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Hoping for another Baltimore dinger

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  January 14, 2013 10:47 AM

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Billy Cundiff is not walking through that gate.

In Foxborough, at least. Give the possibility of New Orleans a week.

One year after the former Ravens kicker gagged away the AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium, here comes Baltimore again for a second-chance rematch. Logic would tell you that after last year’s disaster that the Ravens are ripe for revenge. Logic can sometimes be daft.

Look, Shaughnessy was right. The Houston Texans are an absolute fraud of a team, mentally damaged by a New England team that has dropped 40-plus on them two straight games now. Granted, they were in Sunday’s game through halftime, then choked everything away in expected fashion. In no other way imaginable did a 41-28 score seem more of a blowout or a statement than it did against the Texans.

Now comes Baltimore, without its choke-artist kicker, residing these days with the San Francisco 49ers, the odds-on favorites to face the Patriots in the Super Bowl in New Orleans. It’s going to happen.

lt has to happen.

As enticing as a Baltimore-Atlanta Super Bowl might be for Fifth Avenue (and that is to say, it’s not), Patriots-49ers has to happen, right? Sorry, ESPN, your contrived story line about the greatness that is Ray Lewis will come to an end on Sunday. Tom Brady against the team he rooted for as a child. Cundiff seeking the ultimate redemption story. Bill Belichick and the Patriots back where it all began, in the Superdome in New Orleans.

Pats-Falcons. Eh, we’d take it. Ravens-49ers? Meh.

Nope. It has to be an East Coast-West Coast thing. The rematch from last month we all want to see. Bring the tattoos and everything, Kaepernick.

The only thing for certain is that Sunday will be the final home game of the season at Gillette, which has seen drama unfold all season long. There was the Stephen Gostkowski blurp against the Cardinals in the home opener. There was the beatdown (X2 now) against the 11-1 Texans. There was the thoroughly entertaining loss to the 49ers, a game in which the Pats stormed back from a 31-3 deficit, only to peter out in the end. There was the snow-tossing season-ending shutout of the Miami Dolphins.

But hopefully, nothing will top what we witness on Sunday, a home game nobody expected, and one nobody had hoped for.

Thanks, Peyton. Typical.

Brady and the Pats now have a chance to reach the Super Bowl for a second-straight year. It would only be the second time in franchise history to pull off such a feat, and you just know that Belichick and friends don’t want to be recognized as the modern day Buffalo Bills. If they’re going, they’re winning. End of discussion. And there’s nothing we’ve seen that tells us otherwise that it’s not going to happen.

OK, the Rob Gronkowski injury hurts, but frankly, I’m more inclined to think that the fact he’s done for the playoffs is a benefit for his teammates, rather than holding out hope that he could return. Better to know and plan rather than not know and play things by ear. We saw where that got things last February.

The Ravens will come in with a chip, looking to avenge last year’s loss, and ESPN will be brutally unwatchable this week (as opposed to the normally terribly unwatchable) as they pimp their future colleague. But make no mistake, this is the Patriots’ house to protect.

49ers. Patriots.

That has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

Is it Sunday yet?

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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