Man oh man has Hank been screaming in my ear this week.
I mean, this is it. The Patriots are currently one win away from a second consecutive Super Bowl berth. They are also one win away from packing their bags and going home until September. And of course, to put a nice little bow on all of it, they are up against a team that always - always, always, ALWAYS - gives them all that they can handle and makes them pay for every single yard they get with blood, sweat and tears. I don't have any medical proof to back this up, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that on the pie chart labeled "Causes of Alec Shane's Early Death" that is likely to circulate among the more prominent medical schools in the country in approximately 5-10 years, Baltimore Ravens games are likely to make up a respectable percentage of that circle.
And because of that, Hank is on full alert. He knows what's at stake here, and he is doing his very best to ensure a lot of restless nights for yours truly leading up to Sunday's game. But I'm not having any of it. Hank may think he has me beat, but not this time. I'm not going to let him get to me. Here's what Hank has been screaming at me all week, and here is what I have been screaming right back.
But Alec, the Ravens have destiny behind them! Everything seems to be working out for them! It happened with the Giants -TWICE! - and now it's happening again! The Patriots are going to fall victim to another miracle play and lose a game they should have won!
Shut up, Hank. You know as well as I do how much I subscribe to the notion of karma and destiny and worshipping at the altar of the football gods. But I personally don't buy into the destiny thing when it comes to the 2012 Ravens. They didn't back into the playoffs. They aren't being overlooked by the rest of the league. They aren't winning games off of insane fumbles, improbable catches, and untimely drops. They are simply playing good football, taking advantage of the opportunities given to them, and capitalizing on the bounces that go their way. You can make a case for destiny playing a role in the Jacoby Jones touchdown, but that was more a matter of horrible coverage by Rahim Moore than anything else (now, had Moore gone for the pick, bobbled it, and Jones somehow managed to get the ball wedged in his facemask as he stumbled ass-backwards into the end zone, that might be a different story). I just don't see destiny playing much of a role for Baltimore. And even if you are right and karma and destiny is a factor here, I could just as easily make the case for why this is a year of destiny for Brady as well. Think about it: should the Patriots win on Sunday, Brady will be returning to the very place where his legacy began. The exact same field where he shocked the world and launched a dynasty. Only this time, he isn't some dimple-chinned kid trying to pull of an upset; he is an NFL Legend looking to cement his legacy as the greatest quarterback to ever play this game. And he would be doing so during the same season where he became All-Time Winningest postseason quarterback, passing over the man he idolized growing up.I mean, come on - I got chills just writing that. So you can spout off about destiny and Ray Lewis all you want, but don't think for one second that the Karma Express only stops off in Baltimore.
But Alec, Ray Lewis is back! He's the emotional leader of the team! The entire Ravens organization wants to with a Super Bowl for him- how can we compete with that?
Shut up, Hank. I'm aware that Ray Lewis is back. But to be honest, if Lewis can find a way to rile his team up enough so that they want this game more than the Patriots do, a team hosting their second consecutive AFC Championship Game with the chance to send Tommy B to his sixth Super Bowl in 11 seasons, then Baltimore deserves to win outright. There's just no way New England won't be just as fired up for this game as the Ravens will; both teams have the honor of calling a football legend their brother in arms, and both teams know exactly what it at stake here. So excuse me if the notion of seven cameras, twelve microphones, two dozen reporters, and an old man with a portable Morse Code machine salivating as they surround a 37 year old linebacker as he rants about family and heart and "this is what it's all about" doesn't cause my knees to start shaking.
But Alec, Joe Flacco has won five postseason road games, and one of them was at Gillette! That's tied for most all time! He has been unbelievably efficient in the playoffs - he's going to pick our defense apart!
Shut up, Hank. You aren't wrong here; Flacco is having himself one hell of a postseason, and he certainly knows how to win on the road. But looking back on the one victory Flacco does have at Gillette, do you know what his stat line was? He was 4/10 for 34 yards. 34 YARDS PASSING. And that was against a relatively weak Patriots team with no defensive identity who had lost its most reliable receiver a week prior. As New England has shown since, there's simply no way Flacco will be able to post that kind of stat line again and win the game; the Patriots are too strong against the run. Facco has greatly matured and come a long way since 2009, but that game may as well have been 100 years ago. Flacco is going to need to play his absolute best on Sunday if he wants to win, and there is absolutely no way that the Patriots will be underestimating him.
But Alec, what if the Patriots lose! I don't know if I can handle that kind of crushing defeat!
Shut up, Hank. It's exactly that kind of thinking that is going to give me ulcers and cause the doctors to bust out that pie chart in a few years. There is absolutely no sense in thinking about what's going to happen if the Patriots lose this one. But I'll humor you: what if they do lose? What if the worst does in fact happen? Do you honestly hink we as fans haven't experienced worse? If the Patriots lose this one, it won't be nearly as bad as some of their previous playoff losses. While I'm not particularly fond of the Ravens, I don't hate them the way I did the Colts (and now the Broncos, apparently. I guess Peyton Manning simply has a knack for going to a team and just jerking up the joint). I also have a tremendous amount of respect for Ray Lewis and the kind of emotion and passion he brings to the game of football. The Ravens represent the last of hard-nosed, hit ‘em where it hurts style of football that I fell in love with as a kid, and I think that once the initial shock and pain of knowing my football season was over wore off, I'd respect what the Ravens have accomplished this season and acknowledge what a great story a Baltimore Super Bowl appearance really is. If the Patriots weren't in the playoffs right now, I'm pretty sure that I'd be pulling for Baltimore to win the whole thing, and so while losing would suck, it wouldn't even crack my top 10 most painful losses in Patriots history. I'll simply lick my wounds, wish the Ravens the best of luck (and mean it), and start gearing towards next season.