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Bill Belichick: ‘I think the team is excited to play’

01.18.13 at 1:20 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick likes to use the expression “the hay is in the barn” before a big game.

He expressed that confidence on Friday in his final meeting with reporters before Sunday’s AFC championship with the Ravens at Gillette Stadium.

“I think the players have done a good job this week, they’€™ve worked hard to get the scouting report, and new information on the Ravens, practiced well, good energy, I think the team is excited to play,” Belichick said. “If you can’€™t get excited for the AFC Championship game, I don’€™t know what you can get excited for.

“This is what we’€™ve worked all year for, this opportunity, and I know that everybody wants to make the most of it. The attitude is good, we’€™re looking forward to playing a great football team, going out there and knowing we need to play our best to beat them. But that’€™s the way it should be.”

This is the third time in four years the Ravens and Patriots have met in the playoffs, with the Ravens prevailing in 2010 while the Patriots won the AFC championship last January. Three of the previous five meetings overall have come down the final seconds, including on Sept. 23 when the Ravens won, 31-30, on a controversial Justin Tucker field goal as time expired.

“As I said at the beginning of the week, we have a lot of respect for that organization,” Belichick said. “They win a lot of games, they’€™re in the playoffs, they win playoff games. We’€™ve had some great battles with them; we’€™ve won some, they’€™ve won some, most of them have come right down to the wire, very competitive, they’€™re a tough, hard-nosed football team that’€™s hard to beat, and we respect that challenge.

“We know that’€™s what will be out there on Sunday: We’€™ll get their best, they’€™ll get ours, both teams have had a lot of success, both teams have a lot of confidence. It’€™s a great matchup.”

Read More: AFC Championship, Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Heath Evans on M&M: ‘Give Tom Brady one extra opportunity and he’s going to win this game’

01.18.13 at 1:00 pm ET
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NFL Network analyst and former Patriot Heath Evans spoke with Mut & Merloni on Friday about Sunday’s Pats-Ravens matchup.

Evans noted that while Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco clearly is capable of the high caliber of play he showed in the last two weekends, he’s also capable of struggling.

“Look at last week alone,” Evans said. “The guy throws two interceptions, basically, in overtime that were just dropped. If you’re going go talk with Bill [Belichick] in a private room, everyone knows what Joe’s capable of, but we also know what he does every single week. Every single week there’s two or three plays that change the course of the game. Sometimes they’re made, sometimes they’re dropped.

“Last week against Denver, which never should have been in overtime, if you ask me, he throws two easy interceptions that the plays just weren’t made by that Denver defense.”

In light of that, Evans said the Patriots defense can and should pressure Flacco into making a crucial mistake.

“My thought is, give Vince [Wilfork] a shot of adrenaline and tell him to ‘Go win this game all by yourself,’ like he’s done in years past against half the teams they play,” Evans said. “I would just kind of sit back, put the weight of the world on the DBs and say, ‘Between you and Vince, you guys are going to win this game. Flacco’s going to give you guys the opportunity to win the game, and you’ve got to make at least one of them.’ Give Tom Brady one extra opportunity and he’s going to win this game.”

Evans said the Patriots secondary, with a different look than it had when New England lost to the Ravens in the regular season, will be a determining factor in the game.

“That’s what gives me hope that we see them in New Orleans here in two weeks,” Evans said. “You cannot compare the back end, and honestly ‘€¦ I can point out so many areas where [Brandon] Spikes is playing better, [Jerod] Mayo we know, but this defense is not the same defense. Obviously Chandler [Jones], his health is going to be key, kind of like they’re waiting for John Abraham there in Atlanta. But the defense that Joe Flacco was getting ready to play was totally completely different than the Week 3 one that he had some nice success against.”

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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Chip Kelly, joe flacco, New England Patriots

Patriots-Ravens predictions, poll: Even Baltimore media leans toward Pats

01.18.13 at 12:41 pm ET
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The predictions are pouring in for Sunday’s AFC championship game, and the Patriots are the popular pick.

The hosts on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan and Mut & Merloni all are going with the home team. Gerry Callahan and John Dennis have the Pats winning a close game, while Kevin Winter predicts a 28-17 New England win. On the midday show, Lou Merloni predicts a 34-20 game while Mike Mutnansky has the Pats winning by six. The WEEI on-air personalities are split on the NFC game, with Callahan, Dennis and Mutnansky favoring the 49ers. writer Mike Petraglia predicts an overtime game, with the Patriots winning on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, 38-35. Chris Price has the Patriots winning 27-24.

