Not even Manti Te'o believes the Ravens are a better team than the Patriots. But that doesn't mean they can't win. We asked the folks at Russell Street Report.com (once known as "Ravens 24x7.com") to provide us with five reasons "Why My Team Is Better." We've done the same for their site, educating their readership on why that's a futile task. We then learned we might be in a deep hole spelling out the Patriots' prospects in the NFL playoffs because we were going up against Mr. (Tony) Lombardi. Debating the NFL playoffs with someone named "Lombardi" puts anyone at an automatic disadvantage. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, war critic Christopher Hitchens was verbally slugging it out with Charlton Heston on CNN. In that "ionic" debate, (where Heston struggled with some geography) Hitchens lamented the fact that he was arguing policy in the Mideast with "Moses himself." There are no NFL championship trophies named after anyone in my family, unless you count my grandfather Lamar Hunt.
Heston won't be around to part the Red Sea or the Ravens defense, the Patriots' offense should be able to do that. The Patriots are the better team and they're at home. There's no accounting for lucky bounces. And there's nothing anyone can do to brace themselves for David Tyree catching a ball off the top of his head while Rodney Harrison comes a long for the ride. Nor can we count on any Lee Evans drops, Billy Cundiff shanks or scoreboard shenanigans. The 9.5-point spread seems a bit steep, even for Patriots partisans who can't see past the general aura of Tom Brady's awesomeness or escape the soul-sucking dark side of Bill Belichick.
First here are "Five Reasons Why The Ravens Will Win" thanks to Tony Lombardi, founder of "Russell Street Report:"
1. OFFICIATING: Crew chief Bill Leavy is so old and his eyesight so bad, that he probably won’t even recognize Tom Brady. That levels the playing field for the Ravens since Mr. Bundchen is so accustomed to playing with preferential treatment and when in doubt gets the nod on close calls.
2. EVANS & CUNDIFF GET CUNDIFFED: No one was more disappointed to see the Ravens release beleaguered place kicker Billy Cundiff than Bill Belichick. Making matters worse for Coach Hoodie, the Ravens also parted ways with the Patriots other AFCC MVP Lee Evans. Cundiff’s and Evans’ replacements rookie Justin Tucker and Pro Bowler Jacoby Jones have been major upgrades and are likely to figure prominently on Sunday. Without Evans and Cundiff last season, the Ravens would have gone on to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVI far more proudly than the Patriots who are regularly B-slapped by the New York Giants.
3. NO HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: This is Baltimore’s fifth visit to Foxboro since October 2009. The Ravens have played there so often that several players on the team have apartments nearby. It just feels a little like home.
Plus it will be so freaking cold on Sunday night that fans aren’t going to want to move much or even say much because it might break their frozen faces. And let’s not forget, clapping with gloves on doesn’t make all that much noise and if the fans try to whistle, there fingers might stick to their tongue like Flick to the pole in A Christmas Story.
4. TAKE WILFORK OUT: In last year’s AFC Title Game Vince Wilfork was arguably the best player on the field. He dominated Ravens’ center Matt Birk and guards Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda didn’t fare much better.
To help neutralize Wilfork the Ravens plan to make the wide-bodied defensive tackle put the fork in Wilfork at the St. Mary’s Church pancake social on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Wilfork has agreed to take on Ravens defensive tackle Terrence Cody in a southern-style blueberry, powdered sugar pancake eat off.
The Ravens are prepared to give Cody a bonus if he can effectively push Wilfork to the brink of exhaustion. John Harbaugh, while he has grown to appreciate Cody’s role in the Ravens defensive line rotation, said he’s willing to sacrifice the bubbly tackle if the “battered down” Wilfork plays a little slower and is on the field for a few less plays. The Ravens skipper sees it as a big net gain for his guys.
5. WACKO FOR FLACCO: You’ve heard the old slightly tongue-in-cheek story that the only player ever to really put the clamps on Michael Jordan was Hall of Fame basketball coach Dean Smith from the University of North Carolina. History has a way of repeating itself and now that Harbaugh had the cojones to fire former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (actually the firing was forced upon Harbs), Joe Flacco has been a machine. His numbers have been so good since the play-calling switch to Jim Caldwell that Patriots fans now hope that Brady can put up Flacco-esque numbers on Sunday. And now that Flacco has shed the Fu Man Chu that he sported in the last AFCC, word is that Mrs. Brady has noticed.
PREDICTION: Ravens 27, Patriots 23
Tony Lombardi is the Russell Street Report.com's founder and has been contributing columns, blogs and inside scoops for the site since its inception on July 3, 2003. His work has been featured on various sports websites and he has been a guest on several local and out of town sports radio programs. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony aspires to settle down nearby Mallory Square, is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin to being John Bonham and no, he isn't related to THAT Vince Lombardi although his grandfather, uncle and cousin all share the name. Follow Tony on Twitter @RussellStReport or @RSRLombardi
Now here are "Five Reasons Why The Patriots Will Win:"
1. PICK YOUR POISON: The loss of Rob Gronkowksi has been countered by the improvement in New England's running game. Even without "Gonk," Tom Brady still has Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and (now and then) Deion Branch to target, along with Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley (1,263 yards rushing in the regular season and 82 last week against Houston) and Danny Woodhead as targets out of the backfield. The Patriots nearly had Baltimore beaten in September and ran 34 times for just 77 yards. If they commit to the run and the no-huddle early, Brady will be just that much more effective attacking a worn down and elderly defense late. In New England's last five games against Baltimore, 108 of New England's 346 plays (or 31%) have been no-huddle. Expect that average to increase on Sunday.
