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AFC Playoffs: Patriots, Ravens Kick Off In Foxborough At 1 P.M.

At 1:00, the 10-6 Patriots host the 9-7 Ravens at Gillette Stadium. When these two teams last met on October 4 (also in Gillette), the Patriots were able to hold on to a 27-21 win.

This season, the Patriots scored more points than any other team in the AFC besides the Chargers. Last postseason, though, the Ravens were largely dominant on the defensive side of the ball, having held the Dolphins to 9 points and the Titans to 10 before ultimately falling to the Steelers in the conference championship, 23-14.

Patriots fans are confident (when aren't they?), but their optimism seems a little more guarded than it was throughout most of the last decade. From our own Pats Pulpit:

I keep thinking about how Brady is playing now vs. how he played [in the first half of the season] and I feel like he's catching his rhythm.  He's leading the team the way I remember in the "early days" and working with what he has.  In those days, there were no superstar receivers nor crazy talented running backs.  Today, our offense has Randy Moss as a superstar receiver but that's about it.  Despite the lack of serious offensive talent, I think they've stepped into a rhythm, with both the players and the play calling.  As atrocious as we thought it was in the beginning of the season, I believe the offense has gotten better and smarter towards the end of the season.

I hate to use the term "peaking at the right time", but I believe that's the case.

Meanwhile, our Ravens blog, Baltimore Beatdown, believes that Brady's performance isn't the key issue here.

This game will not be won or lost by Tom Brady's success or even the Patriots as a team. So far this season, the consistent trend has been that the Ravens have been in every game to close to the end of the final whistle. Whathas separated the Ravens from winning those close games has been their execution, or better yet, the lack of it, that has sealed the deal in the losses. Baltimore is capable of beating any team in this league, including the Patriots in their home crib in the post season. The only thing separating the Ravens from an upset victory Sunday will be the play of seconde year QB Joe Flacco. If Flacco can eliminate his mistakes and not those those Red Zone interceptions that has plagued him in losses to the better teams, then he can lead this team to victory. The Ravens have a huge advantage in the run game and be it either Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and even LeRon McClain, Baltimore boasts three running backs better than anything the Patriots can put out there, much less a better run defense to shut the Pats run game down.

Both blogs have live game threads set up and ready to go. While you watch, jump in there and discuss what is or isn't happening.

Patriots live game thread
Ravens live game thread