OWINGS MILLS - Tom Brady's the eight-time Pro Bowler. The two-time league MVP. And the two-time Super Bowl MVP.
Joe Flacco's the talented but much-maligned fifth-year signal caller still in the process of proving that he deserves to be mentioned among Brady and the game's other elite quarterbacks.
Today, Flacco gets another opportunity, leading the Baltimore Ravens into Foxborough to face Brady and the New England Patriots in a rematch of last season's AFC championship game.
"We have all the confidence in the world in Joe," Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson said. "He's our leader. He's leading us into battle, and he's leading us into a second consecutive conference championship. He's playing really well. With that said, look for Joe to come out and have another big game."
Teammates say Flacco is playing the best football of his career.
He led a dramatic double overtime win over the top-seeded Denver Broncos last week after guiding a wild-card win against the Indianapolis Colts a week earlier.
Flacco saw only minimal playing time in the Ravens' regular season finale, but he's thrown for a combined 922 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception in the last three games that he's seen a full workload.
He threw for 331 yards and three scores against the Broncos last week, including a game-tying 70-yard scoring pass to Jacoby Jones with Baltimore trailing by seven and just 41 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
"Joe's even-keeled," Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta said. "He's always poised. He stays confident. And we have 100-percent trust in him - especially in the critical moments. In these critical games in the playoffs, we know he's going to come up huge for us."
Flacco's thrown for 12 touchdowns with just two interceptions in his last six postseason games dating back to 2010.
"I think it's just the way Joe is, the way he's wired," Baltimore center Matt Birk said. "He's very laid back, very focused. You talk about not getting too high and not getting too low. And if you look at Joe during the course of a game, you'd never be able to tell how it's going by his emotions. He's got a great disposition for his position and for this game. The moment's definitely never too big for him, and I'm sure that certainly helps Joe in these big spots"
Flacco's also thrived under new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. Caldwell is entering his sixth game as the Ravens' offensive coordinator after replacing the fired Cam Cameron in early December.
And after being limited to 188 yards or less in six of his final nine games under Cameron, Flacco's thrown for 282 yards or more in each of his last three games under Caldwell that he's seen a full workload.
"Joe Flacco is playing lights out right now," Baltimore running back Ray Rice said. "We are riding with him. ... He is the General. That's a lot of responsibility, but he's definitely taking it. He's taken it and ran with it, and he's doing a great job."
Flacco threw for 382 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Ravens to a 31-30 win against the Patriots in September.
New England's secondary has changed since that point - adding cornerback Aqib Talib and moving Devin McCourty to safety - but it's still struggled even since making those moves in early November.
The Patriots ranked fourth-worst in the NFL against the pass during the regular season.
They've yielded 301 yards or more though the air in four of their last eight games.
But the Ravens' pass defense will be challenged as well, saddled with the task of slowing down Brady and a prolific New England passing attack that led the AFC in passing offense during the regular season.
Brady threw for 335 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore in September.
"With Tom, the guy is an elite quarterback," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. "We have to be on our 'A' game at all times and not slack at all."
It's almost a year to the day that Baltimore fell to Brady and the Patriots in last season's AFC title game despite Flacco actually outdueling his future Hall of Fame counterpart.
A year later, Flacco and the Ravens find themselves back in the same situation.
Same game. Same opponent. Same venue. Same implications.
A win and Baltimore advances to the second Super Bowl in franchise history. A loss and the Ravens' season ends in Foxborough for a second straight year just a game short of the NFL's championship game.
A loss would also mark the end to the storied career of Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis. The future Hall of Famer announced earlier this month that he plans to retire following the conclusion of the season.
"I mean, if you write it up, there's no better way to write it up," Lewis said. "We all felt the same way leaving there last year, that we had an opportunity to win that game. What better way to go back? If you were going to go to the Super Bowl, then [what better way than] to go back and go back at New England again."
Today's meeting will be the sixth between the Ravens and Patriots during the last four seasons.
Four of the previous five matchups were decided by six points or less - with New England winning three of those five games.
"We play them a lot, and they're always tough battles," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "All the experiences that we've had against them help us going into this game."
But the Patriots enter the day as nine-point favorites.
New England has won 12 of its last 14 games after dropping two of its first three games to begin the year.
But the Ravens are confident as well.
Their offense has posted 918 yards in two playoff games. And their defense held a high-powered Broncos offense scoreless on six of its final seven possessions last week after preventing the Colts from scoring a single touchdown a week earlier.
" I think we feel like we are a great team and nobody can beat us," Flacco said.
"I think when you play with that kind of confidence ... it may give you a little bit of an advantage. And right now, we are walking around with a little bit of that."