A head coach returning from a battle with cancer, check.
The final ride of one of the best players in NFL history, check.
The No. 1 overall pick making his playoff debut, check.
A fifth-year starting QB looking to go 5-0 in the wild-card round of the playoffs, check.
The first three stories probably sound familiar. Chuck Pagano's return to the sidelines after a battle with leukemia is one of the most inspirational stories of the past year. The final playoff appearance of Ray Lewis has captured all the headlines this week. And star rookie Andrew Luck has been front and center all season.
But the final storyline, Joe Flacco's success in the wild-card round of the playoffs, has been much quieter news. Actually, it's hardly been mentioned at all.
It should be though, because his poise and experience will make the difference in this game.
Most of the talk surrounding Flacco has been negative this season, and more questions are thrown his way than some teachers get.
Is he or is he not elite? Why doesn't he just hand the ball off to Ray Rice? Why is he so inconsistent?
Those are just a few issues raised in the long string of criticism Flacco has received this season.
But quietly, Flacco has actually been pretty good this year. He had career highs in completions, yards and touchdowns, and had the lowest interception total of his five-year career.
No, his 3,817 yards and 22 touchdowns aren't elite numbers, but they’re not bad either.
Fact remains, Flacco has led his team to five playoff appearances in five seasons. And in Lewis' last run, he has a chance to lead the team on its first Super Bowl run in a decade.
Lewis will provide the fire and the inspiration, and Flacco will use his experience to put together a steady performance offensively.
That combination will be more than enough to push the Ravens past a young Colts team.
A playoff run should be taken one week at a time. On Sunday, the Ravens are safe in the hands of their quarterback and the best middle linebacker of all time.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!