Baltimore is the only team in either championship game this weekend to not have a first-round bye. They overpowered the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round by a score of 24-9, and then rolled into the Mile High City to take on the top seed in the AFC, the Denver Broncos. Down 35-28 with less than a minute to go, the Ravens got a miracle 70-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones to tie the game and send it to overtime. A costly Peyton Manning interception at the end of the first overtime gave Baltimore the opening they needed, as rookie Justin Tucker drilled a 47-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 38-35, double overtime victory.
The Patriots have had it significantly easier. After getting a first-round bye as the #2 seed in the AFC, they got to sit back and relax for a week before defeating the Houston Texans, 41-28, in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. It was the 17th post-season victory for Tom Brady, allowing him to pass Joe Montana for the most in NFL history, but it wasn't all rosy for the Patriots, as tight end Rob Gronkowski re-broke his arm attempting to make a catch, and has been declared out for the rest of the post-season.
According to the folks in Vegas. . .for entertainment purposes only. . .the Patriots are a whopping eight-point favorite, and I've seen the number as high as nine.
I think that the Patriots are going to pull this one out, but it's going to be closer than Vegas thinks. . .I'll call it 31-27, New England, as Ray Lewis' ride ends in Foxborough.
For the SB Nation perspective on both of these teams, be sure to check out Pats Pulpit for the Patriots and Baltimore Beatdown for the Ravens. In the meantime, here are some videos from the folks at the mothership to whet your appetite. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 PM Central time on your local CBS station.