Underdog label doesn't sit well with Ravens

In the minds of many, the Ravens are considered underdogs to beat the Denver Broncos on Saturday and advance to the AFC championship game. That label doesn’t sit well with the players.

“That’s fine,” cornerback Cary Williams said sarcastically after Tuesday’s practice. “We appreciate it. We love that.”

“Nobody on the outside dictates how we play on the inside,” inside linebacker Ray Lewis added. “Nobody controls what our emotions are. I don’t read it good or bad because you can’t. Your world is your world. What your team believes in is each other. The irony of this support is there is a winner and there is a loser. That’s just the way it is.”

The No. 4 seed Ravens shouldn’t be surprised by the lack of respect. They were tabbed as underdogs six times this past season, including in each of their last four games.

The top-seeded Broncos are favored by 8½ points in Saturday’s game, and some betting services have even moved the line to nine points. Factors in the large point spread include Denver’s 34-17 rout of the Ravens on Dec. 16 and the Ravens’ four losses in a five-game stretch to end the regular season.

Many pundits have concluded that the Broncos and the No. 2 seed New England Patriots will meet in the AFC championship game.

“You see it everywhere,” Williams said. “Every time you turn on the damn TV, you see somebody talking about the Broncos and the Patriots in the AFC championship game. That’s great, that’s great. I wish I could tell you what I really want to say.”

Lewis pointed out that critics are everywhere. He noted that some analysts doubted that he would be able to return from a torn right triceps to play in Sunday’s 24-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round and that former Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy predicted that the Colts would beat the Ravens.

“Everybody has an opinion. Whatever their opinion is, let them have it,” Lewis said. “Because one thing about it, the game has to be played. No matter what anybody says and who they feel is going to win, you have to play the game on Sunday. That’s the way we feel. Let the game play out. At the end of the day, whoever wins, some people are going to be right, some people are going to be wrong. “

The underdog label isn’t going away this week, which is fine with the players, Williams said.

“We talk about it all the time,” he said. “It’s great. We love being underdogs.”

Asked why the team enjoys that status, Williams replied, “Because we get to go out there and prove people wrong.”