Patriots vs. Ravens 2013 game preview: AFC playoff picture highlighted in Baltimore

Division titles are on the line in this matchup in Baltimore.

With major playoff implications on the line, the Week 16 matchup between the Ravens and Patriots in Baltimore is sure to make headlines. Both teams are in contention to win their divisions, and a victory by either would obviously be a major positive in their push for the postseason. The loser of this contest could be in serious danger of missing out on a home game in the NFL's second season.

Meet the Ravens

The Ravens have traveled an interesting road this season. The team started off in a hole but has quickly climbed out and is now in control of its own destiny. Still, the Ravens numbers remain among the worst in the league, especially on offense. They rank 25th in scoring (21.1 points per game) and are 29th in rushing yards and total yards.

At 8-6, the Ravens must beat the Patriots and Bengals to gain another division crown. Just a season removed from a Super Bowl, they have shown resiliency as of late and have possibly the best kicker in the NFL in Justin Tucker. The defense is also improving with several new faces.

Meet the Patriots

The Patriots are currently 10-4 and need a win to claim their division. A Week 15 loss to the Dolphins has made the New England dominance of the AFC East a bit more murky. If the Patriots lose to the Ravens, New England would be in serious danger of losing the division to the Dolphins.

New England, despite several injuries on offense, is the sixth-ranked scoring team in the league and is in the top 10 in passing yards and total yards. Tom Brady is once again in the MVP race by carrying the Patriots offense through several bouts of adversity this season.

Local Takes: Ravens

Jason Butt of Baltimore Beatdown is a huge fan of what Tucker has been doing this season:

After kicking six field goals, including a game-winning 61-yarder, in Baltimore's 18-16 win over Detroit, Justin Tucker has been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Quite the shocking revelation, I know.

Tucker has been a monster for the Ravens this season. He's made 35 of his 37 attempts and hasn't missed since going awry on two attempts in Week 2 against Cleveland.

He's made 33 kicks in a row and became the first kicker in NFL history to make kicks in a single game from 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards out.

Local Takes: Patriots

Alex Shane of Pats Pulpit knows how important this game is to the Patriots' playoff picture:

Obviously, it all starts with getting the win against the Ravens coming off a short week and a last-second victory at Detroit. If the Patriots drop this one, they are all but relegated to the third seed and lose out on the bye. The Ravens always play tough at home, and play even tougher against the Patriots, so this game is sure to follow suit from pretty much every Pats vs. Ravens game of all time.

Of course, with this season seeing both the Patriots and the Ravens barely eking out wins at the last second, maybe this game will be an absolute blowout just to screw with us. It will certainly be interesting, as one of the league's worst offenses is going up against one of the league's worst defenses, so a 3-0 game isn't out of the question. Let's just hope the Pats can get it done on Sunday.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Baltimore Beatdown and Pats Pulpit, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@BMoreBeatdown

@PatsPulpitSBN

Prediction

SB Nation's NFL experts slightly favored New England with four of the six picking the Patriots.

Odds

The Ravens are one-point home favorites against the Patriots, according to Odds Shark.

Next Week

The Patriots close their regular season against the Bills at home. The Ravens will travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals in Week 17.

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