Why Baltimore Ravens Are Destined to Reach Super Bowl XLVI
The giants of the 2012 NFL Playoffs are what we thought they were. Some of us, anyways. You can consider me on the opposite side of the fence, as I only went a pedestrian 2-2 in my Divisional Round playoff picks, and had the Packers and Seahawks landing upsets on the road in the NFC.
Yes, as unpredictable and exciting as these 2012 NFL playoffs first appeared, we’re actually headed for two conference title games that are mostly made up of the top seeds. And in a sense, consisting of three teams we all should have expected would be here.
The Denver Broncos are the only 1 or 2 seed not to make it to a game within this year’s Super Bowl, however, so NFL fans have to wonder if the Baltimore Ravens, the only wild card team remaining, has enough momentum and ability to take it one step further.
After all, that “wild card/cindarella” story hasn’t been lacking in the past, as the New York Giants have twice won the big game as a wild card, and the Green Bay Packers did the same in between New York’s two title wins. The Arizona Cardinals reached the Super Bowl as a wild card team in 2009, but fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers were two more wild card winners who claimed the Lombardi Trophy, doing it in 2007 and 2006, respectively.
All in all, five of the last seven Super Bowl champions hailed from the depths of the first round of the playoffs, and one more (Arizona) at least got to the final game of the year and gave it a good run for their money.
So, it’s only fair to wonder; can the Baltimore Ravens make it six out of eight?
Now isn’t the time to really break next week’s AFC title game down. We’ll get to that point. I’m just tossing out the idea of the Ravens possibly being that miracle team.
Ray Lewis is done after this year. He let everyone know it before the Ravens beat the Colts in the first round, and he’s been an emotional spark over the last two post-season games. During that time, all he’s done is racked up no less than 13 tackles in each contest, and helped the Ravens get back to the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row.
It gets better.
Also, for the second year in a row, the Ravens get to face the New England Patriots, who they lost to by a field goal when kicker Billy Cundiff shanked a makeable try in the final seconds.
Cundiff is gone, and rookie kicker Justin Tucker has been a marvelous upgrade, as he even nailed a clutch double-overtime field goal this past weekend to get Baltimore this far.
The Ravens have the heart and soul of a winner. Their once marred defense is healthier than it’s been all year with Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis back and playing at a high level. Their kicking woes appear to be very much behind them. They’re battle tested, after completely shutting down a solid Indianapolis offense, and doing a far better job against Peyton Manning and the Broncos than many gave them a chance to.
In fact, if you take away two Trindon Holliday touchdown returns, the Ravens probably would have beaten the Broncos in regulation.
Baltimore forced Peyton Manning into three turnovers. And on top of it all, often criticized quarterback Joe Flacco has budded before our eyes in two straight games, and he came alive in the second half in round one, and arguably flat-out out-played Manning in round two.
The Patriots might be too tough of a test. After all, it’s on the road. It’s Tom Brady. And the horrifying memories of last year’s disaster might be too much to overcome.
Then again, New England will be without stud tight end Rob Gronkowski (re-broken arm), their pass defense still is vulnerable, and they’re definitely a familiar foe.
Overall, it looks to be a bit of a toss-up. And if that’s even remotely the case, I can’t help but side with the Ravens here.
I know Tom Brady and the Patriots want to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. They have some seriously unfinished business. But so does Baltimore, and they’ve got a man with a storied career with one foot out the exit doors. And something tells me the rest of his team doesn’t want to see him go without another ring.
I’m not a Ravens fan. I don’t particularly like their brand of play, and think they’re pretty cocky most of the time. But I’m not sure there is another team that has played harder and with more heart over the past decade that deserves to be in the Super Bowl more. They’ll have to keep pace with an explosive Patriots team to have a shot in doing so, but I can guarantee you I won’t be betting against them.