[Washington Post]

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ray Lewis, for so long, has leaned on the emotional and spiritual elements of football, life and their intersection. Those are what have pushed him to this, the end of his 17th season, the end of his career. He has either one more game — Sunday’s AFC championship game at New England — or two, if his Baltimore Ravens win and advance to the Super Bowl. Swirl all the emotions and spirits together, all that Lewis has meant to his franchise and his city, and it could seem a combustible combination.

“I’ve just been in this calm state,” Lewis said Wednesday, “because at the end of the day, nothing matters unless we go win in New England this week.”

Yet as the Ravens approach the game that will either end Lewis’s career or extend it again, it might be worth casting spirituality aside and leaning on science. Correlation, after all, does not imply causation. Lewis missed the final 10 games of the Ravens’ regular season with a torn triceps, and Baltimore stumbled to the finish, losing four of its final five. Before he returned for the playoffs, Lewis announced he would retire whenever the season ended. In his two appearances since, Baltimore handled Indianapolis at home and then surprised Denver on the road to reach this point.