The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Van Valkenburg discusses and debates the strengths and weaknesses of each team with The Boston Globe's Christopher L. Gasper each day leading up to Sunday's playoff game. New questions and answers will be posted each afternoon at baltimoresun.com/ravens and boston.com
Is this a trick question? Even with Wes Welker out, the Ravens' passing game doesn't compare to the Patriots' aerial attack.
Let's put it this way: If passing the football were a math equation, Tom Brady and the Pats would be like Matt Damon's character in "Good Will Hunting," whereas Joe Flacco and the Ravens are still trying to memorize the multiplication tables.
That's not to say Flacco can't make good throws. He did throw for four touchdowns against the Bears. (Seriously, stop smirking.) But lately he has had trouble reading blitzes and sidestepping the rush, and none of his receivers are getting open consistently.
By the way, in the time it took you to read that paragraph, cornerback Frank Walker was penalized twice for illegal contact. He should just wear yellow socks at this point.
The Ravens' one wild card is safety Ed Reed, occasionally still a game-changer. He gambles more than Kenny Rogers, but he could run one back for a score - provided he doesn't try to lateral it between Brady's legs on the way to the end zone. He does that sometimes. It's weird.
But I am excited to see Reed and Randy Moss square off for the title of Greatest Bearded Athlete. KVV KVV,
I don't care if Brady has more injured body parts (three - finger, ribs, shoulder) than go-to receivers (one - Randy Moss), the Patriots are superior in the air. Kimbo Slice ... I mean Moss ... isn't going to "shut it down" in the playoffs. He's more likely to rediscover his razor than be daunted by the Ravens' pedestrian cornerbacks. Julian Edelman isn't Wes Welker, but he doesn't have to be in the Patriots' system, which goes to the slot more often than an inveterate gambler in Atlantic City. After Welker went down, mini-Wes had 10 catches for 103 yards against Houston.
The Patriots have struggled to defend elite quarterbacks this season, but Joe Flacco not only lacks Brady's star power, he also lacks his pinpoint accuracy. The Ravens' receivers should be able to get open against the Patriots' susceptible secondary. They just have to catch the ball. You hear me, Mark Clayton?
The Ravens' best hope is that Bill Belichick's unbridled man crush on safety Ed Reed leads the Patriots to abandon passing altogether. Merely mention Reed's name and the famously laconic coach can't contain himself. He starts gushing like a schoolgirl talking about " Hannah Montana." The Hooded One has gone as far as to say that having Reed as a single deep safety is better than most teams playing two-deep coverage.
If the Patriots actually have a tough time moving the ball through the air on Baltimore, Brady will just go to what worked best last time and signal the referee to call a few more roughing-the-passer penalties.
Terrell Suggs, you up for a little two-hand touch?Chris