Tuesday, we discussed who had the advantage in the passing game.
Wednesday, we discussed which team will complain more about the calls.
Thursday, we asked which team has the edge on defense?
Friday, we asked which of these flawed teams has a better chance to make a surprise Super Bowl run?
Today's topic: Who will win this game, the Patriots or the Ravens? Why?
Gasper: Kevin, I've enjoyed the witty back-and-forth banter with you all week long. I think you had the edge in our war of words, but that's the only thing Baltimore is winning. You're a better wordsmith than the Ravens are a football team right now.
I know Ravens' fans feel like they could have won at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 4, but that was back in the Mesozoic Era, when Joey Galloway was still a Patriot. The chances of Baltimore winning this game if it's close are almost nil, Ngata. The Ravens don't have the quarterback or the secondary to beat the Patriots in a tight game in January.
Let's look at the cold, hard facts. The Ravens are 0-5 all-time against the Patriots. The Patriots have never lost a playoff game at the Razor. The Brady Bunch are 8-0 at home this season, and Tom Terrific has never lost on the field that the teams will be playing on this Sunday. He is 23-0, including the playoffs, since the Patriots turfed their old natural grass surface in the middle of the 2006 season and replaced it with synthetic grass.
Yeah, I know Wes Welker will be watching this one on TV after his unfortunate knee injury, but he wasn't a huge factor in the first meeting, which came after he missed the prior two games with, you guessed it, a knee injury. Julian Edelman, who sounds like he should be playing Carnegie Hall and not slot receiver in NFL, is going to look like Welker being covered by Frank Walker or Chris Carr.
On the other side of the ball, the return of nose tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive end Ty Warren to the Patriots defensive line will allow the Patriots to slow down Willis McGahee and Ray Rice enough to put the game on the arm of Flacco. I just don't think he is good enough -- yet. Plus, if the game is close late, I'm sure the officials will make all the appropriate calls (wink, wink). I look forward to a trip to sunny San Diego. Any site-seeing suggestions?
Kevin Van Valkenburg: I too have enjoyed our literary tête-à-tête. It's a shame we can't meet at midfield after the game for a handshake and hug, shoving cameramen and ignoring Suzy Kolber on our way to an awkward embrace.
I agree that it's a long-shot for Baltimore to win this game, especially since the last time the Patriots lost at home in the playoffs (1978), Ray Lewis was 3 years old. But here is why it's going to happen:
As far as I can tell, Tom Brady's body is being held together by duct tape, surgical staples, and band-aids. At some point Sunday, he's going to take a big hit -- my money is on Jarret Johnson delivering it, the Ravens most underrated player -- and I'm not sure he bounces up this time.
You know why? His karma changed when he swapped his super model baby mamma for a super model baby mamma wife. Know any females outside of the greater New England area who still have warm feelings for Tom Terrific? To men of our generation, he's like Dimaggio. But women? Egads. My wife wanted a Brady voodoo doll as a stocking stuffer this year at Christmas. Bridget Moynahan is the new Jennifer Anniston to her and millions like her. All that hate is being channeled in his direction. That can't help a guy's karma to have an entire gender eager to see him crumpled on the turf.
In all seriousness, without Welker in the line-up, the Ravens can get to Brady and batter him around. It won't be pretty. Flags may be thrown. But that's what the Ravens do. They play the villain well, and they can find a way to win ugly. With Randy Moss in semi-sulk mode already, not practicing all week, I see Ed Reed making one big play that steals a victory. If not him, then Ray Rice, who has emerged this season as a poor-man's Marshall Faulk.
The Ravens may need several police escorts just to get to Logan Airport alive when it's over, but the Era of Untouchable Brady coughs and wheezes its last breath this Sunday.
...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.