Sports Centralby Cian Fahey
- We've moved to The Sports Central
- Avery Bradley's stuttering start to Boston Celtics career is no more
- New England Patriots - a case for keeping Brandon Lloyd
- Tom Brady's contract extension puts pressure on New England Patriots to perform in short-term
- Jeff Green's approach epitomizes Boston Celtics Post-Rajon Rondo
The king was slain. The major was shot. The ship's captain slipped off the deck and that rickety bridge snapped before the white knight could rescue the princess from the top of the tower. All of those disasters combined couldn't replicate the heart-sinking feeling of pure pessimism that overcame Boston Celtics fans this past Sunday.
Almost a week on, the dust is finally beginning to settle on the New England Patriots' disappointing finish to the 2012 season. Fans are still trapped in the misery that comes with a failed season, but the organization itself is already collecting the pieces they can move forward with next season, while assessing what losses need to be replaced. The Patriots are typically an active team in the off-season, as Bill Belichick is always willing to explore all avenues that could potentially improve his team. This off-season should be similar as there are some key areas that need to be rebuilt.
One of those areas comes outside the numbers at the wide receiver position.
For what feels like the 50th time in the past five years, the New England Patriots slumped to another defeat just short of their ultimate goal. A loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship in 2013 can be added to a Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants in 2012, a divisional round upset to the New York Jets in 2011, another loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the Wildcard Round in 2010 and that infamous Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants in 2008.
Two teams driven by past failures will meet today in Foxboro for the AFC Championship game. For the Baltimore Ravens, the venue is the same. The Ravens' season came to a close at this point last year when Lee Evans couldn't fight off Sterling Moore for a last second touchdown, before Billy Cundiff pushed his field goal attempt outside of the posts. The New England Patriots celebrated that day, but two weeks later the pain would come. For the second time in five years, Tom Brady couldn't out-duel Eli Manning in the Super Bowl. Both teams still palpably feel that pain, which gives them both the motivation to battle ferociously today.
Roughly 12 months ago, then New England Patriots' defensive back Sterling Moore made the biggest play of the AFC Championship game. With the Patriots leading by just three points as the end of the game approached, the Baltimore Ravens were driving towards the endzone. On second and 14 with 27 seconds to go, Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco threw the ball to the corner of the endzone where receiver Lee Evans was awaiting the football.
The 2012 AFC Championship has been set. After victories over the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens will meet in Foxboro next Sunday to decide what team will represent the conference in the Super Bowl. With those two franchises involved, thoughts must immediately meander back to last year's Championship game when these two teams did battle previously.
A melancholic result on the first day of the NFL divisional round of the playoffs has offered the New England Patriots both added motivation to make the next round, as well as fair warning to those expecting an easy result in Foxboro. The Baltimore Ravens' overtime victory over the Denver Broncos shocked the NFL world and turned the AFC bracket of the playoffs on it's head.
For some time now, there has been a lot of debate about Houston Texans' quarterback Matt Schaub. As NFL fans, analysts and just as people in general, labelling people is seen as a necessity in identifying the capabilities of that person, whether it be playing football, teaching children or whatever walk of life a person chooses for themselves. For Matt Schaub, there are any number of labels that the masses are trying to stick to his helmet.
Having already beaten the Houston Texans earlier this season, the New England Patriots won't be intimidated by the prospect of facing them again in the AFC Divisional round this weekend. The Texans will travel to Foxboro after beating the Cincinnati Bengals in the wildcard round of the playoffs this past Saturday. As the second seed in the conference, the Patriots haven't played in two weeks and will have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs if they can avoid the Denver Broncos.
What will unnerve Bill Belichick during his week of preparation however, is how the Texans will approach the game. The Patriots proved that they had a sure gameplan to shut down the Houston side's regular approach during the regular season, but if the Texans feel confident enough in Matt Schaub and their young receivers, they could completely flip their offensive attack to take advantage of the Patriots' frailties.
Even though the Patriots won't be able to face the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend no matter what happens, they will likely be supporting them all the way in advancing this weekend. Andrew Luck may be a superstar quarterback who could decimate the Patriots on second viewing, but the Indianapolis Colts' defense would be severely overwhelmed in a second matchup. The Ravens have plenty of playoff experience, but are fortunate to even be in this postseason, nevermind beat one of then best teams in the league.
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