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Playoff debate

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  January 5, 2010 05:09 PM

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Before the Patriots and Ravens face off in the AFC playoffs on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, I'll be facing off  with Baltimore Sun columnist Kevin Van Valkenburg. Kevin and I will be talking about one topic related to the game each day leading up to it.

Today's topic:  Which team has the advantage in the passing game?

Kevin Van Valkenburg: Chris, is this a trick question? Even with Wes Welker out, the Ravens passing game doesn't compare to the Patriots aerial attack. Let's put it this way: If passing the football was a math equation, Tom Brady and the Pats would be like Matt Damon's character in "Good Will Hunting", whereas Joe Flacco and the Ravens are still trying to memorize the multiplication tables. That's not to say Flacco can't make good throws. He did throw four touchdowns against the Bears. (Seriously, stop smirking.) But lately he's had trouble reading blitzes, sidestepping the rush, and none of his receivers are getting open consistently.

By the way, in the time it took you to read that paragraph, cornerback Frank Walker was penalized twice for illegal contact. He should just wear yellow socks at this point.

The Ravens one wild card is safety Ed Reed, occasionally still a game changer. He gambles more than Kenny Rodgers, but he could run one back for a score -- provided he doesn't try to lateral it between Brady's legs on the way to the end zone. He does that sometimes. It's weird.

Excited to see Reed and Randy Moss square of for the title of Greatest Bearded Athlete.

Gasper: Kevin, I don't care if Brady has more injured body parts (three -- finger, ribs, shoulder) than go-to receivers (one -- Randy Moss) the Patriots are superior in the air. Kimbo Slice...I mean Moss isn't going to "shut it down" in the playoffs. He's more likely to rediscover his razor than be daunted by the Ravens pedestrian cornerbacks. Julian Edelman isn't Wes Welker, but he doesn't have to be in the Patriots' system, which goes to the slot more often than an inveterate gambler in Atlantic City. After Welker went down, mini-Wes had 10 catches for 103 yards against Houston.

The Patriots have struggled to defend elite quarterbacks this season, but Joe Flacco not only lacks Brady's star-power, he lacks his pinpoint accuracy. The Ravens receivers should be able to get open against the Patriots susceptible secondary. They just have to catch the ball. You hear me Mark Clayton?

The Ravens' best hope is Bill Belichick's unbridled man crush on safety Ed Reed leads the Patriots to abandon passing altogether. Merely mention Reed's name and the famously laconic coach can't contain himself. He's starts gushing like a schoolgirl talking about "Hannah Montana."  The Hooded One has gone as far as to say that having Reed as a single deep safety is better than most teams playing two-deep coverage.

Even if the Patriots are having a tough time moving the ball through the air on Baltimore, then Brady will just go to what worked best last time and signal the referee to call a few more roughing-the-passer penalties. Terrell Suggs, you up for a little two-hand touch?
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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news


...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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