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ExtremeRavens: The Sanctuary

I Agree


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th_strangelove_sm2.jpg"One guy in the media sees it like I do...


Sports books in Las Vegas have the Ravens listed as 7.5 point underdogs in this one, making Sunday’s game the first time since 2007 that an opponent’s been favored by more than a touchdown over Baltimore. Based on Sunday’s underwhelming Ravens win over a Texans team helmed by a rookie quarterback drafted in the fifth round nine months ago, paired with Saturday night’s complete destruction of Tebow Time, that point spread’s not too surprising.

But I think back to 2000.

Third Eye Blind was an incredibly popular band, Napster was driving the music industry wild, and those Budweiser “Whasssup” ads were all the rage. The 2000 Raiders were also awfully similar to this year’s Patriots. Oakland went 12-4 during the season, secured a first-round bye in the playoffs, and walloped an overmatched Dolphins squad 27-0 in the divisional round. Oakland led the league in several offensive categories in 2000 and Rich Gannon was the quarterback on the NFL All-Pro team.

The 2000 Ravens, despite boasting the statistically best defense in NFL history, were big underdogs when the two teams squared off in the AFC Championship Game.

And what happened? Tony Siragusa fell on Rich Gannon, the Raiders offense stalled and the Ravens cruised to a dominant 16-3 victory on the road. Oakland’s high powered offense, one that averaged over 400 yards per game during the regular season, was held to just 191 yards and three points.

Am I suggesting that Terrence Cody or Pernell McPhee will fall on Tom Brady in the first quarter and the Ravens will beat a disheveled Brian Hoyer-led Patriots squad on Sunday? No. But, I do think there’s a lesson to be learned from that 2000 game — let’s not underestimate a hungry, defensive Ravens squad going up against a high-powered, highly decorated offense.

Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s getting roasted in Baltimore this week for his tepid play-calling last Sunday, and rightfully so. The offensive gameplan was horrendous. But this Patriots defense isn’t nearly as potent as the Texans one they faced a week ago. Ray Rice, who struggled mightily against Wade Phillips’ front-seven, will get his yards against a porous Patriots D. In three career games against the Patriots (including the playoffs), Rice has averaged 145.7 scrimmage yards per game. Dennis Pitta and Torrey Smith — two guys who didn’t do much last week — will get their looks. The Ravens are going to score points on Sunday. They’re going to have to.

The only time these two teams played in a playoff game, it was a 33-14 win in the wild-card round up in New England in 2010. Joe Flacco’s 1-0 in playoff games in Foxborough. He’s already played in seven road playoff games. There will be no “jitters” from the fourth-year quarterback.

It’s going to come down to the Ravens linebackers covering those Patriots tight ends. Suggs, Lewis, Johnson and McClain will be up to the task.

I know it sounds crazy, but I like the Ravens on Sunday. Like the Cowboys did earlier this season vs. New England, the defense should stifle Brady just enough to give the offense a chance. And unlike the Cowboys earlier this season, the Ravens offense will be able to get the job done.

I’m taking the Ravens. And if Cody happens to knock out Tom Brady on Sunday, I’ll be sure to give you those stock tips next week.

The Pick: Ravens 30, Patriots 27


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