Patriots-Ravens: 3 storylines to watch this Sunday
Three storylines to watch this Sunday as the Patriots and Ravens clash once again in the AFC Championship game (6:30 p.m., CBS):
Ray Lewis retirement party
Will this be Ray Lewis’ last game? If you’ve read some of the billboards across Massachusetts, it will be. The Ravens linebacker and future Hall of Famer announced a few weeks back that this would be his final season, and it appears as if the team has rallied around him in a sense. It also appears that Lewis could still play next season if he wanted to, as he leads all players in tackles this postseason with 30. Lewis has been one of the most feared linebackers in the game over the course of his career – for good reason. Expect him to be even louder and more involved than normal on Sunday against New England.
“He’s got great instincts, great in the running game, instinctive in the passing game, play-actions and recognizing different route combinations,” Bill Belichik said.
The rubber match
The Patriots and Ravens have been two of the more consistently successful NFL teams over recent years, making them rivals by default. Sunday will mark the third postseason game between the two since 2009, with the Ravens knocking off New England, 33-14, in a 2009 Wild Card matchup at Gillette and New England advancing to the Super Bowl at their expense, 23-20, last season. It’s not an accident that both are seeing each other again. There’s talent up and down each roster and on each coaching staff. But with an aging Baltimore defense, and an offense that – at times – looks uneasy, this could be the Ravens’ last real chance for a while to get to the Super Bowl. The Patriots, on the other hand, have done a solid job restocking youth to balance with veterans.
The Tom Brady Effect
You can pretty much preface any Baltimore Ravens win prediction with “If Tom Brady isn’t on his game…” because, let’s face it, when he is, the Patriots win. But believe it or not, Brady’s two postseason games against the Ravens haven’t been all that good. In the first one, a loss, Brady fumbled once, and was intercepted twice – all in the first quarter, all of which led to Ravens touchdowns. It was 24-0 Ravens before Brady threw his first TD pass. And against the Ravens last year, Brady threw two picks and no TDs – rushing for one. In both games combined, Brady is 45-of-78 for 393 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and five interceptions. So, again, “If Tom Brady isn’t on his game…” look out.