On Thursday, star linebacker London Fletcher was a guest on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on ESPN Radio.
Fletcher spoke with Cowherd about his thoughts on the four remaining teams left in the playoffs: the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, and San Francisco 49ers.
Fletcher has some “inside” knowledge on all four contenders. The Redskins played the Falcons and Ravens this year as well as the Patriots and 49ers last year.
Find out what London had to say about each team here (via ESPN Radio):
Fletcher has been in the NFL since 1998 and has played in 240 consecutive games. During that span, he has played against his share of great quarterbacks. However, their is one quarterback that he has squared off against more than any, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“Even when you take away his first guy, he has so many options,” Fletcher said of Brady. “He looks to his first read, first progression, second progression, third progression [then] oh okay this is the guy I want to hit with the football. So with him, its not about taking away his first read.”
Fletcher knows what its like to go against Tom Brady in the playoffs as well. When the Patriots narrowly defeated the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, Fletcher was a key to the Rams seventh-ranked defense.
He continued to speak highly of the potency of the Patriots’ offense.
The thing about New England and what makes it so difficult to hide what you want to do is because they hit you with that no huddle offense,” Fletcher said. “That hurry-it-up offense puts the defense in a panic mode.”
Fletcher also used the term “panic-mode” in refernce to Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco, whom the Redskins defeated 31-28 in Week 14.
The Ravens face the Patriots in the AFC Championship game for a second-consecutive season on Sunday.
“When we study [Flacco] going into the game, we knew where he was going to go with the football based on formations, pre-snap reads, [and] things like that,” Fletcher said of Flacco. “Once we took away his first read, he would kind of panic a little bit.”
In the Redskins victory over the Ravens, the team trailed 28-20 late in the fourth quarter, however, thanks to a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion by quarterback Kirk Cousins, the game went to overtime. It was then that the Redskins were able to capitalize on Flacco’s read progression.
“He wanted to go to [Anquan] Boldin, [but] we took Boldin away,” Fletcher said. “[He] panicked a little bit and tried to scramble. We get a tackle for a two-yard gain, have a big punt return, and end up winning the game.”
Based on what he saw at FedExField that Sunday, Fletcher is somewhat taken aback by the success the Ravens have had in the playoffs.
“We knew they were a tough team, a resilient team,” Fletcher said. “But I did not think they would be able to get on a run that they’ve gotten on.”
What Fletcher may not be accounting for is the change the Ravens made at offensive coordinator, firing Cam Cameron the morning after the Week 14 defeat. With former Colts’ head coach Jim Caldwell taking over playcall duties for the last five games, the Ravens’ offense has averaged nearly 26 points per game, including 38 last week over the Denver Broncos.
Fletcher, however, is picking New England to be crowned AFC Champions.
“At the end of the day, I think New England’s defense will do enough to slow down Flacco and that Baltimore Ravens offense,” Fletcher said. “The Patriots will win”.
On the other side of the playoff bracket, the Falcons face the 49ers for an opportunity to play in Super Bowl XLVII as the representative for the NFC.
Fletcher believes that the game will be a physical affair that favors the 49ers.
“For the 49ers, it all starts up front in the trenches on the offensive line and on the defensive line,” Fletcher said. “That offensive line is the most physical offensive line in football.”
While the Falcons were able to overcome a late rally by the Seattle Seahawks in their divisional round match up last weekend, Fletcher sees holes in the Falcons that he believes are cause for concern, especially for quarterback Matt Ryan.
“When you look at Roddy White, you look at Julio Jones, you look at Tony Gonzalez, I like those weapons,” Fletcher said of Atlanta’s top three receivers. “Matt Ryan, he got the monkey off his back last week, but I’m concerned with which Matt Ryan will show up.”
By late Sunday night we will know just how accurate London’s predictions will be. One things that we can predict with certainty: London wishes that he were still playing this weekend for the chance at a Super Bowl victory.
What do you think of London’s predictions? Cast your own vote below:
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, baltimore ravens, london fletcher, new england patriots, san francisco 49ers, washington redskins
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