Next up for the Patriots: Baltimore. The Ravens capitalized on a first-quarter special teams gaffe by the Texans and survived a brilliant effort by Houston's defense to advance to next Sunday's AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium. The Ravens are lucky to be alive. And the Patriots offense is going to face its stiffest test of the year (though it might have been even more daunting if Houston won). Check the missteps and bad breaks by Houston. A first-quarter punt muff by Jacoby Jones inside his 10 led to a touchdown. It was a 2-yard drive. The Ravens' next drive ended with a field goal and the first T.J. Yates interception led to the final Ravens score of the first quarter and a 17-3 lead. In the fourth, Yates was picked off twice. The final Yates interception came on a throw to the end zone with 1:51 left that Ed Reed came down with. The would-be game-tying throw was Yates' third pick. The Texans also had a Billy Cundiff field goal hit the crossbarAll that was enough for Baltimore to survive the Texans defense which sacked Joe Flacco five times and allowed just 75 yards on 19 carries to Ricky Williams and Ray Rice. Flacco was 14-for-27 for 176 yards. The Ravens offensive line looked terrible, getting collapsed regularly. And Flacco looked like a guy trying to will himself invisible when the pressure swirled. Didn't work. New England can't bring that kind of heat. And the Ravens' downfield threats -- especially the underrated Anquan Boldin (4 catches and 73 yards) -- are more potent and stand a better chance of testing them than the Broncos could have. Still, the Ravens offense is not terrifying. Not by a long shot. And New England has its best performance of the season to build upon. What was more alarming for the Ravens -- and encouraging for the Patriots -- was the permissiveness of their defense. Inaccurate as Yates was, he found receivers all over the yard running fairly free. And Arian Foster absolutely feasted on the ground running behind the Texans line which just overpowered the Ravens front-seven. Foster carried 27 times for 132 yards. Andre Johnson had 111 yards receiving on eight catches. The Ravens didn't get a sack of Yates. Terrell Suggs was quiet as a church mouse. And Ed Reed appeared to get injured on the final Houston play of the game. We'll watch those this week. So, in short, Baltimore won against a team that threw it to them three times and handed them the ball on the 2-yard line. And they still won by just a touchdown. At home. Underwhelming win. But can the Patriots make the Ravens look as bad offensively as they did against Houston? We'll certainly be discussing it over the next couple of days.
FOXBORO -- Seems as though the Bills don't quite have their stories straight.
On the one hand, you have Bills players, who say that they won't hesitate to retaliate if a Patriots player gets near one of their pregame warmup drills, as Jacoby Brissett did in Week 4.
On the other hand, you have the Bills coach, who sounded less eager for there to be any kind of scrap before this weekend's game at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"No, I mean with us, just go out and warm up," Ryan said in a conference call Wednesday. "That’s what you do, but any of the extracurricular things, you know, there’s absolutely zero focus on that, and shouldn’t be any focus on that. It’s just about playing games.
"I mean if people want to show how tough they are, put the boxing gloves on and get in the ring or something. That might be more impressive -- I don’t want Gronk by the way.
"But I definitely don’t want to see that happen, and our focus is 100 percent on the game and doing the very best we possibly can."
It's an interesting comment from a coach who has made it very clear that he wanted to build a "bully" in Buffalo. His team shut out the Patriots after trying to intimidate New England's rookie quarterback before the game. Did his team not benefit somehow from what occurred before kickoff that day?
He doesn't think so.
"It had nothing to do with our team . . . Absolutely nothing," he said. "You know, those things happen every now and then but it was no big deal. It did absolutely nothing for us."
Tom Brady has fans everywhere, apparently. Even in Pittsburgh. Even on the Steelers roster.
Showtime's Inside the NFL caught video of Brady meeting with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before Sunday's game between New England and Pittsburgh.
The pair hugged near the 50-yard line at Heinz Field. Brady called Roethlisberger "big guy." Roethlisberger, who was out with a knee injury, told Brady he wanted to play "so bad."
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Then Roethlisberger became a fan. And like many of them, he had a request.
"Um, hey, listen," he said. "I've never done this before, but I would love to get a jersey at some point. It'd mean...There's not many I want to put in my office. You're the best, dude."
Brady was happy to oblige. Just not right at that moment.
"Sure, I'd love to," Brady said. "I'll get you after the game."