New England vs. Baltimore. Position by Position Breakdown.
Tom Brady vs Joe Flacco.
This is an easy one for me.
Arm Strength- Advantage Joe Flacco!
Height- Advantage Joe Flacco!
Everything Else- Advantage Tom Brady.
I mean, if we're being honest, nobody is trying to hype up the QB duel taking place in New England tomorrow.
For the seventh straight year, Flacco failed to reach the 4,000 yard passing mark, and while his 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions are much better than 2013's 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, they still pale in comparison to Brady's 33 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
While Joe has efficiently managed the Ravens and gotten them to the playoffs for the sixth time in his seven career years, he's not in the same league as Brady, who has his Patriots celebrating their 11th straight division title* and rolling towards their fourth straight AFC Championship game.
None of this is a knock on Flacco.
Flacco does exactly what the Ravens ask him to do. He converts third downs and puts the ball in the air when it needs to be done.
Tom Brady on the other hand, does far more than even the Patriots dare to ask of him.
With nothing (short of Gronkowski) around him, Tom has proven again and again why he is the best QB in the NFL.
It's unfair to even compare the two.
*not counting the 2008 season, in which Tom Brady only played in part of one game before tearing his ACL.
Advantage- New England.
Baltimore RBs vs New England RBs.
I have to make a small note here.
In Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking system, you could probably rush for 1,000 yards.
Just needed to get that out of the way.
Much like the last debate, this one is easy.
The Ravens are a rough, tough, grind it out running team, and the Patriots aren't.
I'm not saying the Patriots can't run the ball, because as a team, they did compile 1,727 rushing yards over the season.
I'm just saying that nobody on the Patriots rushed for over 450 yards and Justin Forsett rushed for almost three times that.
The Ravens did rush for over 2,000 yards as a team, and if you had to pick an offensive MVP for them, it would most definitely be Forsett.
He's ran hard, broken tackles, and made huge plays for Baltimore. His 5.4 yards per carry being higher than any back on the Pats despite having twice as many carries.
Baltimore WRs vs New England WRs.
This is actually tough because...
Well... Neither team is particularly gifted.
Neither team featured a receiver with 100 catches, and only Baltimore's Steve Smith peaked over 1000 yards.
Let us compare both teams.
Baltimore's big three are Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, and Marlon Brown.
New England's big three are Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, and Danny Amendola.
The Patriots big three combined for 193 catches, 2,125 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
The Ravens big three combined for 152 catches, 2,087 yards, and 17 touchdowns.
Just for context, I did the same thing with Green Bay...
The Packers big three combined for 227 catches, 3,252 yards, and 28 touchdowns.
Neither team is particularly loaded.
I actually have to lean with Baltimore here. While all three receivers have big holes in their game, the dropoff is less steep between the starters and the slot guy.
Edelman is basically Welker-redux and LaFell's season can be compared to Oakland's James Jones... Not great.
Steve Smith is getting long in the tooth and his season has deteriorated as the weather has gotten colder, but he was still a huge part of last week's upset in Pittsburgh, and Torrey Smith is always good for his token catch down the field.
As for Marlon Brown vs Danny Amendola... I think Brown is going to be a part of the Ravens offense in the future for many years to come... Can't say the same for Amendola and New England.
Baltimore TEs vs New England TEs.
Let's say Dennis Pitta was healthy and played the entire season.
Let's say Gary Kubiak just insisted on passing the ball to tight ends on every single possible down.
Even then, this wouldn't be a discussion.
We're talking about Owen Daniels!
Nobody in the NFL holds a candle to Rob Gronkowski.
His size, speed, and physicality make him almost impossible to cover.
And when paired with Tom Brady? Unstoppable.
If we combined Owen Daniels and Dennis Pitta's numbers, we get 64 catches for 652 yards, and 4 touchdowns.
Gronk had 82 catches for 1,124 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
It's not like he doubled in yards and tripled in touchdown catches.
There's no debate here at all.
Advantage- New England.
Baltimore Oline vs New England Oline.
This is actually a weird one.
It's hard to call either way.
On one hand, the Patriots have rushed for fewer yards and given up more sacks, but on the other, Tom Brady does get more time in the pocket than any other QB in the NFL.
It's really up to the viewer to decide.
