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Finally the New England Patriots are back where they belong; in a championship game.
After beating the lucky-to-be-there Broncos in the divisional round, The Pats are back in the AFC Championship game. They’ll be hosting the Baltimore Ravens in a playoff game for the first time since Baltimore ousted the Patriots in the wild card round back in 2010.
It was the second straight playoff loss for Tom Brady and the Patriots “dynasty.”
New England was embarrassed on their own turf in 2010 when the Ravens crushed them 33-14. There’s no doubt that Brady and Bill Belichick still remember that game and would love to return the favor here in 2012. Sunday is a great opportunity for some revenge.
Revenge is always a dish that’s wonderfully sweet.
The Patriots have already tasted that against the Jets for last year’s stunning playoff loss by making quick work of them twice this season and now they get to sit back and watch them point fingers and name names while they fall apart.
If the Patriots order another serving of that delectable dish Sunday, it could set up for the game that every Patriots fan is yearning for in Super Bowl XLVI.
I know it’s not the “Patriot Way” to ever look past an opponent and think about the next week and they shouldn’t. The Ravens are a formidable foe, but I’m not on the New England Patriots and I can look wherever I want.
The potential for a Super Bowl XLII rematch makes my heart skip a beat, a heart that was shattered when the New York football Giants shocked the world by beating the 18-0 Patriots in 2007. New York denied the Pats a chance at immortality, a chance at perfection.
What better way for Brady and Belichick to remind the league who’s in charge than to win their fourth Super Bowl over the only team to beat them in the big game. It would be more than simply one succulent serving of revenge it would be the appetizer, the entrée, the dessert, and even the doggie bag that you have to take home because you couldn’t finish the meal.
It would be simply delightful to watch Tom Brady stand on the stage raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy in triumph, while Eli Manning saunters back to the locker room with a new understanding of what elite quarterback really means.
In 2007, Tom Brady was equipped with a pretty robust arsenal of offensive weapons. Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth were doing nothing but catching touchdowns for that record setting offense all season. This time around Brady might have even more weapons, which is petrifying to all who oppose him. Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Welker are practically unstoppable.
It goes without saying that New England’s defense isn’t what it was back in 2007, but it still comes from the school of bend-but-don’t-break. Also, as much as it pains me to say it Eli is better and has put together a very productive season. The Giants still have a strong defensive line that gets after the quarterback which is probably the only thing that could halt Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense.
The Patriots suffered a tough loss to the Giants in Week 9 of the regular season, but both teams have changed quite a bit since then.
Think about it, Manning and Tom Coughlin still lead the only team that found a way to beat the 2007 Patriots. Brady and Belichick are still the faces of the winningest team over the last decade. It would be pure pandemonium!
Again, I know there are two games that have to be played before anyone can really start the big time hype for another New York vs. Boston/New England battle.
The Ravens and 49ers are both the No. 2 seeds in their respective divisions and they earned that right. Both play outstanding and smothering defense and are complimented by a good but not great offense.
For the Ravens, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are two of the best that have ever put on the pads. They spearhead a defense that has consistently been one of the best for the better part of the last decade. Last week they forced four turnovers and only 38 percent of the time did they allow red zone touchdowns this season, first in the league.
Add that to a serviceable offense with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, who had an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in that 2010 playoff game against the Patriots. They’re good and they’d love to be the ones who put the stake in the heart of the Pats.
The 49ers this season have had an even better defense. They’ve been a fundamentally sound defensive group with four Pro Bowlers in safety Dashon Goldson, defensive tackle Justin Smith, linebacker Patrick Willis and cornerback Carlos Rogers. San Francisco is sending eight players total to the Pro-Bowl. The only other team that can say that is the Patriots.
The 49ers strong defensive unit had 38 takeaways, giving them a plus 28 turnover differential which was tied for second best in the NFL since 1970. They also managed to get two takeaways against the league’s top offense in the New Orleans Saints.
So yea, getting the rousing rematch that all of New England is probably hoping for isn’t a lock by any stretch of the imagination, but a man can dream can’t he?
Follow Brian Moller on Twitter: @Brian_Moller