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Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots NFL Preview

More great work from Andy Richmond, @bickley14. As with the NFC game, this is just a snippet of the full article. Find the lot at NFL Insight.

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NFL Preview – Conference Championships 2013

Game Keys:

Baltimore need another composed game from QB Joe Flacco

Will that energy sapping victory in Denver leave the Ravens running on empty?

Patriots to establish their running game behind their dominating O-line

Welker; can the Ravens cover and control him from the slot

Hernandez is a key player for the Patriots, a lot of the good things they do go through him – watch where he lines up.

Brady needs to be aware of Ravens defenders like Ed Reed, who loves an interception

Ravens need to pressure Brady – but be selective.

Can the Ravens cope with the Patriots no-huddle/hurry-up offence?

What defensive schemes do the Patriots run?

Boldin, Smith, Pitta and Jones give Flacco plenty of options in the passing game

Can the Ravens find their deep passing threat again especially against a two-deep coverage scheme?

Baltimore O-line needs to play at the same level as they have in the past few weeks

The turnover battle is vital.

Key players: Baltimore (Torrey Smith) – New England (Aaron Hernandez)

Game Statistics This will be the first time two teams have met in a conference championship game in consecutive seasons since the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers met in three straight from 1992 to 1994. It’s the first instance of teams meeting in consecutive AFC championships since the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos met in 1986 and 1987.

Tom Brady is 86-15 in his career in home starts (including postseason). Among quarterbacks whose careers began in the Super Bowl and made at least 20 starts at home, Brady has the best home winning percentage (.851). Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco ranks fourth (35-7, .833). Brady also passed Joe Montana for the most career playoff wins with his 17th on Sunday. He’ll tie Montana’s mark for most appearances in conference championships with his seventh.

The Patriots will be without Rob Gronkowski, who broke his arm in Sunday’s win against the Houston Texans. There is a drop in the Patriots completion percentage without Gronkowski from 65.7% to 58.4% and the yards gained per play also drops from 6.0 to 5.4, it’s also worth comparing the TD/INT records with and without Gronkowski on the field; on that measure 23-3, off the numbers are 11-6.

Flacco is no slouch on the road. His five road playoff wins are tied (with Eli Manning) for the most in NFL history by a starting quarterback. In fact, the Ravens’ eight postseason road wins are a total eclipsed by only two NFL teams: the Green Bay Packers (10) and Cowboys (nine).

John Harbaugh is 0-2 in his career in AFC title games. He could become the fifth coach to lose his first three conference championship game appearances. The others: John Madden, Chuck Knox, Marty Schottenheimer and Andy Reid.

Flacco is 8-of-12 for 324 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on throws deeper than 20 yards downfield in the playoffs, including the game-tying touchdown in the final minute of the fourth quarter against the Broncos on Saturday. Flacco completed 37 percent of those attempts during the season with seven touchdowns, and had the most attempts without an interception (81) of any quarterback.

Ray Lewis leads the Ravens with 30 tackles this postseason. The Ravens have allowed opponents to complete only 49 percent of their passes when sending five or more pass-rushers with Lewis this season. Without Lewis, Ravens opponents are completing 65 percent of their passes against such pressure.

The Ravens are the No. 4 seed in the AFC. No. 4 seeds are 6-1 all time in conference championship games, including a win by the Ravens in 2000; when they went on to win Super Bowl XXXV against the Giants.

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Read more including the Game Preview at NFL Insight - the above is just a small part of the overall preview!

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