History - and most NFL observers - say the Ravens won't beat the New England Patriots in the first round of the playoffs Sunday.
The Patriots have a Super Bowl pedigree, a quarterback who has never lost a home playoff game (Tom Brady is 8-0 in Foxborough) and the consensus best coach of the decade (Bill Belichick).
The Ravens, meanwhile, have never beaten New England and have a 1-6 record against this year's playoff field.
After the Ravens clinched the sixth and final AFC playoff seed, the players struck a confident (and bitingly sarcastic) stance toward their underdog status.
"I will like to officially say it is possible on occasion to beat the New England Patriots in the postseason," said cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who pointed out that he beat New England in the playoffs as a member of the Denver Broncos before planting his tongue firmly against his cheek. "We hope to possibly, maybe step on the field with them and put up a fight if possible."
So far, few in the NFL community have rallied behind the Ravens. Sports Illustrated's Peter King put the Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals in the "I can't see it" category in his playoff handicapping column. Both NBC analysts, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison, predicted the Ravens would be one-and-done in the playoffs.
"The Ravens have self-destructed in some big games," said Dungy, who coached the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl title.
The Ravens were underdogs last season when they won at Miami and Tennessee. So, they aren't easily dissuaded.
"Once we get in there, we can do damage," running back Willis McGahee said. "Now, we're in there."
Here are three reasons the Ravens could upset New England:
* The injury to wide receiver Wes Welker is an immeasurable loss to the New England offense.
Welker, who led the NFL with 123 catches this season, reportedly suffered a knee injury in the regular-season finale that will keep him out of the playoffs.
"You can't replace him - there's no doubt about that," Brady said Monday on WEEI radio in Boston.
Julian Edelman, filling in for Welker on Sunday, caught 10 passes for 103 yards.
"We called him little Wes Welker the last time we played him," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's kind of the Wes Welker clone. It's amazing he's been able to do what he's been able to do. He goes in there and catches a bunch of balls last week, and you watch him run routes, he's almost the same guy."
* New England's run defense appears vulnerable.
Most offenses don't want to test the Patriots' formidable defensive linemen, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork. But teams have run the ball against New England, which is tied for 20th in rushing yards allowed per carry (4.4).
In fact, the Patriots have given up more than 100 yards on the ground in three of their past four games. In the earlier meeting with New England, the Ravens ran the ball only 17 times, which tied a season low. After the way Willis McGahee and Ray Rice ran Sunday, the Ravens might test the Patriots' run defense more this time.
* The Ravens gained confidence after nearly beating the Patriots in Foxborough three months ago.
An argument could be made that the Ravens have a bigger chip on their shoulder heading into this game because the players felt that they let the earlier meeting with the Patriots slip away.
Beyond the two roughing-the-passer penalties, the Ravens constantly hurt themselves in the 27-21 loss at New England. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw an interception in the red zone. The Ravens couldn't gain a yard to keep their second-to-last drive alive, getting stuffed on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1. Mark Clayton dropped a fourth-down pass at the 10-yard line, sealing the loss.
Flacco said this rematch is a chance to "prove to everybody - and prove to ourselves - that we can beat these guys."
Said cornerback Chris Carr, "After that first game, they know they're going to have to play a lot better to beat us this time."
WILD-CARD GAME RAVENS @PATRIOTS
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Chs. 13, 9
Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM
Line: Patriots by 3 1/2