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Three match ups to watch against the Patriots

New England Patriots quarterback Brady shakes the hand of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Flacco after the Ravens defeated the Patriots in the NFL AFC Championship football game in Foxborough

1. Julian Edelman vs. Lardarius Webb- The Patriots are lacking weapons this year for Tom Brady as tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for the season with a knee injury, wide receiver Wes Welker left in free agency, and well, tight end Aaron Hernandez is in jail. Wide receiver Julian Edelman has stepped up this season to fill Welker’s void and although he isn’t as talented as Welker, he is still dangerous in the slot. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is the one who matches up with opposing teams slot receivers. Webb has been improving game by game this year since returning from his ACL surgery, and has had big games against the Patriots and Welker in the past. If the Ravens want to contain quarterback Tom Brady, they will have to win this matchup. Edge: Even

2. Ravens run game vs. Patriots run defense- In the past, the Ravens have had a lot of success running the ball against the Patriots. Who could forget the opening play of the 2010 wild card game? Rice and the Ravens have found ways to expose this Patriots defense. That is the past, though, and Rice has had his worst year statistically. Not only that, but this offensive line isn’t as good as past lines that pushed around Patriot fronts. Tasked with controlling Rice is inside linebacker Brandon Spikes, who has emerged as one of the better linebackers in this league. He is a tough, physical linebacker, and his running-mate, Rob Ninkonvich, comes from the Mike Vrabel mold. There defensive line features Chandler Jones, Arthur Jones brother, but he is more of a pass rusher than run stopper.  That front is missing two Pro Bowl players in nose tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo. The Ravens should be able to find holes in this game, but given their track record this year it is hard to count on them, even against a weak New England front. Advantage: Even

3. Tom Brady vs. Joe Flacco- Yes, they don’t exactly have to play each other on the field, but there is no denying that whoever plays better in this game will most likely come out on top. It is easy to say that Brady will be the better player given his great career and superb play in the month of December, but that would be narrow-minded. Looking at the last four times the two teams have played, Flacco has outplayed Brady, and should be 4-0 in those games, but some kicker couldn’t make a chip shot. Flacco has shown that he can handle this Patriots defense and coach Bill Belichick’s schemes. Brady, on the other hand, has struggled against this Ravens defense, and it won’t be any easier given the weapons he will have at his disposal on Sunday. In fact, the Ravens may have better weapons. Despite all of that, Brady is a future Hall-of-Famer and there is a lot on the line in this game. Flacco will have another good game against the Patriots, especially since he is playing at home, but you can’t discount Brady because he hasn’t played his best games against the Ravens in the past. Advantage: Even

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