Wild Card weekend is long over, but that does not mean this Sunday’s AFC Championship will be devoid of the unpredictable, particularly for the Baltimore Ravens. John Harbaugh’s squad, which opened as a 7.5 underdog to the hosting Patriots, has at least one big unknown in quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco has been brilliant at times during his short career, but he has also shown an inability to get the Ravens over the hump in spotlight games. If Baltimore hopes to upset New England, the former first round pick will need to be at his best.
Since being selected with the 18th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Joe Flacco has teased the Ravens with his ability. The team, because of its always stout defense and strong rushing attack, has done well with Flacco at the controls, but his up and down performance has made it difficult to ascertain just how much of Baltimore’s success can be attributed to him.
Flacco seems to bristle at that sentiment these days, but he cannot deny that his own limitations have played a part in the team’s inability to reach the Super Bowl the last three seasons. Part of the problem has been his performance in the playoffs. While the Ravens are 5-3 in Flacco’s eight postseason starts, his numbers, especially those in divisional and conference championship play, are less than commendable.
Baltimore is 3-0 in the wild card round with Flacco under center, which is understandable when looking at his wild card statistics side by side with his divisional and conference championship numbers. Flacco has completed 56.7 percent of his passes, averaged 6.48 yards per pass, and compiled a 80.1 passer rating in his three wild card outings. Not overly impressive figures, but how does a 48.4 completion percentage, four touchdowns, six interceptions, 44.7 passer rating, and 2-3 record strike you? Yes, those are Flacco’s numbers in his five other playoff games.
Granted, the Delaware product compiled those stats against some pretty salty defenses (Pittsburgh, Houston, Tennessee), but he has not fared much better against teams more known for their offense (i.e. Indianapolis, New England).
So, it is no surprise, now that Baltimore has advanced to the AFC Championship, that Flacco will prove critical to its chances of knocking off New England. If history means anything…if the Flacco factor means anything, the Ravens can expect to leave Gillette Stadium with their heads down. Baltimore has been adept at avoiding the blood bath in its recent playoff losses, but a double-digit New England victory seems more than plausible this weekend.
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Baltimore Ravens vs New England Patriots 2012 AFC Championship Game Picks: Provided by SBG Global
Baltimore Ravens +7.5 (-110), Over 50.5 (-110), +265 (Moneyline)
New England Patriots -7.5 (-110), Under 50.5 (-110), -325 (Moneyline)