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Patriots-Ravens matchup of the day: Friday

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a key matchup to watch in the AFC championship game between the Patriots and Ravens:

Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Ravens FS Ed Reed

If you paid attention to the press conferences this week, you would know that Brady and Bill Belichick are the co-presidents of Reed's fan club. They have a wealth of respect for one of the game's all-time greats at safety — and they also know how important it is to keep Reed from making a big play.

Reed, who injured his ankle at the end of the Ravens' win over the Texans, said he will be fine for Sunday's conference title game. But Reed won't be at 100 percent, and his age has shown this season. Not last week, though, when he picked off a pass among four passes defensed.

Brady likes to attack the middle of the field, whether it's Wes Welker on a quick slant or Rob Gronkowski on a seam. That's where Reed roams, center field, looking to make a big hit or an interception. He had one pick when these two teams met in the postseason two years ago, but in four regular-season games against Brady, Reed has only one pick, coming in a 2007 game.

There aren't many quarterbacks in the NFL who avoid mistakes better than Brady. He had some struggles early this season, throwing 10 interceptions in the team's first eight games. But he threw only two picks in the final eight games, though he did let an errant pass fall into the hands of Broncos DB Quinton Carter. You can be certain that before every play, Brady will keep an eye out to see where Reed is lined up. The Patriots' signalcaller will avoid Reed at all costs, which is easier said than done.

Another thing to note is Brady's career play against Baltimore. In five career games, four regular-season matchups and the playoff game, Brady has a completion percentage of 55.9 percent, his worst against any team in the league. Brady's passer rating in the four regular-season games is 77.9, though all of those were wins. The Ravens' pressure up front has had success, and that's when throws can veer off course, like they did in last year's matchup when Brady tossed two picks.

If Brady can avoid allowing Reed to be a factor in Sunday's game, it increases the Pats' chances to pile up the points and move on to the Super Bowl.

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