Receiving Yards – Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL)         

Over                             25½

 

Total Receptions – Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL)     

Over                             3

 

Total Receiving Yards – Roddy White (ATL)     

Over                             80½

 

Total Receptions – Roddy White (ATL)

Over                             6

 

Total Receiving Yards – Julio Jones (ATL)       

Over                             72½

 

Total Receptions – Julio Jones (ATL)   

Over                             5½

 

Total Receiving Yards – Tony Gonzalez (ATL)  

Over                             54½

 

Total Receptions – Tony Gonzalez (ATL)          

Over                             5½

 

AFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP   

Baltimore Ravens                     +10       O 51½

New England Patriots               -10       U 51½

 

Team to score first in the game           

Baltimore Ravens                      +150

New England Patriots                -180

 

Total 1st Half Team Points – Baltimore Ravens

Over/Under1st Half Points                                 10½

 

Total Team Points – Baltimore Ravens 

Over/Under Points                                             21½

 

Total 1st Half Team Points – New England Patriots      

Over/Under 1st Half Points                                16½

 

Total Team Points – New England Patriots      

Over/Under Points                                             29½

Will there be a defensive or special teams TD scored in the game?     

Yes                  +160     (8/5)

No                    -200     (1/2)

 

Will the game go to OT?         

Yes                  +1000   (10/1)

No                    -2500   (1/25)

 

Total Passing Yards – Joe Flacco (BAL)           

Over                             275½

 

Total TD Passes – Joe Flacco (BAL)     

Over                             1½  (-150)

Under                           1½ (+120)

 

Total Interceptions – Joe Flacco (BAL)

Over                             ½  (-175)

Under                           ½ (+145)

 

Total Rushing Yards – Ray Rice (BAL)

Over                             75½

 

Total Receiving Yards – Ray Rice (BAL)           

Over                             40½

 

Total Receptions – Ray Rice (BAL)       

Over                             4

 

Total Receiving Yards – Anquan Boldin (BAL)

Over                             72½

 

Total Receptions – Anquan Boldin (BAL)         

Over                             4½

 

Total Receiving Yards – Torrey Smith (BAL)    

Over                             62½

 

Total Receptions – Torrey Smith (BAL)            

Over                             3½

 

Total Tackles & Assists – Ray Lewis (BAL)       

Over                             9½

 

Total Tackles & Assists – Terrell Suggs (BAL)  

Over                             4

 

Total Sacks – Terrell Suggs (BAL)        

Over/Under                   ½

 

Total Passing Yards – Tom Brady (NE)            

Over                             305½

 

Total TD Passes – Tom Brady (NE)       

Over                             2½ (+125)

Under                           2½  (-155)

 

Total Interceptions – Tom Brady (NE)   

Over/Under                   ½

 

Total Rushing Yards – Stevan Ridley (NE)        

Over                             69½

Will Shane Vereen (NE) score a TD in the game?        

Yes                              EVEN  

No                                -130     

 

Total Receiving Yards – Wes Welker (NE)

Over                             90½

 

Total Receptions – Wes Welker (NE)     

Over                             7½
Total Receiving Yards – Brandon Lloyd (NE)    

Over                             62½

 

Total Receptions – Brandon Lloyd (NE)

Over                             4½

Total Receiving Yards – Aaron Hernandez (NE)            

Over                             72½

 

Total Receptions – Aaron Hernandez (NE)        

Over                             6

 

Historical Matchups

Who will have more Passing Yards in the game?

Tom Brady 2012 Conference Championships (239 Yards)                                    +60½

Tom Brady 2013 Conference Championships                                                      -60½

 

Who will have more Rushing Yards in the game?       

Ray Rice 2012 Conference Championships (67 Yards)                                         +5½

Ray Rice 2013 Conference Championships                                                         -5½

 

Who will have more Receiving Yards in the game?     

Anquan Boldin 2012 Conference Championships (101 Yards)                              -25½

Anquan Boldin 2013 Conference Championships                                                +25½

 

Who will have more Tackles & Assists in the game?   

