ESPN.com AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley puts the spotlight on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco today, writing that he'll have to come up big for Baltimore to beat New England. Here's an excerpt:
In order for the Ravens to reach the Super Bowl, Joe Flacco has to take them there.
He has to strong-arm Baltimore to victory over New England in Sunday's AFC Championship Game because that's how you beat the Patriots this season. New England has lost three games this season, and every time, the quarterback has been the deciding factor. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning exploited the AFC's worst defense by throwing for 984 yards (an average of 328 yards passing) and a total of six touchdowns.
So it's time for Flacco to step up in the playoffs. It's time for Flacco to prove he deserves that new contract. It's time for Flacco to squash his critics as well as a critical teammate.
A feisty Flacco entered the playoffs saying if the Ravens win the Super Bowl, "I'll have nothing to do with why we won, according to you guys."
On Sunday, let's take the chip off the shoulder and put the team on his back -- because that's exactly how this game will play out.
Tom Brady and the Patriots are averaging 32.8 points per game. That means scoring three points in the final three quarters won't cut it in this playoff game.
New England will direct its focus on stopping running back Ray Rice, especially after Bill Belichick plays that 83-yard touchdown run from two years ago about 100 times this week. That means the Patriots are going to force Flacco to beat them.