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Flacco heads to Super Bowl after beating 2 of best

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Flacco heads to Super Bowl after beating 2 of best

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) No doubt about it.

When you beat the best - and Joe Flacco did that in consecutive games - the skeptics should be silenced.

``I'm so glad we're going to the Super Bowl right now,'' Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith said, ``so people can get off Joe's back.''

Flacco threw three touchdown passes in the second half, helping the Ravens reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 12 years with a 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game Sunday.

He beat two-time NFL MVP Tom Brady one week after outplaying Peyton Manning, who has won the award four times, in a 38-35 double-overtime win over the Denver Broncos. And that followed a 24-9 victory over budding star quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round.

``We've always believed in Joe,'' coach John Harbaugh said, ``and for Joe to come out and to have this kind of a game and this kind of a stage three weeks in a row - Luck's a pretty good quarterback, Manning's a pretty good quarterback and Brady's a great quarterback.

``All those guys are great players, but Joe's a great quarterback. And Joe has proven that. He's not just proven it this year, he's proven it for five years.''

No NFL quarterback - not Brady, not Manning - has more than Flacco's 62 victories, including the postseason, since the start of the 2008 season. No NFL quarterback has more than his six postseason wins on the road. And no other quarterback has a postseason victory in each of his first five seasons during the Super Bowl era.

``He's a great quarterback,'' said wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who caught two touchdown passes. ``I don't know why people keep doubting him because the bigger the situation is, the bigger he plays, and he's proven that time and time again. So maybe they'll get off his back now.''

Finally, he will be the most accomplished quarterback in one of his playoff games when he faces the 49ers, who are favored by 4 1/2 points, in New Orleans on Feb. 3.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick may have made a splash with his running and passing skills, but he's started just nine games in his two pro seasons.

Flacco has started every Ravens game - 80 in the regular season, 12 in the postseason - since they took him with the 18th pick of the 2008 draft out of Delaware.

As a rookie, he played poorly in a 23-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game. He got back to that game last season, but the Ravens lost 23-20 to the Patriots.

But on the same field Sunday, Flacco completed 21 of 36 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Brady went 29 for 54 for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

``These games are tough to win and we've put ourselves in the position to win these games and, eventually, you're going to push through and play the way you need to,'' he said.

A week earlier in a 38-35 double-overtime win over the Broncos, he went 18 for 34 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. That beat Manning's 28 for 43 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Flacco's passer ratings in this year's postseason games highlight his superiority - 125.6 to Luck's 59.8, 116.2 to Manning's 88.3 and 106.3 to Brady's 62.3.

``I've always been a Joe Flacco fan,'' Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said.

The Patriots led 13-7 at halftime but in a span of 10 minutes and one second Flacco threw touchdown passes of 5 yards to Dennis Pitta, and 3 and 11 yards to Boldin.

``They do a good job stopping the run and we knew we had to come out here in the second half and make some plays in the passing game,'' Flacco said.

He sure did.

After completing just 6 of 12 passes for 81 yards with no touchdowns before the break, he went 15 for 24 for 159 yards in the second half. He was 14 for 18 on the three touchdown drives and even scrambled once for 14 yards and a first down.

In three playoff games this season he's thrown eight touchdown passes and not a single interception.

``He's been great all year, especially in these playoffs,'' Pitta said. ``He deserves this more than anyone.''

Safety Ed Reed saw great potential in Flacco from the quarterback's rookie season.

``From the first snap (when) he went against our defense, I knew he was a smart guy,'' Reed said. ``We blitzed him and he threw it straight to the sideline out of bounds because he knew we were coming. He's always been a leader (with) more than potential to lead us to where we're going right now.''

That should have been clear when Flacco guided the Baltimore offense to three AFC championship games in his five seasons.

His opponents see it now that he's helped take the Ravens to the Super Bowl for the first time in his career.

``He is one of the elite quarterbacks,'' Patriots safety Steve Gregory said. ``I know he gets a lot of flak for possibly not being that type of guy, but he is.''

And now Flacco can look to pad his resume with his first Super Bowl championship.

``It's about who can get ready and who can become their best at the right time and hit the ground running,'' he said. ``And that's what we're doing.''

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With Ravens winning, T-shirt look fits John Harbaugh to a tee

With Ravens winning, T-shirt look fits John Harbaugh to a tee

The Ravens are unbeaten (3-0), including their last two victories with coach John Harbaugh wearing a gray T-shirt on the sidelines. The casual look has been good to Harbaugh, who had never worn a t-shirt on the sidelines until this season.

Does that mean Harbaugh will stick with the T-shirt look until the Ravens lose? Harbaugh said Monday that he wasn’t sure, because he was not superstitious.

