The AFC championship game rematch between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots set for Sunday in Foxborough, Mass., needs no hype. Ravens fans are painfully aware that a year ago their favorite team was a Lee Evans dropped pass from beating the Patriots and going to the Super Bowl -- or at least a Billy Cundiff field goal away from tying the game and sending it to overtime.
Neither of those guys is around this season, of course, as the Ravens prepare for a second chance. One guy who is -- and who perhaps feels the most pressure -- is quarterback Joe Flacco.
Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be calling the game Sunday evening. Earlier this week, Simms had plenty to say about the Ravens quarterback.
Do you feel Flacco has been judged unfairly?
"Joe Flacco plays in a system that's what I call -- and I don't mean this to demean the staff at the Ravens -- it's not quarterback-friendly. It's not about hitting a tremendously high percentage of your passes, because look where he throws it. I mean, watch the game the other day. What team throws the football down the field like that? He doesn't get a lot of screens. There's not a lot of quick throws. There's not a lot of gadgets. I take that into account when I do judge quarterbacks. I don't know their numbers. I don't care. I let my eye tell me what I know about them."
So will it take a Super Bowl win for Flacco to get any respect?
Yes, to answer your question. There's no doubt. He's going to have to go to the Super Bowl. Not only that, if he didn't play well and they win the Super Bowl, then it'll be, 'Oh, well, they overcame Joe Flacco.' I don't think I'm overstating it. It's just the way it is. Players get labeled. That's the story. ... When he plays well, no mention. When they lose? Oh, well, they let Joe Flacco throw too much. ... But when Joe Flacco or any other quarterback makes an outstanding throw, to most fans and most people it's just another throw. They don't realize that that throw was made by somebody maybe only five guys in the league can make. So maybe that's a little unfair, but your premise is right. He's got to win this week, win in the Super Bowl before he probably ever gets the accolades and the dues that maybe he deserves."
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.