Joe Flacco didn't exactly channel his inner Joe Namath, but the Ravens quarterback definitely likes his team’s chances in Sunday’s AFC championship game against the New England Patriots.

“I think we feel like we are a great team and nobody can beat us,” Flacco said Friday. “I think when you play with that kind of confidence, it definitely gives you a leg up just in case the other team isn't necessarily playing with that.

“I don't want to say they aren't, I'm sure that most of the time they are. If anything, it may give you a little bit of an advantage just because in order to be successful in this league and really in anything, you have to have that confidence. Right now, we are walking around with a little bit of that.”

The Ravens, who lost to the Patriots, 23-20, in last year’s AFC title game, have been installed as significant underdogs for Sunday. Some of their veteran players — including outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and free safety Ed Reed — have declined interview requests all week, but that hasn't stopped some of the younger players from speaking their mind.

“We don't feel like the underdogs,” tight end Ed Dickson said. “We know how we can play. We know what kind of team we have. We know that it's hard to beat the Patriots at home, but we believe in ourselves and that's what it takes.”

Fairly healthy

Other than ruling out rookie reserve cornerback Asa Jackson with a hamstring injury he suffered while covering a kickoff against the Denver Broncos, the Ravens are relatively healthy for Sunday.

“Yes, we look good,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. We are very similar to what we have been the last few weeks. Don't think there will be any surprises. We should be in good shape injury-wise.”

That includes rookie backup running back Bernard Pierce, who's dealing with a bone bruise on his right knee and had been in and out of practice this week before returning to practice Friday.

He's listed as questionable on the injury report but is expected to at least play on a limited basis.

Pierce was limited against the Broncos, aggravating his knee and gaining just 14 yards on five carries after rushing for 103 yards the previous week against the Indianapolis Colts.

“I'm feeling good, man,” Pierce said. “Basically, it just took time. I wasn't really getting any rest. I'm feeling pretty good this week. I'm going to give it everything I've got. I was going to play, regardless.”

Starting inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (sprained right ankle, back) and Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach (right knee, ankle) are both listed as questionable but expected to start.

Reserve wide receiver David Reed (thigh) is also questionable.

Sixteen Ravens are listed as probable, including the following starters: wide receiver Anquan Boldin (bruised left shoulder), nose guard Terrence Cody (ankle), defensive end Arthur Jones (thigh, knee), inside linebacker Ray Lewis (right triceps), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (right knee), strong safety Bernard Pollard (ribs), Ed Reed (torn shoulder labrum), wide receiver Torrey Smith (back), Suggs (right Achilles, right torn biceps) and offensive guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder).

Tough to sack

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady proved to be too elusive for outside linebacker Paul Kruger in the teams’ meeting earlier this season, wriggling out of his grasp twice during the Ravens' 31-30 win at M&T Bank Stadium.

On both plays Kruger quickly penetrated the backfield and then struggled to bring Brady down to the ground.

“Yeah, he got away from me a couple of times,” said Kruger, who had nine sacks in the regular season and 2 1/2 more in the playoffs. “You always hate to miss those. He's a really good player who you've got to try to slow down because you're not going to stop him completely.

“When we played those guys last time, I was dealing with a bad back. When I watch that tape, I'm like, 'I was really hurting.' I was really tight, but there's no excuse. He's strong, he's experienced and he knows how to get off tackles. He's been around forever. He knows all the veteran tricks.”

Chykie Brown fined

Ravens cornerback Chykie Brown has been fined $15,000 by the NFL for his illegal hit on Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen on Saturday.

Brown was penalized for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter after leading with his helmet and striking Dresseen high.

He is planning to appeal

Brigance to be part of coin toss

Ravens senior advisor to player development O.J. Brigance will serve as an honorary game captain Sunday and will be on the field for the pregame coin toss.

Brigance is battling Lou Gehrig's Disease and is in a wheelchair.

The former NFL linebacker still comes to work every day at the Ravens' training complex and delivers inspirational messages to the players. He has a charitable foundation devoted to research of Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Rooting interest

The loyalties of Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones and Patriots rookie defensive end Chandler Jones' parents will be divided Sunday when their sons' teams square off.

Arthur Jones is convinced that his parents will be cheering his team because he's their first-born son.

“They're definitely rooting for me,” he said. “I've been through all the drama. I got drafted late. They may tell Chandler one thing, but I know who they're rooting for me. My clock is ticking. Chandler can get a championship down the road.”

End zone

When Harbaugh was reminded that defensive coordinator Dean Pees jokingly suggested that one way to make Brady uncomfortable is to hire Tonya Harding, Harbaugh had a quick reply. “Is she available?” he said with a laugh. .. BWI Marshall Airport has issued an advisory reminding fans that there won't be an opportunity to greet the Ravens upon their return to Baltimore after Sunday’s game. Fans are discouraged from going to the airport terminal or property to try to see the players and coaches. ... The Patriots listed five players as probable on their injury report: cornerback Marquice Cole (finger), Jones (ankle), center Nick McDonald (shoulder), defensive end Trevor Scott (knee) and running back Danny Woodhead (thumb). New England removed cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (non-injury reasons) from the injury report. ... On injured reserve for the entire season with a broken left ankle that required surgery, Ravens defensive end Ryan McBean will attend Sunday's game. An unrestricted free agent, he's hoping to return next season. “I would love to be back,” said McBean, who is off crutches and still has metal plates in his ankle. “At this point, it's up in the air. We'll talk about it later on after the season, but I love it here.”

awilson@baltsun.com
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