Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/20/12

Here we go, championship weekend is finally upon us.  The New England Patriots and Tom Brady look to keep the ball rolling against Ed Reed and the Baltimore Ravens.

Ray Rice needs to get going to keep Brady off the field

The Patriots, led by a gang of weapons, look to continue the trend of offense that they put on last week vs. the Denver Broncos.  The Pat’s offense put up 45 points against a good Bronco defense and could have put up plenty more had they not slowed down.  The Ravens, on the other hand, held off a late push last week from the Houston Texans.  They got a late interception from safety Ed Reed to secure the victory.  Here are a few key things to watch for this week:

  • Tom Brady’s time in the pocket:  It is no secret that if you give Brady time to sit back and throw, no matter how good your defense is, he will pick you apart.  Brady, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, has no trouble reading defenses and picking them apart week after week.  If the Ravens can’t get to Brady, this one will be over early.  But I don’t think that will be the case.  The Raven’s defensive line is one of the best in the league so don’t be surprised to see Haloti Ngata or Terrell Suggs coming off the edge to interrupt Brady.
  • Containing Rob Gronkowski AND Aaron Hernandez?:  What I just said, is not possible but if their is a team in the league, with the linebackers that can make it happen, it is the Ravens.  Led by Ray Lewis, Jarrett Johnson, and Suggs this line backing core is aggressive enough to help shut down the two tight ends.  Although most teams don’t like the match up of a safety on a tight end, I’ll take Ed Reed on anyone in the league.  But before I forget, I’ll take Tom Brady vs. any defense in the league.  This truly is going to be a beautiful match up watch for.
  • Joe Flacco vs. the Patriots defense AND Ed Reed:  Earlier this week, it made headlines when Ed Reed called out his own quarterback, Joe Flacco.  Yes, the week of the AFC Championship game, Reed finds it necessary to say that his quarterback was rattled vs. the Texans and needs to step up.  The word veteran leadership really went down the drain there when Reed called out the four year quarterback, who really struggled last week, but still did enough to help his team win.  If the Ravens go down this week, look for everyone to blame Ed Reed and what he did to the mindset of Mr. Flacco.
  • Ray Rice:  To make things easier for Joe Flacco, the coaching staff of Baltimore needs to get running back Ray Rice going early and often.  Rice can take over a game and can easily get the tough yards.  The longer you keep Brady on the sideline, the better chance you got.
  • Wes Welker vs. Raven corners:  So we talked about the two tight ends and how the Ravens can stop them, but who is going to watch Wes Welker?  Welker is a nightmare for defenses and is really going to make things tough.  There is no defense designed to double cover THREE different guys but Baltimore is going to have to make it seem like that.  It will really help, going back to the first point, if the Ravens can pressure Brady all game long.

As a betting man, this is a tough one: I like the Baltimore Ravens to cover -7 and the UNDER of 50

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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