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Silencing Hank: Patriots vs. Ravens

Aug 17, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis (52) enters the field before the game against Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-US PRESSWIRE
Aug 17, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis (52) enters the field before the game against Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Frederiksen-US PRESSWIRE

I was really, really hoping Hank wouldn't show up this season.

I have been trying very, very hard as of late to keep things rational, look at the 2012 Patriots objectively, and not buy into any of the nonsense surrounding this team as of late. But this morning I realized that the Pats are going on the road against a very good Ravens team this Sunday night and have a very legitimate chance of dropping to 1-2 on the season with a tough game at Buffalo on the docket after that. And before I knew it, I was sitting here sweating at my desk like I had just finished the KFC Bucket Challenge in under 15 minutes. Nervous, paranoid, and irrational, and mad at myself for thinking this way, I realized that unless I get my emotions in check early, it's going to be a long, long season.

Of course, it isn't helping that every sports page region-wide is swirling with articles about Wes Welker and Josh McDaniels and a struggling offensive line and an indecisive Brady. The Boston sports market is an extremely unforgiving one, and it's during times like these when I wonder why I even bother reading any of it.

So here we have the first Silencing Hank of the year. I'd like to sit here and say that there won't be too many of them, but knowing me, there's simply no way that I can make that promise.

But Alec, the Ravens have looked virtually unstoppable lately, and the Patriots looked bad against the Cardinals! What are we gonna do?

Shut up, Hank. Yes, the Patriots did look bad against the Cardinals. And yes, the Ravens have looked pretty strong as of late, even in a Week 2 loss against the Eagles where they pretty much didn't do anything in the second half. But I'd hardly call them unstoppable. Regardless, neither of those things really matter right now. Worrying about how the Ravens look is completely irrelevant. What matters is how the Patriots look. Baltimore always plays New England tough, and Sunday night will be no exception. But I still think that the Patriots are a very good team, and more than capable of beating the Ravens if they don't self-destruct. One week at a time is the way to go, and there's no need to worry about what you can't change. If the Patriots play how they are capable of playing, they should be fine.

But Alec, the Patriots lost last week! If they lose on Sunday, that means that they'll have lost two in a row and have a losing record! What the hell are we supposed to do if they have a losing record?

Shut up, Hank. You know what we'll do if the Patriots lose two in a row and come into Week 4 with a losing record? We'll read all the articles about how the Patriots are finished and how Tommy B is over the hill and how Bill Belichick's foolish pride is getting in the way of the team and all the other total, utter nonsense that the media is sure to spit out. And we'll either buy into it or we won't. The Patriots, meanwhile, will get back to work, keep fixing the problems that is causing them to drop games, and continue to get better each and every week. If the Patriots have a losing record in December, then you can freak out. But let's at least let them play the game before you start losing it, OK?

But Alec, this game at Baltimore has HUGE playoff implications! If we lose this one, then we'll probably have to play the AFC Championship Game in Baltimore! We'll never win there!

Shut up, Hank. Are you kidding me right now? Playoff implications? A Week 3 game against a team in an extremely tough division with question marks of its own? It's this type of attitude that makes Patriots fans absolutely intolerable to the rest of the league. Where most teams would be thrilled to even make it to the AFC Championship game, you're worried about whether or not the Patriots will be at home when they inevitably host it - in Week 3 no less. Let's win some regular season games first and start worrying about the playoffs in late November - how does that sound?

But Alec, Ray Lewis is big and scary! And Haloti Ngata is big and scary! And every time Bernard Pollard touches a Patriot, someone ends up on IR! How is our offensive line going to stop them from killing Tom Brady?

Shut up, Hank. They aren't any more or less scary than they always have been when we play them. Pats/Ravens is always a hard-fought, close game (with one exception we just won't mention here), and is usually decided by one score or less. The events that transpired last season doesn't make the Ravens any more or less formidable. They are going to be a tough opponent regardless, and building them up in your mind as a group of savages hell-bent on revenge isn't going to accomplish anything. The Pats will have a solid game plan in place to protect Tommy B, contain the Ravens surprisingly explosive offense, and win the game. The real question is whether or not they'll be able to execute it effectively.