Records: Baltimore (12-6, 6-4 away), New England (13-4, 7-2 home)
Time: 3:30 p.m. TV: CBS
Line: Patriots by 7 1/2; O/U: 51 1/2
Briefly: Ready for an (almost) instant replay? The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots are meeting in the AFC championship game today for the second consecutive year in a matchup that has almost always come down to the final possession.
New England’s Bill Belichick and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh have faced each other five times, and Belichick is 3-2 in those games. There has been one blowout – the Ravens beat the Patriots, 33-14, in a wild-card game at New England in January, 2010 – but the margins of victory in the other games were, in order: 6, 3, 3 and 1.
Winning will be a tall order for the Ravens, seeing as the Patriots have never lost at home with the Super Bowl on the line.
“I think we personally kind of wanted to play the Patriots again,” Baltimore defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said.
Theirs is the first back-to-back rematch in the AFC title game since Denver and Cleveland met following the 1986 and 1987 seasons.
In this one, the Patriots are favored and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis could not be happier about it.
“My Super Bowl year in 2000, we were never picked one time the entire season to win a game. Not one time,” Lewis said. “But at the end of the day, we held the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champs. That alone taught me a valuable lesson – that no one outside dictates how we play on the inside.”
CBS’ Phil Simms: “Joe Flacco plays in a system … and I don’t mean this to demean the staff at the Ravens, it’s not quarterback-friendly. It’s not about hitting a tremendously high percentage of your passes because look where he throws it. I mean, watch the game the other day. What team throws the football down the field like that? He doesn’t get a lot of screens. There’s not a lot of quick throws, there’s not a lot of gadgets. I take that into account when I do judge quarterbacks. I don’t know their numbers. I don’t care. I let my eye tell me what I know about them.”
I like The Ravens in an upset. Their defense is coming together at the right time, and Flacco is capable of putting a solid game together. Four of the last five times these teams have met, the game has come down to the last possession. This will be no different.
Ravens 28, Patriots 27.
Sam Farmer, L.A. Times