On Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, the New England Patriots will play host to the visiting Baltimore Ravens with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line in the AFC Championship game. This will be the second consecutive time these two AFC heavyweights will meet in the battle between the best of the best in the conference with some intriguing storylines heading into the contest.
The one storyline that will dominate all others is the pending retirement of superstar linebacker Ray Lewis. With Lewis announcing that he’ll retire from the game following the end of the season for the Ravens, this game against the Patriots could be the last of his career in the NFL.
Although many believe Lewis will change his stance on retirement if the team fails to win another Super Bowl, the veteran linebacker has been adamant about his intentions to call it a career regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game or in the Super Bowl if Baltimore is able to advance.
Along with Lewis possibly playing his last game, another big-name might also be playing his last game for the Ravens on Sunday. Perennial Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed is in the final year of his deal with Baltimore and has yet to agree upon an extension with the team. The two sides failing to see eye-to-eye on a new deal have prompted rumors of Reed possibly retiring or potentially heading elsewhere during the off-season.
Ironically enough, Reed’s next destination might be New England according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:
Ed Reed could be playing in his final game with the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. But this might not be his last one in New England.
Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowl safety, is an unrestricted free agent in March, and there have not been any contract talks with the Ravens since before the 2011 season. If Reed leaves the Ravens after this season, my money is going to be for New England.
With the Patriots’ defense being the team’s biggest flaw over the past few years, New England will definitely be wise to look into signing Reed. New England has thrived on picking up veterans at the tail end of their careers in the NFL and Reed might be the next in line.
The Patriots have received a considerable boost on the defensive side of the football this season with the addition of cornerback Aqib Talib from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Talib and Reed in the same secondary in New England, the Patriots may begin to become a force on that side of the football once again.