“I’m superstitious about not being superstitious,” said Harbaugh. “I think it’s really important not to be superstitious.”

Harbaugh said that Ravens equipment manager Tommy Wood would have the gray T-shirt washed and ready if Harbaugh wanted to wear it for Sunday’s upcoming home game against the Raiders (2-1).

“He (Wood) said, ‘We’re saving this one,’’’ Harbaugh said. “So it will be laundered up and ready to go next week, I guess.”

If the Ravens keep winning, and the weather turns cold, Harbaugh knows wearing a T-shirt on the sidelines could be a problem. He laughed when asked if he would consider wearing a T-shirt Dec. 12 for the Ravens’ game at New England.

“I don’t like being cold,” Harbaugh said. “If that T-shirt can stretch and fit over a parka or something like that, then we might have a chance.”

MORE RAVENS: Jernigan becoming consistent force for Ravens

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Fantasy Football: Week 4 Waiver Wire

Fantasy Football: Week 4 Waiver Wire

Three weeks of the NFL Fantasy Football season are in the books. The fourth comes with a twist: Here come the bye weeks. Now, here come the free agent options.

QUARTERBACKS

— Because Aaron Rodgers is on a bye or you don't love Eli Manning at the Vikings

1. Joe Flacco, Baltimore – No amazing street options this week, but Flacco has some hope with a home matchup against a Raiders defense allowing the fourth-most points to fantasy QBs. Maybe angry Steve Smith will show and carry the day.

2. Dak Prescott, Dallas – The Cowboys face a 49ers defense that allowed six touchdown passes over the last two weeks. Trusting a rookie to produce two weeks in a row is historically dicey, but maybe Prescott, who put up good points against Chicago in Week 3, can do just that.

3. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia – The impressive rookie cannot help owners in Week 3 with Philadelphia off, but Wentz looks more and more like a viable quarterback-by-committee option.

Others: Trevor Siemian (at Bucs), Brian Hoyer (vs. Lions)

— You can drop Tyrod Taylor - Until Sammy Watkins is active AND truly healthy, the Bills don't have enough weapons to make owners feel good using Taylor.

RUNNING BACKS

— Because Eddie Lacy and the Eagles options are off and Jeremy Langford's ankle situation has you spooked and somebody grabbed Cameron Artis-Payne already

1. Jordan Howard, Chicago – Faces a Lions defense that has allowed 115.5 rush yards over the last two games and does with Jeremy Langford expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain. Owners can spend at least 1/3 of their auction budget and more for those in RB hell. Good chance Howard, who had 92 total yards on 13 touches in Week 3, keeps the job if he produces.

2. Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore – This goes out for those seeking depth. Dixon is due back soon from a preseason injury. When he does, the rookie should move quickly into the mix and then some for a backfield not getting the job done. At all.

3. Dwayne Washington, Detroit – Chicago has allowed at least one rushing TD in every game this season. Washington received 10 carries in his expanded role last week.

Others for Week 4: Orleans Darkwa, NY Giants; Kenyan Drake, Miami; Jay Ajayi, Miami

Others for stashing purposes: Wendell Smallwood, Philadelphia; Dion Lewis, New England

WIDE RECEIVERS

— Because no Jordy Nelson or Jordan Matthews this week and injuries to Sammy Watkins an Willie Snead are not cool, man

1. Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland – The new "Slash" and the Browns best weapon. Crazy to think the Redskins could consider having Josh Norman shadow shadow the QB-turned-WR around. That Pryor will be given a shot to make plays with hands, feet and arm is the real intrigue.

2. Michael Thomas, New Orleans – No Willie Snead, no problem for the Saints on Monday night. San Diego has allowed 410 yards to fantasy receivers the last two weeks.

3. Jamison Crowder, Washington – The Redskins have plenty of playmaking receivers and it's time to realize Crowder is one of them. Touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, Kirk Cousins trusts him an he leads Washington in receptions and targets.

Others: Cole Beasley, Dallas (PPR), Quincy Enuwna, NY Jets; Steve Smith, Baltimore; Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay; Chris Hogan, New England; 

TIGHT ENDS

— Because you can't trust Rob Gronkowski will really play and Zach Ertz, Jared Cook are on a bye.

1. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota – The connection with Sam Bradford looks legit. Went 7-70-1 against Carolina after finding the end zone the previous week.

2. Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay – In the Bucs first game without Austin Seferian-Jenkins meant lots of work for Brate. Ten targets is something. Catching five of those throws for 46 yards and touchdown is something else.

Others: Zach Miller, Chicago; Hunter Henry, Tennessee

DEFENSES 

— Because you stream this position

Likely available options in Week 4 – Redskins (vs. Browns), Jets (vs. Seahawks)