Ray Lewis 2012 Conference Championships (12 Tackles & Assists)                     -1½

Ray Lewis 2013 Conference Championships                                                       +1½

 

Thanks for taking the time to read these.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

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Pierce practices on limited basis, vows to play on Sunday

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Pierce practices on limited basis, vows to play on Sunday

Posted on 16 January 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Held to just 14 rushing yards on five carries before leaving the game with a knee injury, Ravens backup running back Bernard Pierce vowed to be ready to play against New England in Sunday’s AFC Championship.

The rookie practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday as it appears he’ll be on track to spell Ray Rice when needed against the Patriots. Pierce rushed for a game-high 103 yards in the wild-card playoff victory over Indianapolis and had averaged just below 6.3 yards per carry in the five games leading into Saturday’s divisional round.

“I’m feeling good,” said Pierce, who twice confirmed he would play on Sunday. “A lot of people have questioned about the whole playoff thing and the AFC Championship, so I’m just taking advice, sitting back, and just learning.”

Running back Anthony Allen and offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski both practiced on a limited basis in red non-contact jerseys as each player was listed with a head injury on Wednesday’s injury report. Wide receiver David Reed was also limited with a thigh injury that dates back to last week.

Cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh) was the only player on the 53-man roster not to take part in Wednesday’s workout in some capacity.

Players were very loose during the open portion of practice as Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs sang the songs “Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G. and “Lose Yourself” by Eminem respectively. Bernard Pollard and Jacoby Jones tossed a boomerang back and forth during the early portion of practice.

However, the most bizarre scene of the day in Owings Mills was wide receiver David Reed sporting a Lee Evans No. 83 jersey during practice. I’m still not sure what to make of that one or why the garment was still in the building in Owings Mills.

For New England, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (non-injured related) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm) did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Gronkowski is expected to miss the remainder of the postseason after re-injuring the forearm on which he underwent surgery earlier in the season.

Defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle) and running back Danny Woodhead (thumb) were among the Patriots’ limited participants on Wednesday. Jones, the younger brother of Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones, had his ankle rolled in the Patriots’ 41-28 win over Houston in the divisional round.

“He’s doing a good job not telling me anything,” said Arthur Jones about his younger brother. “He’s not telling me anything, but I think he is going to be out there. He’s a hard worker. I know he’s getting treatment on it hard.”

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Asa Jackson (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Anthony Allen (head), G Gino Gradkowski (head), RB Bernard Pierce (knee), WR David Reed (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Anquan Boldin (shoulder), CB Chykie Brown (shoulder), DT Terrence Cody (ankle), LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle/back), DT Arthur Jones (thigh/knee), FB Vonta Leach (knee/ankle), LB Ray Lewis (triceps), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdominal), WR Torrey Smith (back), LB Terrell Suggs (achilles/bicep), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Alfonzo Dennard (non-injury), TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Marquice Cole (finger), DE Chandler Jones (ankle), OL Nick McDonald (shoulder), DE Trevor Scott (knee), RB Danny Woodhead (thumb)

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Ravens’ improbable run may not be fate, but sure feels like storybook

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Ravens’ improbable run may not be fate, but sure feels like storybook

Posted on 15 January 2013 by Luke Jones

At some point over the final seven minutes of regulation in Denver on Saturday night, Steve Bisciotti saw the big picture while everyone else wondered if the Ravens’ season was coming to an end after Peyton Manning threw a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas midway through the fourth quarter.

Under the weather and unable to make the trip to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Ravens owner did something he’d never done before by reaching out to John Harbaugh as the fourth quarter pressed on. Bisciotti knew the head coach wouldn’t see the text message until after the game, of course, but he wanted Harbaugh to know how impressed he was with such a valiant effort against the No. 1 seed Broncos.

“I’ve never texted you during a game,” Harbaugh read to his team following the 38-35 double-overtime win. “We are down 35-28. And I think it’s the best game I’ve ever seen us in the playoffs since 2000. Win or lose, I am so proud of the team and proud of you.”

