As the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots prepare to go head to head for the AFC Championship, where will the trophy go? Who has the advantage?
First off, these two teams are far from strangers to each other. It'll be a rematch of a regular season game when the Ravens defeated the Patriots 31 - 30 and the 2012 AFC Championship game where the Patriots defeated the Ravens 23 - 20.
This will be the first time that two teams have met in conference championship game in consecutive seasons since the 49ers and the Cowboys in which they met three consecutive years (1992, 1993 and 1994)
Tom Brady has the best home-field advantage winning record among QB's whose careers began in the Super Bowl that made at least 20 starts at home, with a .851 winning percentage (86 wins and 15 losses) While Joe Flacco ranks fourth with 35-7 at .833 percent. Brady also passed Joe Montana for most career playoff wins.
On the downside, the Patriots will be playing without Rob Gronkowski due to a broken arm suffered against the Houston Texans. Gronkowski has been a huge part of New England's offense with 55 receptions, 790 yards and 11 Touchdowns, with an average of 14.4 yards per reception.
Joe Flacco is unquestionably one of the best when it comes to road games. He has won 5 playoff games on the road which has him tied with Eli Manning for the most in NFL history by a starting QB. Flacco is 8 of 12 for a total of 324 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions on balls thrown over 20 yards in the playoffs this year.
Another huge key to this AFC Championship will come from the impact of Ray Lewis. Lewis is the undisputed leader for the Ravens with 30 tackles this postseason. Baltimore has allowed opposing teams to complete only 49% of passes when they send 5 or more pass rushers with Lewis on the field. Without Lewis peering from the middle of the Ravens’ defense opposing teams complete around 65% of their passing with the same pressure.
Wes Welker and Stevan Ridley will play a huge roll in this championship game as well. Welker is the leading receiver for the Patriots with 118 Receptions, 1,354 yards and 6 Touchdowns for an average of 11.5 yards per reception. Ridley is the leading rusher for the Patriots with 290 carries, 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns for an average of 4.4 yards per carry.
Offensively for the Ravens, Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin will play a huge roll for the Ravens. Rice has 257 carries, 1,143 yards and 9 Touchdowns for an average of 4.4 yards per carry. Boldin has 65 receptions, 921 yards and 4 Touchdowns for an average of 14.2 yards.
Will the Patriots win the AFC Championship against the Ravens two consecutive years? Or will the Ravens go out with a bang allowing Ray Lewis to get a Super Bowl ring in the final game before he retires?
All in all, expect a great match-up/rematch of two great franchises. But only one team can walk away with the AFC Championship trophy. Good luck to both teams.
Abdul Kanneh is one of the few talented athletes that will be playing in the 2013 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at California State University.
The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is a bowl game which provides an opportunity for draft prospects to display their skills and ability to play the game at their highest level. The two opposing NFLPA Collegiate Bowl teams will be coached by NFL veteran Herm Edwards, former head coach of the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, and Dick Vermeil who was head coach of three NFL teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.
In two years as a defensive back at New Mexico Highlands University, Kanneh had a total of 9 interceptions for a total of 358 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was also the number one special teams guy returning 31 kickoffs for a total of 425 yards and a TD in addition to 13 punt returns for 215 yards.
This past season Abdul Kanneh was named to the All-RMAC First Team Defense, NCAA Division II Daktronics All-Super Region Four First Team Defense, NCAA Division II BSN All-American First Team Defense and the NCAA Division II Daktronics All-American First Team defense.
A lot of people have been talking about this guy all year long and are excited to see him showcase his talents and skills in front of NFL scouts, players and fans this year at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game on Saturday, January 19, 2013.
For those of you not familiar with late night Irish chat shows, the Gerry Kelly Show was widely popular in the late 1990’s. His line-ups consisted of various interviewees and human interest stories – none more pertinent then the eight year old boy from County Down, who could chip a golf ball into his mother’s washing machine from their kitchen. This boy was the current Under 10 World Golf Champion and with his floppy hair and goofy grin not many would have predicted that a mere 12 years later, this same boy from County Down would be – in the words of Jack Nicholas – “intimidating” Tiger Woods. This boy was, of course Rory McIlroy and the clip can be viewed here.
Most successful athletes have stellar junior careers but McIlroy’s journey to the top of the golfing world was signposted along the way. He came to national attention in Ireland, when as a 15 year old he won the West of Ireland Amateur Championship. In a country where elite amateur golfers are two a penny, this was newsworthy. The following year, McIlroy won the best amateur at the British Open. First time major winner and compatriot Padraig Harrington commented at the prize giving ceremony “I can’t wait to see how many majors Rory wins”.
After this result, local reports indicated that Nike offered the 16 year old McIlroy $1million dollars to sign with them for the next 10 years. With amazing foresight his then agent, Chubby Chandler, turned down this offer and did not sign with a club provider until after McIlroy’s first pro tour win in Dubai. (On a side note, this illustrates the value of having an agent, as a parent/guardian would struggle to turn this kind of money down.) At this point, McIlroy had left school to concentrate on his golf full time and also forgone a scholarship at East Tennessee State to forge a pro career. Various top 50 finishes qualified McIlroy for a European touring card and his professional odyssey began. After shooting a closing round 70, McIlroy won the Dubai Desert Classic, his first pro title. A week afterwards he signed a $5 million per year deal with Titleist – making his rejection of Nike a year prior a shrewd commercial maneuver.
From here, McIlroy's career went into overdrive, winning events in the United States before throwing away a four shot lead going into the final round at the 2011 Masters. Ironically, the way he handled himself after this loss endured him to the public more than winning might otherwise have. His humility and good humor made him hugely popular, especially Stateside. His endorsement deals also started to grow as he added Oakley and Footjoy to his main sponsors Jumeriah. These deals combined to make McIlroy one of the more marketable athletes on the planet, while his Hollywood relationship with Danish tennis player Carolina Wozniaki certainly did not hurt the growth of his brand.
Last season McIlroy become a double major winner by adding a win at the US PGA Championship to his previous US Open win. His barnstorming finish to the Fed Ex cup, winning two events back to back including a dual down the stretch with Tiger Woods, put the world on notice of unbridled potential. The new found rivalry with Tiger Woods – Rory’s idol from a young age - was debated at length on ESPN as well as other networks and publications. Woods’ unparalleled reach and exposure means he will always be the yardstick by which McIlroy is defined, yet few can compete with Woods on his impact on the sport. On the course, McIlroy is and will be for the rest of his career arguably a better player than Woods yet it does not mean he will equal Woods’ major haul. Moreover, in the commercial world McIlroy will always under perform Woods. However, the baton of the current face of golf may be changing. Already McIlroy has shared the cover of Tiger Woods’ own EA Sports game with his idol and now he is set to join Woods as Nike’s golf poster ball. His website tagline “I am a golfer” is strikingly familiar to the famous “I am Tiger Woods” campaign.
In November 2012 McIlroy choose not to renew his deal with Titleist, paving the way for him to join the Nike stable. Many have questioned will a change in club affect his golf game but commercially it is a bumper deal worth $250 million. While some of this money will be used to buy his way out of some other marketing deals, it certainly ranks up there as one of the biggest deals in sports. McIlroy is approachable and friendly despite being driven and focused, defying the myth that athletes need to be standoffish. His future looks incredibly bright and despite this huge sum of money, Nike will also be benefactors. Ironically, the Gerry Kelly Show was cut not long after McIlroy’s appearance. That being said, maybe all he touches does not turn to gold.