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The Early Lead
Posted at 02:26 PM ET, 01/22/2012

Ravens vs. Patriots: Tom Brady, Joe Flacco each have something to prove in AFC Championship game

The AFC Championship game matches a team with an offense that’s clicking against a vaunted, veteran smash-mouth defense that intimidated that offense in a wild-card game only two years ago.

That’s awfully recent history, particularly for a guy like Tom Brady, who never, ever forgets. (Just mention the word “Jets” to him.) He used the New England Patriots’ two-tight end system and a lightning-fast no-huddle to carve up the Denver Broncos last week.


Steven Tyler will sing the national anthem, although it’s fair to hope for “Dude Looks like a Brady.” (Winslow Townson / AP)
But can he do the same against the Baltimore Ravens, with a defense that frustrated him in 2010? Can the hurry-up offense keep the Ravens off-balance? The Patriots, despite the presence of Chad Ochocinco on the roster, have used him little this season. Because of the death of his father this week, he rejoined the team only this morning and is inactive for today’s game.

Brady and Coach Bill Belichick spoke often and effusively all week of their regard Ravens safety Ed Reed, but Reed hurt his ankle last week. While there’s no question he’ll play, will he be effective?

And then there’s Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who was dissed this week inside his own locker room. Will the Ravens rely on Ray Rice to pile up the yardage over the middle and take pressure off the embattled QB?

And, last question: which Super Bowl opponents do you want to see?

MORE

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Patriots say defense is peaking at the right time

Early Lead: Joe Flacco says Ed Reed’s comments are ‘not that big of a deal’

John Feinstein: Lewis, Reed, defy their ages

Ravens show respect for Brady, but they’ll be coming after him

Ravens looking for more big plays from rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith

Patriots say defense is peaking at the right time

Early Lead: Joe Flacco says Ed Reed’s comments are ‘not that big of a deal’

John Feinstein: Lewis, Reed, defy their ages

Ravens show respect for Brady, but they’ll be coming after him

Ravens looking for more big plays from rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith

Patriots say defense is peaking at the right time

Early Lead: Joe Flacco says Ed Reed’s comments are ‘not that big of a deal’

John Feinstein: Lewis, Reed, defy their ages

Ravens show respect for Brady, but they’ll be coming after him

By  |  02:26 PM ET, 01/22/2012

 
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