What happens when a Cinderella comes up against an immovable object?
Something has to give in the Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots AFC Championship matchup. But who, or what, will be the deciding factor that propels one of these two great teams over another?
The Ravens have survived, by the skin of their teeth, by winning a double overtime shootout with Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos last week.
Call it luck, call it fate, call it whatever you like.
The team that everyone had ruled out has stormed back to reach the final obstacle before the Super Bowl for the second time in two seasons.
It’s true, though, the Ravens looked defeated down the stretch, losing four of their last five games. Those late-season struggles prompted the firing of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
But that’s all water under the bridge as the team is flying high in the playoffs.
Or is it?
New England has decimated top opponents this season and is coming off of a very clean and impressive drubbing of the highly-touted Houston Texans.
Sure, Tom Brady’s name is thrown around a lot, but the team wouldn’t be where it’s at this season without its dynamic new-look offense.
That offense has helped produce a running game that is second to none.
Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead have all impressed in situational opportunities this season. Although, Ridley has carried the bulk of the load, rushing for 1,263 yards and 12 TDs.
That running game is the life force that makes the Pats offense tick. Well, that and the no-huddle and high tempo that keeps defenses on their toes.
Running defense isn’t something that the Ravens have specialized in this season, although there have been noticeable improvements with Ray Lewis back in the center of their front seven.
Lewis is only one man, though, and the Patriots bring much more explosiveness to the table.
Baltimore’s veteran and aging defense will also be tested by their fast-paced attack.
It’s unlikely that the Ravens will be able to keep up by substituting quickly enough and adjust to the variation of formations Bill Belichick is going to throw at them. It has confused nearly everyone they have matched up against this season.
If all else fails, the Pats can just fall back on Brady to save the day.
Do the Ravens even have a chance?