Gillette Stadium – Saturday 10th January at 21:35 live on Sky Sports 2

The New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens are familiar foes against one another in the Play Offs and this looks to be another battle between these two franchises that don’t always see eye to eye. This will be the fourth time in the last six seasons that these teams have met in the Playoffs and it figures to be a competitive game.

Neither team is going to be able to run the ball effectively in this one against Defensive Lines that have been very good against that aspect of an opposition Offense through the course of the season. I would still expect both teams to try and stick with the game plan and probably look for a few different ways to get the team moving on the ground by using the end-around play through the likes of Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman and Jacoby Jones.

Also expect Tom Brady and Joe Flacco to get the ball out of their hands quickly for Wide Receiver screen plays in a bid to open up the running lanes, but both New England and Baltimore will try and continue keeping the Defences honest by pounding the ball with LeGarrette Blount and Justin Forsett.

Both Quarter Backs will take their shots downfield too, particularly Joe Flacco, which means the pass rush and the Offensive Line play is going to be vitally important. That is an area the Baltimore Ravens feel they can have success with Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and Pernell McPhee all able to get plenty of pressure on Quarter Backs and Tom Brady is unlikely to be any different.

It is the one way that has been proven to slow down Brady in the past- no Quarter Back loves to play with pressure all around them and the pocket collapsing, but a few hits on Brady can also see him begin to feel ‘ghost pressure’. That is when you see Brady ducking for cover when the pressure isn’t really near him and getting him to do that will mean the Baltimore Ravens should have a great chance to cause the upset.

On the other hand, the Baltimore Offensive Line, which should also receive a boost from Eugene Monroe’s return, has protected Flacco very well and given him time to find his Receivers downfield. Throwing against this New England Secondary will be tough, but Brandon Browner is something of a penalty giving machine at Corner Back and there can be success for the Ravens hitting deep down the field. Owen Daniels is a nice safety blanket for Flacco whose importance to the team has improved and Baltimore can score enough points to keep this close and perhaps win outright.

You’d still expect Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell have their successes against this Baltimore Secondary that is missing so many players, but I am leaning towards the Ravens to cover.

I hate the fact that every ‘expert’ is talking about Baltimore having New England’s number after going 3-0 against the spread in their last 3 Play Off games against the Patriots. That means Baltimore are going to be a well backed team and Tom Brady loves proving the doubters wrong when everyone is talking about his opponents.

However, there are some trends that favour Baltimore who have been very strong coming off a win over a Divisional rival, going 8-2 against the spread in their next game in that situation. Add in the fact that the Number 1 Seed in the AFC is just 4-5 straight up in this Round and are just 9-15 against the spread over the last 24 seasons, plus the New England Patriots being just 3-8 against the spread in their last 11 home Play Off games, and the Ravens become even more appealing with a lot of points to start off.

The last trend shows that teams winning on the road in the Wild Card Round are 11-3 against the spread in the Divisional Round and even all the ‘experts’ backing Baltimore is not enough for me to ignore the very competitive looking Ravens in this game.

PICK: Baltimore Ravens + 7 Points at 1.89

Price correct at time of writing

By @DavAulak

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