For a second year in a row, the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots will trade haymakers for a chance to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. These two teams are quite familiar with one another, as they've had some notable grudge matches this decade.
Most recently, in the 2011-12 conference match, the Patriots bested the Ravens, winning 23-20 and advancing to the Super Bowl to play the New York Giants.
It just didn't seem to be Baltimore's year, as they watched Lee Evans drop a potential game-winning touchdown, followed by a missed field goal by then-kicker Billy Cundiff. But for four quarters, Baltimore was in this game and even led for some time in the second half. The Ravens played them close the entire game -- perhaps closer than any other AFC team possibly could have.
A year before that, in 2010, the Ravens got the best of the Patriots, sending them home in the Wild Card round.
The Ravens have been able to frustrate Tom Brady in the past. The combination of Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed -- and variations of them -- usually show up big in these match-ups.
But this year may be a little different. The Ravens have been relying on their offense to pick up some of the slack, and they have so far. Last year, the tandem of Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith provided issues for the New England secondary, and they've since grown.
The Ravens are one of only a few teams that have been able to make the Patriots look mortal on the playing field. When these two line up against one another, it's anyone's game. And there is no doubt that they have some business to settle after the way this year's regular season match-up ended.
The Ravens and Patriots have faced one another nine times since 1996 (when the Ravens were introduced to the league). New England maintains a 7-2 lead on the series -- they won the first five match-ups, but have since gone 2-2 in the past four games.