Tuesday, we discussed who had the advantage in the passing game.
Today's topic: Which team will complain more about the calls?
Kevin Van Valkerburg: Chris, Ravens fans believe about the only way this game will be fairly officiated is if Roger Goodell takes a page from Vince McMahon's playbook and lets Bridget Moynahan serve as a special guest referee. And you know what? They might be right. Outside of Mike Krzyzewski, I'm not sure anyone manipulates the referees as blatantly as Tom Brady and Co.
Breathe on his knee? Out comes Brady's best Meryl Streep. If there is a lamer highlight this year than Brady pointing at his leg and pumping his fist after Terrell Suggs was flagged for tearing the ruffle on his designer skirt, I haven't seen it. But it's not just Brady. Bump into Randy Moss because you didn't anticipate he'd quit on his route so quickly? He throws up his hands, and out comes the flag. It's a shame Wes "Scrappy Do" Welker is out with a knee injury, because his tantrums on phantom pass interference usually make Christian Bale seem calm and rational.
And let's not forget the tortured fans of Pats Nation. Choke away the Colts game by going for it on fourth and 2 and not getting it? It was the referees fault for a bad spot! Plus the pass interference call the previous drive was unfair! OMG, it's Black Monday! No fan base has ever suffered like us!
It's gotten to be so ridiculous, at this point, I suspect the Patriots would demand someone throw a flag if the Ravens were caught looking at Internet pics of Gisele Bundchen. Come to think of it, Bill Belichick is probably mumbling about that on Roger Goodell's voicemail right now.
Gasper: Boo-hoo, Kevin. I'd give you a hankie to dry your eyes after all that crying, but I'm sure you could just borrow a yellow flag from one of the Ravens. They have enough of them. Baltimore led the NFL in penalty yards this season (1,094) and was tied for third in penalties with 115. The Ravens get flagged for waking up in the morning.
Coach John Harbaugh had to applaud his team for not drawing a ton of flags against the Raiders. That's like giving a gold star to a student who spells his name right. Seems fitting because Baltimore has supplanted the Raiders as the NFL's resident Bad Boys. The only complaint the Ravens should have is that the league showed them "The Longest Yard" instead of the NFL officiating video in training camp.
Baltimore's strategy is like the mid-1990s New York Knicks, just keep hacking away because they can't call them all. Then complain when they call any of them.
The last two times the Ravens have played the Patriots, they've been flagged 22 times -- not including the one former Raven Bart Scott launched into the stands at the end of the 2007 meeting -- for 185 yards.
Even when the Patriots have been flagged against Baltimore, it's been beneficial. The greatest false start in the history of football was committed by Russ Hochstein in that 2007 game. It wiped out a fourth-and-1 stop by the Ravens. Well, the second fourth-and-1 stop, the one that came after Rex Ryan called the worst timeout since Chris Webber in the 1993 NCAA men's basketball title game. Complaints about calls? That's one call I think the Ravens have a case on. Luckily for them, Rex Ryan is now with the Jets.
...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.