Ravens survive, head to Foxboro


Ravens survive, head to Foxboro

Next up for the Patriots: Baltimore. The Ravens capitalized on a first-quarter special teams gaffe by the Texans and survived a brilliant effort by Houston's defense to advance to next Sunday's AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium. The Ravens are lucky to be alive. And the Patriots offense is going to face its stiffest test of the year (though it might have been even more daunting if Houston won). Check the missteps and bad breaks by Houston. A first-quarter punt muff by Jacoby Jones inside his 10 led to a touchdown. It was a 2-yard drive. The Ravens' next drive ended with a field goal and the first T.J. Yates interception led to the final Ravens score of the first quarter and a 17-3 lead. In the fourth, Yates was picked off twice. The final Yates interception came on a throw to the end zone with 1:51 left that Ed Reed came down with. The would-be game-tying throw was Yates' third pick. The Texans also had a Billy Cundiff field goal hit the crossbarAll that was enough for Baltimore to survive the Texans defense which sacked Joe Flacco five times and allowed just 75 yards on 19 carries to Ricky Williams and Ray Rice. Flacco was 14-for-27 for 176 yards. The Ravens offensive line looked terrible, getting collapsed regularly. And Flacco looked like a guy trying to will himself invisible when the pressure swirled. Didn't work. New England can't bring that kind of heat. And the Ravens' downfield threats -- especially the underrated Anquan Boldin (4 catches and 73 yards) -- are more potent and stand a better chance of testing them than the Broncos could have. Still, the Ravens offense is not terrifying. Not by a long shot. And New England has its best performance of the season to build upon. What was more alarming for the Ravens -- and encouraging for the Patriots -- was the permissiveness of their defense. Inaccurate as Yates was, he found receivers all over the yard running fairly free. And Arian Foster absolutely feasted on the ground running behind the Texans line which just overpowered the Ravens front-seven. Foster carried 27 times for 132 yards. Andre Johnson had 111 yards receiving on eight catches. The Ravens didn't get a sack of Yates. Terrell Suggs was quiet as a church mouse. And Ed Reed appeared to get injured on the final Houston play of the game. We'll watch those this week. So, in short, Baltimore won against a team that threw it to them three times and handed them the ball on the 2-yard line. And they still won by just a touchdown. At home. Underwhelming win. But can the Patriots make the Ravens look as bad offensively as they did against Houston? We'll certainly be discussing it over the next couple of days.

QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense


QUICK SLANTS THE PODCAST: Jerod Mayo breaks down the best way for Patriots to attack Jaguars defense

Jerod Mayo talks with Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry about the Patriots AFC Championship matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(2:00) Jerod Mayo gives his X’s and O’s breakdown of the Jaguars defensive schemes and traits.

(5:00) Jerod gives his opinion on how the Patriots offense should attack the Jaguars defense.

(8:30) Could Gronkowski be the key to the Patriots offense? What would be the best way to use him?

(15:00) Does the Jaguars defense have a weakness against vertical routes?

(17:00) Jerod Mayo explains why James White could be a key once again for the Patriots. 

(21:00) Will Jaguars change their defensive scheme after allowing 42 to the Steeler?

(23:00) Will much will the Jaguars having the ‘nothing to lose’ mindset impact the game?

Jaguars have Ramsey's back


Jaguars have Ramsey's back

Enough has been made of Jalen Ramsey’s bold proclamation that the Jaguars are going to win the Super Bowl despite the fact that they’re aren’t even on that stage yet.

I know it’s not how the Patriots do business but other teams do. Does it generally work? Well, no one can match the Pats sustainability but that doesn’t mean that style can’t be effective in shorter windows.

Look at the Seahawks or Ravens. Even the Giants could be boisterous. That leads me back to the Jags, who have Ramsey’s back.

“We’re so close that I think it’s OK to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this,’’’ said defensive tackle Malik Jackson.

“The man has confidence in his team,” added Abry Jones, also a defensive tackle. “What’s he going to say? He knows what we’re going up there to do. It’s not like he’s saying anything that’s not true.”

“He does things very passionately,” Calais Campbell told the Rich Eisen show. “You feed off that. When you see a guy who loves the game as much as he does, you can’t help but fall into the same mentality.”

That is what makes Ramsey different from say Mike Mitchell, the Steelers safety who ran his mouth weeks ago about beating the Patriots in the AFC title game and then stood outside the Jags locker room and yapped about what a long day the visitors were in forSunday. How’s that working out for Mitchell now? He’s at home while Ramsey is about to play in his biggest game as a pro.

“He’s going to talk, but he’s going to show up,” Yannick Ngakoue said. “I just don’t like people talking all week. You talk reckless, man, and you lose. It is what it is.”

That is not an indicator to the Jags that Ramsey is looking ahead.

“He’s just happy,” noted Ngakoue. “He understands we have a giant in front of us and he’s got to pay all of his attention to this team. We don’t even know who’s going to play in the Super Bowl…We understand we have to do what we have to do or we’ll be watching the Super Bowl at home like everybody else.”

Of course, Ngakoue, the gifted edge rusher on that fearsome front 4, had some pointed words to the Steelers after that 45-42 win Sunday saying “real people don’t say nothing. Real people are quiet but then throw the first punch…they thought they were bullies today. We were the bullies. See you next year.”

That’s not Ramsey’s modus operandi however. He got under A.J. Green’s skin so much that the normally peaceful Bengals wideout threw punches at the Jags corner during the game and reportedly wanted more after the game. Then - and now - Jacksonville seems okay with it so long as the All-Pro corner continues to deliver the goods.

“Everybody has their own persona,” said Leonard Fournette. “Whatever motivates them. We aren’t worried about two weeks ahead of us. We aren’t worried about the Super Bowl. It’s the next game. It’s Sunday in New England.”