By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens and Steelers have long been considered the biggest rivalry in the NFL. The Patriots and Jets haven’t exactly seen eye-to-eye in the past, either. But there’s just something about the Patriots that rub the Ravens the wrong way – and vice versa. It’s what has made this matchup one of the more bitter rivalries in the NFL. That’s usually because when these two teams meet, the circumstances usually either involve getting to the playoffs, or advancing in it.
This Sunday will be no different, as the playoff implications are as big as it gets in Week 16.
New England can clinch the AFC East with a win or a Miami Dolphins loss. They can also clinch a first round bye if Cincinnati and Indianapolis fall to their respective opponents, but standing in their way are the Baltimore Ravens, who have a chance to reach the playoffs themselves with a win and a Dolphins loss. But the real prize for Baltimore has yet to be won. Baltimore needs to win this game in order to have a shot at a third straight AFC North title when they meet the Bengals next week. But before Baltimore can think about Cincinnati, they have to deal with the always dangerous Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
In recent years, it appears as though Joe Flacco has gotten the better of Brady when these two former Super Bowl MVPs got together. But Flacco is dealing with a knee injury that he suffered on Monday against the Lions. It happened when Lions defender DeAndre Levy hit Flacco low and no flag was issued afterwards. It has become a hot topic in the Ravens locker room as many players seemed to be unhappy about it.
“For the refs to miss something so blatant like that is unacceptable,” stated Ravens S James Ihedigbo.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh says he’s heard two different explanations regarding the play. He also told reporters that the play is being reviewed for possible discipline to the Lions defender. Expect some sort of fine later on this week for Levy.
Flacco should be fine as he’s one of the more durable quarterbacks in the NFL. He’ll play on Sunday. The same can’t be said for a few familiar faces that Coach Belichick has grown accustomed to.
“It does look a little bit different without [Ed Reed and Ray Lewis],” stated Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. “The Ravens have a lot of young players on their roster, and they have a lot of them playing well. I think that Ozzie [Newsome], his staff, coach [John] Harbaugh, the entire organization, Steve [Bisciotti] – all of them – have done a great job of putting their football team together.”
Brady echoed Belichick’s sentiments: “I think [Lewis and Reed] are Hall of Fame players. They’re phenomenal players and they were that for that team for a long time. They really set the standard for what defensive football is all about. They’re still a great defense without them. I think they still really carryover from what they’ve done. They obviously have a lot of leadership with Haloti [Ngata] and [Terrell] Suggs and [Jameel] McClain and Lardarius Webb. They still have All-Pros at all these positions. They’re still a great team.”
The Patriots understand the challenges that lay ahead of them on Sunday — as do the Ravens. A win by either team goes a long way in terms of accomplishing their goals. But the loser of this contest will deal with consequences that they may not be able to overcome.
For more Ravens news and updates, visit Ravens Central.
Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. Samuel Njoku is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.