The Ravens come into this game riding a tremendous emotional wave consistent with their emotional leader, Ray Lewis, who is determined that his last game will not be anything less than a Super Bowl win.
The last thing you would expect from a man wearing the sinister garb of a Raven is for him to be a spiritual leader of an inspired team. But there is no doubt that Ray Lewis has polarized this team into a winning machine.
The Ravens come into this AFC Championship Game after beating a longtime nemesis in quarterback Peyton Manning in Denver against the Broncos. Being the man that he is, with class, Peyton acknowledged true respect for his opponent, Ray Lewis, after the game.
Real life is so much more interesting than fiction when we see the end of this NFL season play out. In the bid to reach the Super Bowl, Ray Lewis and the Ravens get to bring their style of play against their other nemesis in the form of the Patriots and Tom Brady.
This is the one team that a reborn Ray Lewis has ever proclaimed to hate, and specifically has claimed to hate their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady.
Who do you hate more?
But, therein lies the rub. Collectively, New Englanders wouldn’t pick the Ravens' mascot to be the scarier of the two teams.
Up here resides the cult of the wicked—the wicked-good Patriots.
I don’t know if it is due to a remnant of a curse left on us from when we persecuted witches, but that one adjective is commonly used in the New England vernacular of our language. It sums up our feelings on certain subjects: “Wicked.”
This year’s Patriots team is about as wicked as they come. It’s not as if there was anything supernatural in how the Patriots have progressed through this season. It’s the same formula we have seen them employ year after year, wicked-good organization, coaching and preparation.
We’ve seen this recipe at work for over a decade now, with varying degrees of success. The only question is how you gauge that success. Consistent winning seasons, continual division leaders and numerous conference championships sprinkled with a few Super Bowl wins has defined this team.
It's guaranteed that the Patriots are going to be in the thick of things whether you like them or not, whether you hate them or not. The Ravens only hate the Patriots because they know them so well.
The Ravens are a team not cut from the same mold but that has known its own degree of success through the years. And yes, that success has been against the Patriots as well.
The Patriots won’t underestimate the Ravens, either. This is familiar territory for both teams.
This year’s AFC Championship meeting could be defined as emotion versus efficiency, or the more sinister, wicked versus pure. Whichever face you put on it, it is sure to be another slug-fest between two behemoths on a nationwide stage.
Once again, New England welcomes the Ravens team to the Gillette Stadium, aka “The Razor.” Welcome to our lair, says the spider to the fly, as we New Englanders put on wicked big grins.