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Peter King on M&M: ‘I don’t think there’s anybody really to be afraid of in the AFC’

12.20.13 at 1:23 pm ET

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King made his weekly appearance with Mut & Merloni on Friday to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Ravens game and talk about other NFL news.

The Ravens had major personnel changes in the offseason, but King said they’ve started to return to their physical style the last few weeks.

“I think that what has happened over the years is that they have been able to be really physical and be able to run the ball very well, which is why this year is such a strange year for the Ravens,” King said. “It’s almost like they’ve changed this year — not because they wanted to change, but almost because they had to change, because they just simply cannot run the ball as well as they have been able to do so in the past.

“In the past they were obviously going to hand the ball to Ray Rice a lot, and they’re going to basically let him control a lot of these games. And I think a couple of things have made a difference this year. Recently they’ve been running the ball better, without any question. But I do think in general, missing Matt Birk [who retired] has hurt them. Marshal Yanda has not played nearly as well. Last year toward the end of the year they got really good play, solid play at the left tackle from Bryant McKinnie. They ended up having to trade for Eugene Monroe because McKinnie wasn’t playing as well there this year.

“Look, they’re better in the running game now than they were two months ago. But still, that’s not going to be quite the edge that the Ravens have had on the Patriots in the past.”

The Broncos appear headed for the top seed in the AFC playoffs, but King said the injury-riddled Patriots are right in the mix despite some recent struggles.

“One of the things I look at this year, as much as any other year in recent memory, is who’s going to be playing well in Week 15, 16, 17,” King said. “Now, obviously, I look at a team like the Denver Broncos and I say they very well might set all these records that you’re talking about for points scored and everything like that. But the fact is, they’re going to play teams that are really familiar with them in the playoffs. And San Diego was one of those teams — they’re not going to play San Diego in the playoffs — but San Diego is one of those teams that’s really familiar with them, knows how to play them. And basically really shut them down last week.

“I don’t think that there’s a team that you can look at in the month of January right now in the AFC where you say I can rely on them to play a certain way. I think it’s going to be absolutely wide open, which is why I think it’s a good year, if you’re thinking that the Patriots might overachieve in a particular year, this would be a great year for it. Because clearly you’re at the point where they’ve lost so many weapons on both sides of the ball that you say, well, you know, reload for next year. But not this year, because I don’t think there’s anybody really to be afraid of in the AFC.”

Looking at other NFL news from this week, Bengals punter Kevin Huber suffered a season-ending broken jaw on a vicious block by Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin during a return in Sunday’s game. The NFL fined Garvin $25,000 and said he should have been penalized during the play because the punter is considered a defenseless player. The explanation of that rule elicited some strong reaction around the league.

“There are some rules that you’re not going to be able to understand or comprehend or really figure out the full scope of what they mean until something major happens, like in that particular play,” King said. “You say, ‘Well, we don’t want that play in the game.’ But then you hear the explanation of it from [Dean] Blandino that a punter is defenseless throughout the play, it’s a ridiculous statement to make, in my opinion. I know he’s just defending the rulebook, but I think it’s a ridiculous statement to make. Just because if a punter can tackle a ballcarrier, then you can’t tell me throughout the play that he’s a defenseless player and he can’t be blocked. First of all, that’s not logical.

“And I think the second part of that is how is a player in the open field supposed to know. Is he supposed to look at the number of a punter, and is he supposed to say all of a sudden, if he has a number X, Y and Z and it’s below 20, and that’s the only number a punter can have, how do you know whether that’s the punter, or how do you know that’s a receiver wearing the No. 11 or whatever it is.

“The one thing about the rules interpretations that you’re seeing right now is that they’re so variable and they change so often that I think in the [offseason] there has to be something done about the wording of that because it’s just wrong.”

The NFL said this week the Super Bowl date might change if a storm hits the New York/New Jersey area the first Sunday in February, when the game is scheduled to be played at MetLife Stadium.

“The only way they’re going to move the Super Bowl is if there’s 18 inches of snow that morning and people just can’t get there,” King said. “That’s the only way they’re going to move it — or 12 inches or something like that, which is, that’s a once-a-winter event.

“Look, I’ve been as critical as anybody about having the Super Bowl in New Jersey. I lived there for 19 years. I think it’s utterly, absolutely preposterous. It’s one thing to say let the weather chips fall where they may in January when home field is earned. But there should not be an edge or a difference because of weather — the Super Bowl, the championship of the sport, should not be decided based on, let’s say if it’s a Dallas-Denver Super Bowl. You’ve got to basically say this, that if the weather is a factor in who wins or loses the game at the Super Bowl level, I think there’s something wrong. I just do. I don’t think it’s supposed to be that way.”

King also said the league is “forgetting the 80,000 people or how many who will be at the game” and expecting them to sit in possibly awful conditions for about seven hours, as they will need to arrive early to get through security.

“Pragmatically, it’s a ridiculous thing that they’re asking people to do,” he said. “Here, spend 35 hundred dollars on this ticket, and you’re going to get sleeted on for seven hours. ‘€¦ The fact is that the potential for disaster is there.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at

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