Patriots fever is running rampant throughout much of New England. There’s talk everywhere – from watering holes to super markets to factories to coffee shops – about Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the visiting Baltimore Ravens.
And, as could be expected in a game of such magnitude – one that will determine the AFC’s representative in Super Bowl XLVI – there are theories about which team is better in every aspect of the game.
We decided to ask members of Bishop Hendricken’s Division I Super Bowl champion football team, and their coach, how they think the Patriots will fare in Sunday’s title game and if, in fact, the Green and Gold captains are even Pats fans at all.
Some people may just be surprised with the answers on both fronts.
Take Keith Croft, who in only four years at the Hawks helm has coached Hendricken to back-to-back state championships.
But as is the case with countless area football fans, Croft – who grew up in Cranston – is a Giants fan.
However, Croft will be rooting for the Pats, who he predicts will win, 35-17.
“The Patriot offense will be a little too much for the Ravens,” he said. “I also think the Patriots defense will be ready.”
Moreover, the Hawks’ coach doesn’t think the Ravens have enough offense and he doesn’t think the Ravens defense is as good as people think.
Like his coach, Laionel Cintron, the hero of Hendricken’s Super Bowl upset of heavily favored La Salle, would like to see the Patriots win, but he’s a true Denver Broncos fan.
“Obviously, I’d like to see the Pats win, but I think that’s going to be tough,” said Cintron, a senior wide receiver/cornerback, whose game-winning catch proved to be the difference in Hendricken winning the state title last month. “But if the Ravens defense presses the Patriots receivers, I don’t think they’ll have as much success as they did last week against the Broncos.”
When asked if he thinks the Patriots will win, Ryan Brannigan, the Hawks’ senior quarterback quickly replied, “No. I’m actually a Jets fan. I hope the Ravens win.”
“24-21 Ravens,” he said.
Brannigan feels the key to the game is “getting to Tom Brady. It’s also Ray Rice and the Ravens offense vs. the Patriots banged-up defense. Baltimore has better team strength and more experience, but the Pats have Tom Brady.”
Max Heintzelman, the Hawks’ All-State offensive tackle, and Andrew Breting, Hendricken’s senior center, are both Patriots fans.
Heintzelman said the Pats “will definitely win.”
The lineman said, “I think this is going to be an offense-oriented football game. And that’s because of Tom Brady and the tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.”
When it’s all over, Heintzelman predicts, “New England 28, Baltimore 14.”
Breting said the Patriots will win, 35-21.
“The Pats will score a minimum of 35 points,” he said. “The way Baltimore runs its defense, I don’t think they’ll be able to cover the double tight ends. I also think the Pats defense has pretty much found its stride and the secondary is healthy, and that’s big. The Pats also have to keep Tom Brady from being sacked. If he’s not pressured, he’ll have a good game.”
When asked if he’s going to watch the game, Breting quickly replied, “I’ll watch it at Dave’s Bar & Grille. That’s where I watched last week’s game.”
To which Breting said, “I go for the grilled cheese sandwiches.”