01/22/2012 02:04 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2012

Big Flacco Game a Must for Squawking Ravens

Imagine what these Ravens might do with the media hype surrounding a Super Bowl appearance. Or with the crushing disappointment of yet another season that ends just shy of the promised land.

They're already proving plenty adept at airing their dirty laundry in surprisingly public fashion.
First, Joe Flacco told the media entering the playoffs that he felt disrespected as a winning quarterback, saying if Baltimore won the Super Bowl, "I'll have nothing to do with why we won, according to you guys."

Then, on the heels of an ugly 20-13 win over Houston in an AFC divisional game, Ed Reed called out Flacco on national radio, saying his teammate looked "rattled."

"It just didn't look like he had a hold on the offense," the safety added.

Flacco completed just 51.9 percent of his passes (14 of 27) in throwing for 176 yards against the Texans, though he did register two touchdowns and no interceptions.

For the Ravens to have a shot to beat New England on Sunday to reach the Super Bowl, Reed said, "He can't play like that."

So, let's see. The quarterback whined that he doesn't get enough of the credit. And one of his star teammates lobbed jabs that the signal-caller was a weak link.

Something has to give in the AFC Championship Game. Either Flacco will significantly bolster his credentials by quarterbacking Baltimore into its first Super Bowl in 11 years or he'll be a -- or very possibly the -- prime culprit if the Ravens fall short.

Let's put it a different way. If Baltimore is to win, Flacco almost assuredly has to have a big game. You just don't beat the Tom Brady-led offensive juggernaut with a lackluster showing from your quarterback.

Flacco, who has a career passer rating of 66.2 in the postseason, with six touchdowns and seven interceptions, made his bed with his pre-playoffs comments. He won't have any excuses if he stumbles against the Patriots. A fourth-year quarterback with eight playoff starts under his belt simply must take advantage of a 31st-ranked New England defense that has been vulnerable to the pass all season.

For his part, Reed, an eight-time Pro Bowler, is so close to what would be his first Super Bowl in a career full of Ravens postseason shortfalls that he'll resort to any means necessary to get there, including lighting a fire under a teammate with a heavy-handed motivational ploy in the press.

Reed, 33, and standout linebacker Ray Lewis, 36, know this may be their last great shot in what has been a masterful defensive run, and the perception is the Ravens have never had more offensive weapons than this season.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and several players tried to play down talk of any controversy in the middle of the week, and Flacco and Reed even jokingly engaged in an expletive-laced exchange in front of reporters prior to Thursday's practice.

But should the Ravens fall short on Sunday with another less-than-strong Flacco effort, Reed's earlier comments seem sure to foreshadow a messy post mortem.