PFF Preview: Ravens @ Patriots, Divisional Round
After defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round, the Baltimore Ravens find themselves headed to Foxboro for a date with Tom Brady and the top-seeded New England Patriots for the fourth time since 2009. Having beaten the Patriots in two of the previous three playoff matchups, losing the 2011 AFC Championship on a missed 32-yard Billy Cundiff field goal that would have sent the game into overtime, the Ravens have a sense of comfort as they head North to the frigid temperatures.
Brady carries that same sense of comfort when he throws to his tight end, Rob Gronkowski, a first-team PFF All-Pro. Gronkowski is having his finest season since his 2011 campaign and has been as dominant as any TE this year. His +23.8 pass grade is tops among all tight ends and doubles that of the No. 2-rated pass-catching TE. With a position-leading 1,124 yards, on 124 targets (second), Gronkowski has managed to pick up 2.53 Yards Per Route Run (YPRR), first among all TE’s.
Gronkowski has also forced 19 missed tackles (second), collecting 460 (third) of his 1124 yards after the catch. Gronkowski and Brady hope to continue hooking up through the air, as they look to take advantage of a patchy Ravens’ secondary.
Luckily for the Ravens, they may have a man capable of slowing down Gronkowski. Since making his way back from suspension, Will Hill has been the Ravens’ best defensive back and has helped solidify a struggling secondary. A coverage grade of +6.7 is best among all active Ravens defensive backs and ranks ninth among safeties. Hill is allowing just 42.1% of balls thrown his way to be completed (fifth among qualifying safeties), giving up only 83 yards (eighth), for an opposing quarterback rating of 68.5. Furthermore, Hill is conceding 0.24 Yards Per Coverage Snap (tied for eighth) and is playing 43.4 Coverage Snaps Per Reception (fifth). With the size and speed to keep up with Gronkowski, Hill may have the tools to limit his production.
Here are five more notable numbers for each side:
Timmy Jernigan – Missing from last week’s wild card game, Jernigan could play a factor in both the run game (+3.2) and getting after the quarterback (+4.5).
C.J. Mosley – Mosley’s 61 stops is tied for second among all inside linebackers.
Darian Stewart – After inconsistent play throughout most of the season, Stewart posted his highest coverage grade (+2.6) of this season, in last week’s wild card game.
Eugene Monroe – After missing the Steelers game, Monroe and his -1.0 pass block grade may return to action, as he looks to protect Joe Flacco’s blindside.
Courtney Upshaw – Often the forgotten member of a stellar Ravens’ linebacking corps, Upshaw has been stout against the run, earning a +5.0 grade.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady – Brady has had a quick trigger this season, averaging 2.34 seconds per pass attempt, fourth-quickest among qualifying quarterbacks.
Vince Wilfork – Wilfork and his defensive run grade of +14.0 will look to limit the Ravens’ production on early downs and force them into long passing situations.
Jamie Collins – The Ravens’ will need to pay close attention to Collins, as he is capable of getting after the quarterback (+9.0) and shutting down the run (+10.9).
Julian Edelman – Catching 74.8% of his targets and reeling in 92 receptions, Edelman is another weapon for Brady and the Patriots’ passing attack.
Sebastian Vollmer – Vollmer (+9.8) is the only Patriots lineman who has performed well in pass protection this year. He’ll look to do his part in keeping Brady’s jersey clean throughout the day.
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