Though not prophetic in the sense that Bisciotti predicted the final outcome or could foresee what would unfold, the gesture was just the latest in a list of special occurrences that make you wonder about these Ravens. Harbaugh and inside linebacker Ray Lewis have consistently referenced their faith and while I don’t subscribe to the idea that God or any divine being is concerned with the outcome of football games, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support that notion if you so choose.

The Ravens’ run to a second consecutive AFC championship game may not be fate, but it sure feels like a storybook tale, filled with trials, tragedy, and triumph. Perhaps that’s what Bisciotti was acknowledging in reaching out to his head coach in those closing minutes of regulation on Saturday night. Harbaugh couldn’t help but share it with his team following one of the greatest wins in the history of the franchise.

“It was just something I thought the team needed to hear, coming from him,” Harbaugh said. “He is a great leader. Our players love him. They love when he is around. He is an inspiration to all of our guys. To me, this organization, he sets the tone here. It’s a great organization because of his vision. The guys needed to hear that in that moment. I’ll tell you, I think they appreciated hearing it.”

And why wouldn’t they after such a remarkable season, filled with highs and lows?

The Ravens lost their original owner Arthur B. Modell just days before the start of the regular season. The man responsible for the very existence of the franchise here in Baltimore has been memorialized with a simple patch reading “Art” on the team’s jerseys all season long.

Personal tragedy struck young wide receiver Torrey Smith when his younger brother Tevin was killed in a motorcyle accident the night before the Ravens’ Week 3 meeting with the New England Patriots. Unsure if he would play earlier in the day, Smith caught two touchdown passes to lead the Ravens to a 31-30 victory as a national audience marveled at his courage on that Sunday night in September.

Injuries that would have devastated most teams have only strengthened the Ravens’ will as only two defensive players started all 16 games this season. Linebacker Terrell Suggs overcame a torn Achilles tendon in the offseason to return in mid-October before having to play through another debilitating injury when he suffered a torn biceps to begin the month of December. Playing nowhere near full strength all season, Suggs’ two sacks of Manning were critical in Saturday’s divisional-round win.

Ray Lewis, the face of the franchise playing in his 17th season, tore his right triceps on Oct. 14 as nearly everyone but the linebacker thought his season — and potentially his career — was over. Instead, the 37-year-old returned to action just in time for the playoffs and announced he would retire at the end of this “final ride” in the postseason.

A three-game losing streak in December that included the dismissal of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and the promotion of quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell threatened to dismantle the good vibes of a 9-2 start, but the Ravens rebounded to beat the New York Giants in convincing fashion to clinch their second straight AFC North division title in Week 16. An offense described as schizophrenic for most of the season has looked as potent as any in the NFL in disposing of the Indianapolis Colts and outscoring the powerful Denver Broncos in two playoff wins.

It’s rarely been easy or pretty, but here the Ravens stand in the middle of January, one of four remaining teams with a chance of raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the first Sunday in February.

“I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be here,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “For us to overcome a lot of things, not only injuries but some family problems with Torrey’s family, everything that has happened with our team, I think we all just understand that we’re a family here, and we can lean on each other and depend on each other.”

The highs have been as fun as any in franchise history as “Fourth and 29″ and “The Prayer in Thin Air” are words that will now live forever in Baltimore football lore.

Under-the-radar performers such as Corey Graham and Jacoby Jones, signed largely for their special-teams abilities, have been critical to the Ravens’ success in ways few would have envisioned in the offseason. Even the former punchline of the 53-man roster, veteran offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, has finally regained his starting job to bolster an offensive line playing better now than it did all season.

Rookie kicker Justin Tucker, anointed by the Ravens to replace Billy Cundiff after a heartbreaking 32-yard miss in last year’s AFC Championship, rewarded the organization for its decision by nailing the game-winning 47-yard field goal in double overtime Saturday to send Baltimore back to the conference championship game.

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