I'm actually going to pick the Ravens because they've been able to just brutalize teams with the run game and keep Flacco standing up straight for most of the year.
Baltimore Run Defense vs New England Run Defense.
This is a tough one.
Both teams are in the top ten against the run.
The Ravens only give up about 90 yards on the ground per game, and the Patriots have only allowed 6 rushing touchdowns all year.
While the Patriots are very good, the Ravens are simply better.
Baltimore Pass Rush vs New England Pass Rush.
While both teams rush the passer well, I have no choice but to pick the Ravens here.
They amassed 49 sacks this year, and guys like Suggs, Dumervil, Ngata, and Canty certainly made bank off of it.
While I'm not sure that the pass rush will be able to get to Brady very often this weekend, on the whole, they are a better unit.
Baltimore Secondary vs New England Secondary.
You're kidding... Right?
Let me throw out some names.
Rashaan Melvin, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, and Antoine Cason.
Firstly, no, I didn't slip the lead singer of Maroon Five in there, that's Adam Levine.
Secondly, who the hell are these guys?
I mean, you've probably heard the name, "Lardarius Webb" before.
He's the guy who lead cornerbacks in tackles a few years ago.
Before you get your hopes up, that's not a good statistic.
I know it sounds wonderful, but think about it.
Unless he's the nickel guy and he hangs around the front seven alot, when does a corner make tackles?... There ya go.
That was fun.
Let's do it again.
Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, wow, wow, wubzy.
You've probably heard of those guys before.
With six guys on injured reserve, the Ravens don't bring a lot to Show and Tell on "Secondary Day", and even if they were healthy, I don't see Ed Reed back there... I see guys like Will Hill...
Advantage- New England.
Baltimore Special Teams vs New England Special Teams.
This is an interesting one.
So much goes into special teams play.
Who has the better kickers?
Who has the better returners?
Who has the better coverage squad?!
Gah. How does one decide.
Both teams do well stopping kick returners, so that's a wash.
Both teams have kickers who rarely miss and have the leg for the long kicks.
Personally, I'd take Gostkowski, but many respected experts believe Justin Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL.
Ultimately it comes down the Ravens being the team with the highest yards per kick return, and the Patriots being ranked somewhere in the twenties...
It's a good thing they'e got Tom Brady under center, because the defense and special teams aren't doing them any favors in field position!
Baltimore Coaching vs New England Coaching.
This is a showdown of two highly respected coaches!
And these two have quite a history.
Since becoming the head coach of the Ravens in 2008, John Harbaugh is 71-40 in regular season games, and 9-4 in the playoffs, including a Super Bowl win.
And adversely, since Bill Belichick became the head coach of the Patriots in 2000, he is 175-64 in the regular season, and 18-8 in the playoffs, including 3 Super Bowl wins.
Pretty damn impressive.
Two of the best coaches in the league for sure. In fact, since 2008, both coaches have only missed the playoffs once, and have met in two different AFC Championship games!
Who's the better coach?
There's really only one real way to decide.
Head. To. Head.
Harbaugh's Ravens have met Belichick's Patriots seven times, and four times, the Patriots have come out on top.
Sorry guys, I've gotta take BB and his 12 division titles, 5 conference titles, and 3 world titles.
Advantage- New England.
Baltimore vs New England.
So... Which one is it?
The Ravens won more categories... So they're the better team, right?
You may have noticed a theme in almost every category the Ravens one.
"This is really tough but..."
"Both teams are really good"
In almost every category that I picked Baltimore, it was only ever by a slight edge.
However, in the categories that I picked the Patriots, it was a landslide.
Flacco vs Brady? Easy.
Daniels vs Gronk? Easy.
Who the he- vs Revis and Browner? Duh.
But outside of the running game and special teams, everything else was close.
The Ravens receivers aren't much better than the Patriots receivers are.
The Ravens offensive and defensive line are on the same page as the Patriots offensive and defensive lines.
How can I compare two run defenses that are in the top ten?
How can I compare two defenses that had over 40 sacks?
You can't, you just pick the better of the two.
The difference between the defenses isn't anywhere near as great as the difference between Tom Brady and Joe Flacco or Rob Gronkowski and Owen Daniels or even the two secondaries!
Advantage- New England.