This Sunday’s opponent is one that is very familiar over the past few years. The Baltimore Ravens will take on the New England Patriots in a showdown that will have playoff implications on the line. With a Baltimore win plus Miami and San Diego loss or tie, the Ravens will clinch a playoff berth with a chance to take claim the AFC North crown for their own. The Patriots have plenty on the line as well; they have a shot at their division title as well as a first-round bye, but they have to win and hope a few more dominoes fall into place for that to happen. Those dominoes being the Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins.
The victor of the past two playoff contests between the Ravens and Pats has determined who would represent the AFC in Super Bowl XXVI and XXVII. Each has been an all-out slobber knocker. While there have been roster overhauls and injuries, the intensity of this battle still remains the same.
This fierce rivalry that has heated up immensely over the years. It has divided households, caused major bets between peers and trash talking has been at an all-time high. I am speaking from experience. My wife is a Patriots fan and my home has truly been a house divided because of it.
With that said, Sunday’s matchup will look slightly different than years’ past. There is no “Gronk”, better known as Rob Gronkowski as he tore his ACL and is done for the season. There will be no Anquan Boldin, as he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for cheap, due to salary cap constraints. Of course, we all know Aaron Hernandez is dealing with the courts behind some not-so-friendly off-the-field issues and is no longer a part of the Patriots’ organization.
Even with all of the huge changes via the offseason, free agency, trades and injuries, the battle will still be the one to remember. The mentality of Baltimore is simple: out-duel Tom Brady and the team’s chance of getting in the playoffs get better. If they lose, they have to rely on someone else to get them in. They are hoping for the former.