AFC Championship Game Thread: Patriots vs. Ravens

Patrick Smith

While this game may be shadowed by suspicious activity by the Patriots coaching staff in the past, the story of the day is the retiring Ray Lewis. Can the Ravens ride an emotional high their team leader provides, against arguably one of the greatest offensive teams over the past decade?

Tom Brady will always overshadow Baltimore's Joe Flacco. Let's face it, when we talk about "elite" quarterbacks, Flacco doesn't deserve mention in the same breathe as Mr. Bundchen, er... Brady.

The story line for Ravens' fans is Ray Lewis. He's as big a lock for the NFL Hall of Fame as I've ever seen. His career will have him in the discussion of the best middle linebackers of all time. That the Ravens' as a team depend on a defensive player for overall team leadership is neither here nor there, or at least it's that way until next season...

Having to travel to New England to play the Patriots in the AFC Championship is a grueling task. History wreaks of legendary performances by Tom Brady, and I have to think it will be the same way today. The loss of Rob Gronkowski will be telling, but the great DCBate reminds us there will be some former Rams trying to fill the void. Aaron Hernandez is my key player of the game for the Patriots, but don't be surprised if they turn more toward their 7th ranked running game. New England boasts the #1 offense overall in the NFL too.

So what do the Ravens have going for them in this game? Ray Lewis means so much to this team, I can't help but believe he'll inspire his teammates as he dances onto the field, then put every last bit of himself into the game. Emotionally driven teams are scary. (See: Indianapolis Colts) Anyone who causes Lewis to lose this game will be dog meat in Baltimore (Can you hear me Joe Flacco?) In a year where his contract will be re-done, Flacco can cost himself millions of dollars with a bad performance today. Will he avoid the "...You made Ray sad" discount?

Here's to a great game! Final score prediction? Patriots: 31-28

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