Game info: Patriots vs. Ravens


Game info: Patriots vs. Ravens

GAME TIME: 6:30 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Steve Tasker and Solomon Wilcots.

RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Gil Santos and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Ravens 31, Patriots 30 on Sept. 23, 2012 at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Patriots are 7-1 in AFC Championship Games, including a 4-0 record at home overall and a 3-0 record at Gillette Stadium. Their only AFC Championship Game loss was in 2006 at Indianapolis.

With a victory, the Patriots will advance to their eighth Super Bowl, matching Dallas and Pittsburgh for the most Super Bowl appearances.

The Patriots and Ravens will face off in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium for the second consecutive season. It is the fourth time since the AFL-NFL merger that two teams have met in the AFC Championship Game in consecutive seasons. (The others: The Broncos and Browns -- the Ravens' predecessors - in 1986-87, the Steelers and Oilers in 1978-79, and the Raiders and Steelers from 1974-76.) Oakland and Pittsburgh are the only teams to meet in three consecutive AFC Championship Games. It will be just the second time that the same two teams have met in the same city for the AFC Championship Game and the first since the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Houston Oilers in 1978 and 1979.

The Patriots have compiled a 24-16 record in their 40 playoff games and their .600 playoff winning percentage is tied for fourth-best in NFL history among teams that have played at least 15 playoff games. New England has qualified for seven Super Bowls (XX, XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLII and XLVI) and one AFL Championship Game (1963).

Bill Belichick (18) needs one more postseason victory to move into a second-place tie with Don Shula (19) for most playoff coaching wins, behind Tom Landry (20).

Belichick needs to earn one more Super Bowl berth to match Don Shula with six.

Tom Brady (23) needs to start in one more postseason game to match Brett Favre (24) for the most postseason starts by an NFL quarterback. He is tied with Joe Montana with 23 postseason starts.

Brady (41) needs four more postseason touchdowns passes to move past Montana (45) and Brett Favre (44) for the all-time lead.

Brady (5,629) needs 227 postseason yards to set the all-time NFL record for most postseason yards. Brett Favre (5,855), Joe Montana (5,772) and Peyton Manning (5,679) are currently ahead of Brady.

Brady (5) needs to play in one more Super Bowl to match DL Mike Lodish, who played in six (4 with Buffalo and two with Denver).

Brady (5) needs one more 300-yard game in the postseason to tie Kurt Warner (6) and Joe Montana (6) for second, behind Peyton Manning (8).

Welker (569) needs 128 postseason receiving yards to move past Troy Brown (694) into second place all-time on the franchise list of postseason receiving yards, behind Deion Branch (836).

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

According to multiple reports, Blake Griffin has opted out of his contract with the Clippers, making him a free agent. 

Griffin is considered one of the top free agents in a class that will also include Utah’s Gordon Hayward. The Celtics have been reported as possible suitors for both players. 

The first overall pick in the 2009 draft, the 28-year-old Griffin is a five-time All-Star, though injuries have limited him over the last three seasons. 

Over 61 games, the 6-foot-10 power forward averaged 21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season. Between numerous injuries and a suspension for hitting a member of the Clippers’ equipment staff, Griffin was limited to just 31 games in the 2015-16 season. 

Adrian Wojnarowski said recently that Boston’s reception for Clippers teammate Paul Pierce made a very strong impression on Griffin. Though there might not necessarily be a connection between the two, Griffin said on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” that Boston is on his Mt. Rushmore of NBA cities.