Apparently, the oddsmakers weren't all that impressed with the way the Ravens went into Heinz Field and booted the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the playoffs Saturday night, but what else is new?
The wise guys in Las Vegas have posted the New England Patriots as a strong 7 1/2-point favorite heading into next weekend's playoff showdown at Gillette Stadium, which is probably fine with the Ravens, who have a long history of feeding off that kind of disrespect.
Obviously, the Patriots are a terrific team. They're the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and they have Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski and evil genius coach Bill Belichick, so it's not really surprising that they would be favored at home against a team that played the way the Ravens played over the final weeks of the regular season.
Still, you'd think that the Ravens would get some credit for the way Joe Flacco carved up the Steelers and the way they have bedeviled the mighty Patriots in two of the three previous road playoff matchups between these two teams during the John Harbaugh era. You would think that and you would be wrong.
The Ravens — on paper — are the same team they were before Saturday night's uplifting, all-around performance, so they face the same issues that were supposed to make for a very unpleasant trip home from Pittsburgh.
The Patriots are favored by more than a touchdown, which is a pretty big line for a playoff game, because Brady should be able to dissect the depleted Ravens secondary, and the Patriots defensive front should be able to push around the Ravens' banged-up offensive line.
It's actually a more complicated equation than that, and the line likely will move toward the Ravens a bit over the course of the week, but here's the question you really need to ponder as both teams prepare to bang heads for the right to play in the AFC championship game Jan. 18:
Does anybody really believe that the Patriots were sitting in front of their giant flat-screen televisions Saturday night rooting for an easy matchup against the lowest-seeded AFC wild-card team?
Not likely. Brady certainly can't relish the prospect of facing a Ravens pass rush that nearly knocked the indestructible Ben Roethlisberger out of Saturday night's game. He has seen that movie before.
The Ravens went into Gillette Stadium after earning a wild-card berth in 2009 and trounced the Patriots, 33-14, in a game that featured a game-opening 83-yard touchdown sprint by Ray Rice and a teeth-rattling sack by Terrell Suggs that forced a fumble by Brady and led to a lightning-quick 14-0 Ravens lead.
The Patriots prevailed the next time they hosted the Ravens in the playoffs, but that was the heartbreaking loss in the AFC title game that the Ravens would have won if veteran receiver Lee Evans had taken better care of the ball on an apparent game-winning touchdown pass from Flacco in the final minute of play.
During the Ravens' Super Bowl run, they went into Foxborough and outscored the Patriots, 21-0, in the second half to earn their trip to New Orleans and set the stage for the franchise's second Super Bowl title.
In those three playoff games, Brady threw a total of three touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Flacco threw five touchdown passes and just one interception.
Of course, none of that matters now. The Patriots got off to a rocky start in September, but they won 10 of 11 games before suffering a meaningless loss to the Buffalo Bills in their regular-season finale. During that 10-1 run, they scored lopsided victories over three teams currently alive in the playoffs — the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions.
The Ravens had to sneak into the postseason with the help of the Kansas City Chiefs after a series of unimpressive late-season performances, but they looked re-energized in Pittsburgh and played with the swagger that has characterized their last two postseason runs.
They need to continue playing with the confidence and reckless abandon that was evident throughout Saturday night's game at Heinz Field. If they do that, they might confound the experts all the way to the Super Bowl.