The New England Patriots enter Sunday’s AFC championship game against Baltimore fresh off a thrashing of Tim Tebow’s Denver Broncos in which Tom Brady threw six touchdown passes to tie a playoff record.
The Patriots have won nine straight games, eclipsing 30 points in all but one, and their defense is finally starting to step things up with one win standing between them and the team’s fifth Super Bowl appearance in 11 years.
The Ravens haven’t scored 30 points since Week 11, had to hold on to beat a young Texans team that committed four turnovers last week and feature a defense who’s biggest name players are 36 and 33-years-old and a quarterback with a ridiculous mustache.
But the underdog tag doesn’t bother the Ravens.
“This team as a whole, we’ve never been kind of like anybody’s favorite,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs told the Washington Post’s Mark Maske this week.
Las Vegas would agree — the Patriots are favored by a full touchdown on their home field.
The Ravens know they won’t win a shootout with Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and company. They need to control the clock as much as possible by sustaining drives with Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice to limit New England’s possessions. Their defense needs to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket, get his jersey dirty a few times and avoid giving up big plays.
“When you speak about Tom, you’re talking about arguably one of the best quarterbacks of all time,’’ Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. “You’ve got your hands full from Day One, before you even step on the field with him, because it’s a film study game with him.
“He wants to [identify] everything that’s coming out and know what you’re in. Your job is to disguise and not show him all of that. It’s a chess match almost.”
Can the Ravens pull the upset or will Tom Brady move one step closer to a fourth Super Bowl title?
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