2. BROTHERHOODIE: One coach has beaten Belichick twice in each of the past two seasons. In 2010, it was Rex Ryan. In 2011, it was Tom Coughlin. John Harbaugh would make it three in three years. If you count brother Jim's win with the 49ers last month, that makes two wins in one season by a Harbaugh over Belichick. Close enough. No family, not the Mannings, the Harbaughs or even the Corleones, is going to beat Belichick three times in one year, at least without the help of Eric Mangini. This is also the third game between the Patriots and Ravens in 363 days. No current coach is as good as Belichick when it comes to examining opponents and exploiting their weaknesses. The previous two games were decided on last-minute kicks and/or misses, not to mention some wacky penalties. Familiarity breeds defeat when it comes to Belichick and the Patriots, just ask the AFC East. Belichick has also been secretly taping the Harbaugh brothers since their days playing backyard football in the 1970s. Unfortunately it hasn't done him much good of late.
3. PEDs ANYONE? The Patriots are proof that you can achieve better living through chemistry. How many other NFL teams can boast of having three players - Aqib Talib, Brandon Bolden and Jermaine Cunningham - serve PED suspensions and reach the conference championship game in the same season? The defense has improved markedly since the acquisition of Talib from Tampa on Nov. 1 (he was serving his suspension at the time). Talib has swapped his Adderall for a healthy dose of The Patriot Way. Belichick needed a cornerback who could play the position without drawing a pass-interference penalty on every incompletion. Talib has been able to cover big-time receivers in single coverage (see Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin), allowing Belichick to move the pieces on the rest of the defense. Several members of the 1985 Patriots were “high on cocaine” and that team reached the Super Bowl. Of course, the only foreign substance that would have helped against the Bears was kryptonite.
4. BRADY, BRADY, BRADY: When it comes to the QBs in this game - Tom Brady is Marcia and Joe Flacco is Jan. Marcia was always hotter, cooler, smarter, and way, way more popular. Marcia just had to show up, and she was the center of attention and the star. Let's not kid ourselves, Marcia was not only Carol's favorite, but obviously Greg's favorite as well. The bespectacled Jan was always whiny, moaning and complaining about everything from Marcia's teeth to her clothes to all her 1970s-style hunky boyfriends. More importantly, Marcia was a winner and Jan was a loser. Brady has won three Lombardi trophies while Flacco has had to settle for two championship rings from George Glass. Brady has a supermodel wife and an very attractive actress for a baby mama. Flacco married his high school sweetheart. Nothing wrong with that, especially once you've seen the wedding photos. Props to Flacco for scoring a TD in that department. He won't be scoring much at all during Sunday’s game.
5. MYSTIQUE, AURA AND DESTINY WON'T BE DANCING: The "Team of Destiny" mantle has been pinned on Lewis and the Ravens thanks to their victory over blown coverage and Peyton Manning in cold weather last week. All the "Destiny Darlings" talk isn't going to keep Brady from finding Welker out of the slot or Lloyd down the sidelines. All the "Squirrel Dances" won't stop Brady once Lewis bites on a play-action, leaving Hernandez alone open over the middle. All that "Harbaugh Brothers Super Bowl" hype won't slow Vince Wilfork once the Ravens' offensive line finally tires. Now, if Manti Te'o's girlfriend shows up in the white suit Lewis was wearing the night of Super Bowl XXXIV, that would be destiny. Last season, the Patriots tried to use the "Spirit of Myra Kraft" storyline as inspiration. Unfortunately, she didn't show up against the Giants. The best team wins about 99% of the time. This Sunday, it will be the Patriots:
PREDICTION: Patriots 31, Ravens 24.
We even gave the folks in Baltimore a special OBF bio.
"Don't miss our in-game fan chat during Sunday's AFC championship game on boston.com. The mayhem begins at 6:15 p.m. Obnoxious Boston Fan, once known as Lennay Kekua, was born in the Boston suburbs and grew up knowing nothing but pain and anguish when it came all sports teams not named the Celtics after 1972. When OBF began blogging for boston.com in September of 2011, the Red Sox had a comfortable lead in A.L. wildcard race and the only chicken and beer anyone saw at Fenway Park was in the stands. It's been downhill ever since. He's been a Patriots fan since Jim Plunkett was throwing to Randy Vataha and is old enough to remember watching rookie kicker Jim O'Brien boot the game-winning field goal for the Colts in Super Bowl V. He's confident rookie kicker Justin Tucker won't have the chance to kick anything in Super Bowl XLVII. He's also willing to trade Ben Cherington and John Lackey for Dan Duquette and a Ray Rice rookie card. OBF can be called "Bill," or "Billy" if you've known him since elementary school. He can be reached on Twitter at @RealOBF, on his OBF Facebook page or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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