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Alumni in AFC Championship

This afternoon at 3:00 PM ET, the New England Patriots will play host to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game. There are a few former Ducks stars who will be playing in this last step to the Super Bowl, and Ed Dickson and superstar defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will play key roles for the Ravens. The Patriots, on the other hand, are hoping that Patrick Chung (listed as questionable) will be able to start at safety in this game. Chung has been dealing with foot injuries all season, but he was limited in practice on Friday due to a knee injury. Many Pats fans are worried that their only adequate safety will be unable to suit up this afternoon.

If Chung does play, he might be matched up against Ed Dickson on more than one occasion. When he was in college, Chung was a playmaker at safety who had four picks as a sophomore and followed that up with 117 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and nine passes defended as a junior. New England selected him with the second pick in the second round of the 2009 draft. Chung’s main asset is his ability in run support, but his inconsistency (he misses tackles at the wrong time) overshadows his versatility to a certain extent. Chung is a decent player, and he is still a little bit better than Dickson even if he isn’t at full strength.

Dickson’s season has been divided into two halves. He caught 40 passes during the first nine games of the season, but he has only made 15 catches in his past nine games. He catches just under 60% of the passes thrown at him and averages a little under six yards per target. Dickson is a former third rounder who had a nice college career, but he hasn’t been consistent enough in the NFL. He played well in the first half of the year, but these last eight games are beginning to define him as a player. He’s a slightly above average tight end overall, and he will need to shake things off if he wants to make an impact in this game.

Although Logan Mankins has been a disappointment this season and should never have made the Pro Bowl squad, he has still been about average overall and is still making plays as a run blocker. His pass blocking, however, has slipped, but Mankins is still the premier left guard in football.  He is listed as questionable after spraining his MCL in Week 16 against the Miami Dolphins, but he did play most of the time in the divisional round.

Dan Connolly is the weak link on a good Patriots offensive line, and Haloti Ngata will take advantage of him accordingly. Brian Waters, however, is anything but a weak link and has been a dominant pass blocker this season. His run blocking has declined with age, but he should provide some interesting battles against Ngata.

That being said, Ngata is a beast and the Ravens move him all over the line to get favorable match-ups and wreak havoc on quarterbacks. Ngata should be able to get some quality pressure on Tom Brady and make life more difficult for this top-flight Pats offense. Watch out for his disruptive play in run defense, because he can get up field in a hurry. The former 2005 Pac-12 Defensive POY will undoubtedly have a big say in this game, and the former first rounder will do Ducks fans proud.

As far as the advanced statistics go, Ngata’s WPA (win probability added) of 1.28 was fourth among defensive tackles, and his 50.8 EPA (expected points added) was second- just behind the vastly underrated Geno Atkins- among D-Tackles. Ngata’s successful play count (61) was tops among his peers in the regular season, and he even tipped five passes.

Hopefully, Patrick Chung is able to play in the AFC Championship game and make it three Oregon Ducks players in this enticing match-up. It’s always great to see Ducks players having success in the NFL after providing several years of great football in college. Haloti Ngata is one of the premier players in the NFL, and the statistical break down above is only a fraction of it all. Breaking down the match-ups that these players face and evaluating their ability on an NFL scale is interesting and brings back memories of their days as college players.

You can follow me on Twitter @SorianoJoe and Autzen Zoo @Autzen_Zoo.

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Topics: AFC Championship, Baltimore Ravens, Brian Waters, Dan Connolly, Ducks In The NFL, Ed Dickson, Geno Atkins, Haloti Ngata, Logan Mankins, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Oregon Ducks Alumni, Oregon Ducks Football, Patrick Chung, Tom Brady

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