Who wins Sunday's AFC championship game?

  • Patriots in a close game (52%, 1,140 Votes)
  • Patriots in a rout (32%, 698 Votes)
  • Ravens in a close game (11%, 248 Votes)
  • Ravens in a rout (2%, 43 Votes)
  • Ravens in overtime (1%, 31 Votes)
  • Patriots in overtime (1%, 25 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,185

Loading ... Loading ...

While the New England media leans heavily toward the Patriots, the Baltimore media is not showing the same faith in its local team. In The Baltmore Sun, five of the seven staffers polled are going with the Patriots.

Writes columnist Kevin Cowherd, who predicts a 30-21 Patriots victory: “The Ravens go into this game with enormous confidence. But Tom Brady to Wes Welker is a tough combination to beat, especially at Gillette Stadium. And now the Pats actually have a running game with Stevan Ridley (1,263 yards rushing in the regular season) and Shane Vereen. The Ravens will need more than emotion from Ray Lewis‘ “last ride” to neutralize Vince Wilfork in the middle of the Patriots D-line, too.”

Counters columnist Peter Schmuck: “The Ravens have already proved the oddsmakers dead wrong once and now they are going to do it again. They’re on a mission and they’ve already proven they can compete with the Patriots in the postseason at Gillette Stadium. Now, it’s time to get over the hump.”

At, the Patriots were the pick of eight analysts: Eric Allen, Ron Jaworski, Adam Schefter, Mark Schlereth, Tom Jackson, Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Ditka and Cris Carter. Four individuals chose the Ravens: Mike Golic, Merrill Hoge, Chris Mortensen and Seth Wickersham.

At Yahoo! Sports, writers Mike Silver and Jason Cole have the Patriots winning, while Les Carpenter predicts the Ravens. Meanwhile, seven of the eight USA Today staffers polled are going with the Patriots.

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Read More: AFC Championship, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots,

Perfect attendance for Patriots

01.18.13 at 12:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots had perfect attendance inside Gillette Stadium on Friday as they continued preparations for their AFC championship showdown with the Ravens Sunday evening in Foxboro.

Rob Gronkowski was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Thursday with a broken left arm, leaving the Patriots roster at 52 players. All 52 were bundled up in heavy sweats and shells on Friday on a bitterly cold but sunny day at Gillette.

The Patriots listed only Chandler Jones (ankle) as limited in practice on Thursday, with the remaining 51 players fully participating.

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at WEEI-FM 93.7 will broadcast the AFC championship game between the Patriots and Ravens on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

Read More: AFC Championship, Baltimore Ravens, chandler jones, Gronk

Ravens Roundup: Joe Flacco not worried about Sports Illustrated curse

01.18.13 at 11:07 am ET
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The Ravens have beaten the odds this posteason, but this weekend they’ll face two tough opponents at once: the Patriots and the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

Joe Flacco is featured on a regional issue of SI this week, raising talk of the famous “curse” that the magazine itself studied in 2002. That study concluded that out of 2,456 cover subjects, 37.2 percent went on to “play poorly, lose games, injure themselves or even die” after being featured.

The significance of that study can be debated — Mark Glickman, a statistician and research professor at Boston University, told The Baltimore Sun that a baseline number on how many good athletes fail each game in general would be necessary to determine whether 37.2 was higher than usual. Still, numerous athletes have suffered mishaps after their covers, and the perception lingers.

Flacco graced the cover once before, on Sept. 19, 2011. The Ravens lost the next game after that cover ran. He and Ravens coach John Harbaugh said they’re not concerned, though.

“I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe it,” Harbaugh said.

“I sure hope not,” Flacco said when asked if he thought the curse existed. “It just depends on how we go play on Sunday.”


The Ravens have the apparent advantage of having Dean Pees, their defensive coordinator and a former Patriots coach under Bill Belichick, on staff to advise them on how to stop Tom Brady. However, Pees joked to The Baltimore Sun that containing Brady by traditional on-field methods might not be enough.

“Hire Tonya Harding,” Pees said. “If they were getting off the bus, I’d spray outside the bus and hope it freezes.”

