Sunday’s second and final NFL Championship playoff game that determines who represents the AFC conference in the Super Bowl has the resilient Baltimore Ravens facing off against the surging New England Patriots in a rematch of last year’s same game. A win by the Ravens will mean Ray Lewis will play his NFL finale on the biggest stage in the world. A Patriots victory will further cement Tom Brady’s future induction into the NFL Hall of Fame.
Last year the Patriots and Ravens battled in a game that was decided by three points. The Patriots ultimately won 23-20 to eliminate the Ravens, then advanced to lose in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. The Ravens had the entire off season to think about what could have been, and will get a rare opportunity at an exact conference championship rematch that hasn’t happened in the league in a quarter century.
While the spotlight as been on Ray Lewis and his inspired play during his NFL farewell tour through the playoffs, it’s been the steady play of quarterback Joe Flacco that has surprised skeptics and help propel the wild card team into an unlikely conference finals appearance. Flacco lit up the heavily favored Broncos for 331 yards passing and three touchdowns without a single interception, while playing on the road.
Flacco’s performance in Denver is what is expected from Tom Brady every single game he steps onto the field. Brady helped dismantle the Texans last weekend 41-28, putting up similar numbers as Flacco with 344 yards passing and three touchdowns. Without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup, Brady will have one less target to aim for down the field.
Five of the last six meetings between the Ravens and Patriots have been decided by less than a touchdown. The teams play each other closely regardless of whether in Foxboro or Baltimore. Today’s game figures to be another closely contested match, especially considering last year’s close conference finals.
Today’s last NFL conference championship game that will set the AFC’s Super Bowl participant gets underway at 6:30pm EST / 3:30pm PST in high definition on CBS free over the air or via a satellite/cable subscription. Though not free, you can also watch the official online live streaming version via NFL Sunday Ticket here. It’s hard to pick against Tom Brady and the Patriots when they’re playing in Foxboro, but there’s something magical about the Ray Lewis retirement run that has kept the team going. My prediction is the Ravens pull off yet another upset and book their Super Bowl ticket with a 27-24 revenge win against their recent playoff rivals.