OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have another opportunity to embrace the underdog role, this time in the AFC championship game against the New England Patriots.
Playing at home — where they've won seven of nine this season — the Patriots have been installed as 9 1/2 -point favorites Sunday to beat Baltimore and advance to the Super Bowl.
The Ravens have already defeated New England this season and are coming off a stunning upset on the road against top-seeded Denver. Yet, it appears they're still not getting any respect.
And the Ravens are just fine with it.
It's just what everyone else thinks, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said Monday. In here, on our team, we believe in ourselves. Whatever anyone else thinks, that their thoughts. We'll just have to go back out there and prove people wrong again.
After eliminating the Broncos 38-35 in double-overtime Saturday, the Ravens (12-6) watched New England (13-4) defeat Houston on Sunday. Baltimore might have had an easier time against the Texans, but many of the Ravens longed for a rematch of last year's AFC title game, won by the Patriots 23-20.
I think we personally kind of wanted to play the Patriots again, Ngata said. If we go to the Super Bowl, it would be great to go through Foxborough.
The Ravens were also 9 1/2 -point underdogs against Denver, which came in with an 11-game winning streak and as the odds-on favorite to reach the Super Bowl. Yet, Baltimore is still in the hunt and the Broncos are done for the season.
For one year now, the Ravens have been striving to be in this position — back in the AFC title game. Ever since Lee Evans had the potential game-winning catch poked from his grasp and Billy Cundiff followed by hooking a 32-yard field goal attempt, Baltimore has been eager for another chance to play for a shot at a Super Bowl berth.
The feeling we had in the locker room, I think we all wanted to get back to the AFC championship, Ngata said. Hopefully we can get it done this time.