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Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Corey Graham, joe flacco, Tom Brady

Wes Welker: ‘I have been around long enough to know a tough guy when I see one’

01.18.13 at 9:42 am ET
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FOXBORO — Wes Welker isn’t about to be intimidated – on Sunday’s stage or any stage for that matter.

Goodness knows, people have tried.

There was the Ryan Clark hit in the Steelers game at Gillette in 2008. There have been numerous attempts by the Jets and Dolphins over the last five seasons. There was a big hit delivered by Texans safety Glover Quin in the second quarter of last week’s game at Gillette Stadium.

Still, no one has succeeded in keeping Welker from standing up to punishment and running routes over the middle. He even has a shiner this week thanks to the punishment from last week’s game.

But ask Welker if anyone intimidates him, and he laughs at you the same way he laughs at the defense trying to punish him.

“Intimidate me?” Welker replied Thursday when asked the question.

The reporter brought up the Clark hit from 2008.

“I don’€™t know. I don’€™t know about intimidating me or anything like that,” Welker said. “There are guys that talk trash. There are guys that try to hit you and do all these different things but I feel like I have been around long enough to know a tough guy when I see one.”

Does it fuel Welker?

“Sometimes, it just depends. Sometimes it’€™s dirty or in bad taste,” Welker said.

Welker stands 5-feet-9 and weighs just 190 pounds. Welker was reminded Thursday the NFL is played by enormous individuals. For those that aren’€™t blessed with that kind of size, what does he use to overcome that?

“I think the two key things are being tough and being smart,” Welker said. “Being able to take those hits and do all of those things and at the same time being smart and understanding what the defense is doing and being able to attack it in a certain way where you can maybe make those windows just a little bit bigger where you are not taking those hits and things like that. I would attribute it to being tough and being smart and really understanding the game.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: AFC Championship, Baltimore Ravens, Glover Quin, New England Patriots

Rob Ninkovich ‘still trying to fill the shoes’ of Mike Vrabel

01.17.13 at 10:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — From the moment he took the number 50 with the Patriots, the comparisons began for Rob Ninkovich.

How does Ninkovich stack up to Mike Vrabel?

Ninkovich began his career in New England in 2009, the year Vrabel was traded to Kansas City.

Ninkovich was asked Thursday if he’s ever met Vrabel, who is now an assistant coach at his alma mater, Ohio State.

“No, never have, never met him, never talked to him, maybe one day,” Ninkovich said Thursday. “I’€™m sure he’€™ll probably give me some crap for taking his number.”

“I mean his whole career, the performance that he’€™s had his whole career, kind of speaks for itself. So just to even have the comparison, it’€™s an honor. But you know, different football players. You know obviously there’€™s … I think he was like four inches taller than me, his arms were way longer, so he has the advantage there.”

Actually two inches, as Vrabel stands 6-foot-4 and Ninkovich 6-2. But Ninkovich has more than stood tall this season with five forced fumbles and four recoveries.

Has Bill Belichick ever shown Ninkovich any tape of Mike Vrabel?

“Well, growing up, I’€™m a little bit younger than him so I always watched the Patriots and watched their successful seasons in the past when I wasn’€™t a part of the team,” Ninkovich said. “So, definitely, still trying to fill the shoes.”

After all the comparisons were only natural. He is a versatile outside linebacker who was converted to an edge pass rusher, who can not only get to the quarterback but also force fumbles and always find a way to jump on a loose ball on the field.

He did it again last Sunday in the final five minutes when the Texans appeared to be on the verge of converting an on-side kick, trailing 38-28. Ninkovich recovers the bouncing ball, crisis averted and Patriots seal the deal, 41-28.

“As a defensive player you’€™re always thinking that the ball is a key,” Ninkovich said. “You’€™re looking at the ball on the snap, you’€™re trying to find the ball in pursuit. When people are around the ball making plays you’€™re always aware where it’€™s at. You know if it’€™s fumbled or if it’€™s on the ground you have to get on it. Let everyone else decide what’€™s going on as long as you get the ball, it will all work itself out. As a defensive player, that’€™s in your mind all the time is being prepared to get on top of it.”

For more Patriots news, visit the team page at WEEI-FM 93.7 will broadcast the AFC championship game between the Patriots and Ravens on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

Read More: AFC Championship, Baltimore Ravens, Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots
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