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AFC Championship 2013: Who Will Win, Baltimore or New England?

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Al Bello

This Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row. The game will kick off at 6:30 pm ET and will be commentated by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on CBS. What is the over/under on the number of times Nantz make an on-air congratulatory shout-out to Michael Lombardi?

Last week, the Ravens were able to upset the Denver Broncos in stunning fashion, in large part thanks to one of the worst defensive executions I've ever seen in the final moments of regulation. Seriously, how do two members of the secondary let a member not only get behind them, but catch the ball with a clear path to the end zone?

It doesn't matter anymore how they got here -- the fact is that the Ravens are one game away from the Super Bowl. On paper, the New England Patriots are a far superior team to the Ravens. Including last week's playoff game, the Patriots have averaged 35.1 points per game this season. That is an insane number, and Tom Brady knows how to utilize every weapon on his team. It's the reason why the offense still rules whether Rob Gronkowski plays or not; or why the team is able to insert and remove Deion Branch from the offense whenever they so choose.

It isn't often that I cite the motivation factor as possibly being a difference maker in a game, but in this case, it could actually apply. As much as I don't want to see Ray Lewis and the Ravens succeed, for every game they get closer to fulfilling Lewis' "destiny" of going out with a Super Bowl, their intensity and will to win intensifies. They are also hell bent on avenging their loss to the Patriots last year.

Baltimore's defense still has a lot of holes, but if there was a team in the AFC that had a chance to rattle the Patriots, it would be the stigma that is the Baltimore Ravens. It seems like letting Jim Caldwell take over the playcalling duties has paid off as well. Baltimore's strengths on offense are letting Joe Flacco air it out deep, finding a series that Anquan Boldin can own, and then sprinkling in Ray Rice at the right times. Don't count the Ravens out of this game. They beat the Patriots 31-30 early in the season after rallying from two possessions down with under five minutes to play.

Vote in the poll below for who you think will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. I know Browns fans hate the Ravens, but if you really have a hunch that the Ravens are going to win, make sure you vote that way. I'll have my prediction for the game in Sunday's game thread.