* SI.com's Peter King thinks that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco doesn't necessarily have to be a star for Baltimore to beat New England. For evidence of this, King looks back at Trent Dilfer, Tony Banks, and the Super Bowl-champion Ravens in 2000.
* SI.com's Chris Burke looks back at the Ravens' 33-14 win over the Patriots two years ago in Foxbourgh.
Baltimore rushed for 234 yards in that postseason triumph, with Rice going for 159 and the now-departed Willis McGahee adding 62. That duo also combined for three rushing touchdowns, with fullback Le’Ron McClain adding a fourth.
Flacco wound up throwing just 10 times — and completing only four passes — as the Ravens gutted New England on the ground.
* CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco predicts a 31-21 Patriots victory Sunday.
Even though Ray Rice is key, they have to make some plays down the field, and they will. Joe Flacco will have some shots and hit a few. But he won't be able to keep up with Brady. The Ravens won't be able to hit him enough and Brady will make them pay. Patriots take it and move on to the Super Bowl.
* NBCSports.com's Gregg Rosenthal ranks the Ravens fourth out of the remaning four NFL playoff teams.
The gap between the Ravens and Patriots is not great, but Baltimore finished fourth in my little exercise for a few reasons.
They don’t have the best remaining defense left. That belongs to the 49ers. San Francisco is more physical, too.
* ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley writes that the stage is set Sunday for Flacco to prove himself.
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, 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 quash his critics, as well as a critical teammate.
* Four NFL.com writers are asked whether they think Flacco or 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has the better chance of reaching his first Super Bowl. All four, including Steve Wyche, pick Smith.
I have to say Alex Smith. Of the two, he has been more consistent all season. Not to mention, he's playing at home, which gives the 49ers an overall edge. Smith also has led six fourth-quarter comebacks, including Saturday's playoff victory over New Orleans.
Joe Flacco has been very good in the playoffs -- while Smith just earned his first postseason win -- but based on the matchups and settings, Smith seems to have a more favorable chance.