Patriots-Ravens with WWE-like stipulation

The Ravens won't look the same the next time they come to Foxboro.

Those were the mighty words of the great Howard Finkel at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles when the Ultimate Warrior met the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage with the threat of retirement hanging in the balance.
Not that this Sunday’s AFC Championship game needs any more drama or hype, but if Bob Kraft invites the world’s greatest ring announcer (sorry, Buffer brothers) to sit in the John Kerry/Donald Trump/Jon Bon Jovi seats in the family suite and allows him to introduce the Pats, Gillette Stadium may finally reach the Decibel levels of old Foxboro Stadium.
Know this: this is indeed a career-ending match on Sunday. Unfortunately for Baltimore fans, the stipulation only works one way and if the Ravens lose they won’t be re-instated, like Savage was, just over a year later.  
It’s all on the line for Ray Lewis if, by miracle, you haven’t heard. And who knows what happens to Ed Reed this offseason? The All Pro safety will either retire or could very well jump to another team (think Bill Belichick would be interested?). Then there’s quarterback Joe Flacco. Say he has good numbers again this Sunday, which would be his fourth solid-to-very-good postseason game in a row. Suddenly, teams across the league will be lining up to grab the free agent (it could still very well happen even if Flacco has a clunker against the Pats).
John Harbaugh is one of the better coaches in the game. And the departures of Lewis and Reed would make the defense younger and quicker by default. Even if both players retire it’s highly unlikely that Baltimore will go 3-13 next season and any team with Harbaugh and Ray Rice will likely find a way to the .500 mark at the very least.

Still, the great unknown is a scary place to enter in the NFL. Things happen in a hurry.

If you asked any Patriots fan on Feb. 4, 2008, the day after the Giants beat the Pats in the big game the first time, he or she would tell you that they no longer wanted anything to do will the fossils known as Bruschi, Harrison, Vrabel or Seau. They wanted a young defense, history be damned.

Well, it’s taken half a decade for the Pats defense to get back to respectability (if they’re there yet). In the playoff losses to the Ravens, Jets and Giants last year, people wanted more heady veterans on the defense.

If the Patriots beat the Ravens Sunday, one can be sure that Baltimore fans will cry that their defense has to get younger. A classic case of “be careful what you wish for.”

Yup, this is a career-ending match. And the repercussions for Baltimore are anything but scripted in the next few years.


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