Third of four breakdowns on the first round of the NFL playoffs:
Hurtin' for certain?
The last time these teams played, Baltimore players thought officials were far too quick to throw flags that kept the pass-rush heat off Tom Brady. In a conference call this week, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis sounded wary about reports of Brady's broken ribs and broken index finger on his throwing hand.
"I think sometimes that's the biggest setup ever," Lewis said. "Look at all the great ones, man. All the great ones, man, every time you say they're hurt, they come out and have their best games. So forget all that. Who's hurt and who's not. If you have your uniform on, we understand that you're playing full throttle. You're playing just like who you are."
Then, breaking into a shrill voice, Lewis said: " 'Oh, Tom has this! Let's try and do this, let's try and do that!' As soon as you try to do that, it leaves people man on man, then he hurts you.
"Bottom line, if he suits up, he's ready to play. Let's play."
Go Wes, young man
New England lost slot receiver Wes Welker to a knee injury Sunday, and that leaves a big void in the Patriots' offense. Welker was responsible for more than 30% of Brady's completions this season and led the NFL with 123 receptions.
"You can't replace him. There's no doubt about that," Brady said in a radio interview. "There's nobody that can substitute in for Wes and think that they're going to be Wes. He's everything you ask for."
In steps rookie Julian Edelman, a former Kent State quarterback who looks a little like a beefier Welker on the field, and can do some of the same things. He replaced an injured Welker against the New York Jets in September and caught eight passes for 98 yards, then had a career-high 10 catches for 103 yards after Welker went down in Houston last weekend.
Patriots at home
The Patriots have won 11 consecutive home playoff games and are 11-1 overall: Year Round Opponent Result2008 AFC champ. San Diego W, 21-12 Divisional Jacksonville W, 31-202007 Wild card N.Y. Jets W, 37-162006 Wild card Jacksonville W, 28-32005 Divisional Indianapolis W, 20-32004 AFC champ. Indianapolis W, 24-14 Divisional Tennessee W, 17-142002 Divisional Oakland W, 16-13 OT1997 Wild card Miami W, 17-3 AFC champ. Jacksonville W, 20-6 Divisional Pittsburgh W, 28-31978 Divisional Houston L, 14-31Run, Ravens run
The Patriots have struggled to stop the ground attack, and Baltimore has a very good one. Sunday, on the same afternoon the Ravens got 240 yards rushing against Oakland, the Patriots made Houston rookie Arian Foster (119 yards, two fourth-quarter touchdowns) look like Adrian Peterson.
Ray Rice led Baltimore in rushing with 1,339 yards (5.3 average; seven touchdowns) and Willis McGahee had 544 (5.0 average; 12 touchdowns)
NBC's Rodney Harrison, a former New England safety, on his old team's chances: "The Patriots have struggled, playing on the road. They're perfect at home, but he's [Bill Belichick] going to use this strangeness -- of them getting their butts kicked on the road, as well as not playing particularly well defensively -- to turn that all around into a positive. They've always responded to Belichick and that makes me believe that they're going to beat the Ravens."
Stats comparison BALNEPoints scored 24.4 (9) 26.7 (6)Points allowed 16.3 (3) 17.8 (5)Pass offense 213.7 (18) 277.2 (3)Rush offense 137.5 (5) 120.1 (12)Pass defense 207.2 (8T) 209.7 (12)Rush defense 93.2 (5) 110.5 (13)Turnover ratio +10 (4) +6 (8T)Sacks 32 (18T) 31 (23T)Penalties 115 (3T) 81 (26)
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