Never underestimate the power of a retirement announcement.
That’s what we learned last week when the Baltimore Ravens held one final lovefest at M&T Bank Stadium for linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced earlier in the week he would be retiring at the conclusion of this season.
The Indianapolis Colts never had a chance.
Despite not playing well down the stretch, there was no way Baltimore was going to lose in what was the final home game for Lewis – the lone remaining player from the Ravens’ inagrual season.
Whether you like Lewis or not – and most Steelers fans can’t stand him – you have to respect him as a player.
He is a consummate professional on the field and a player whom others followed.
Lewis is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, though the people who are calling him the greatest defensive player of all-time need to cool it with that talk. But without Lewis, the Ravens won’t be the same, just as the Steelers were not the same this season without Hines Ward.
Seeing Lewis or Ward in another uniform just wouldn’t have made any sense.
We bring this up because Lewis and the Ravens head to Denver to face another longtime star, quarterback Peyton Manning, who’s a lot closer to the end of his career than to the beginning.
At one point, it would have been difficult to imagine Manning in anything other than a Colts uniform. But perhaps sitting out all of 2011 with neck issues, it made it easier for Manning to make the transition to Denver.
The Broncos are 9 1/2-point favorites to beat the Ravens and end Lewis’ career.
These teams met a month ago in Baltimore, and Denver walked all over the Ravens, 34-17.
There doesn’t seem to be a reason to think the rematch will be any different.
Take Denver, 34-17
Houston (plus 91/2) at New England
Another rematch from last month. The Patriots won the first metting, 42-14.
Houston beat Cincinnati, 19-13, in the opening round, but was less than impressive.
Take New England, 38-17
Green Bay (plus 3) at San Francisco
San Francisco won at Green Bay, 30-22, in Week 1. That was a lifetime ago, as the 49ers have switched quarterbacks since then.
Something tells me Colin Kaepernick will struggle in his first postseason start.
Take Green Bay, 24-17
Seattle (plus 2) at Atlanta
The Falcons aren’t getting a lot of love, despite being the top seed in the NFC. The reason for that is an 0-3 record under head coach Mike Smith in the postseason.
Atlanta is due to break that slide.
Take Atlanta, 23-20
Last Week: 2-2 ATS; 4-0 Straight up
Overall: 112-121-7 ATS; 160-93 Straight up
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.