After an unpredictable regular season, in which two-game win
streaks were cause for celebration and road teams won nearly 50%
of the time, picking the wild-card team that should go the
furthest seems a bit like choosing the most nutritious imported
beer. With apologies to the fast-finishing Bucs, injury-riddled
49ers, up-and-down Packers, and punchless Jets and Dolphins, we
like the Ravens, struggling offense and all.
As it did last season in defiantly sweeping to the Super Bowl
title (as a wild card, no less), Baltimore stumbled in the middle
of the season. But middle linebacker Ray Lewis (52, above) and
the defense have regained their swagger. The Ravens have been
down this road before, and the only AFC team that should scare
them, the Steelers, doesn't--Baltimore has won three straight in
Pittsburgh. That, in this wacky year, is enough for us.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS