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Ravens vs. Patriots, NFL playoffs 2015: New England looks to fend off an upset

The New England Patriots enter the playoffs as the top-seed in the AFC, but will have to overcome the Baltimore Ravens to advance to a fourth-consecutive conference championship game.

The Divisional round of the playoffs kicks off on Saturday afternoon when the Baltimore Ravens travel to Foxboro to battle the New England Patriots in what has become one of the league's best postseason rivalries in recent years. This is the fourth time in the last six seasons they have met in the playoffs, with the last three meetings taking place at Gillette Stadium.

Beating the Patriots in New England is a daunting task for any team, but the Ravens likely won't be intimidated by the pressure-packed scene given their history of playoff success in Foxboro. In fact, Baltimore might be the last team that the Patriots want to face on Saturday. New England is 1-2 in home playoff games against the Ravens under coach Bill Belichick, and 11-1 against the rest of the league.

The upset-minded Ravens are fresh off a win at Heinz Field over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and look primed for yet another unexpected march through the playoffs. Baltimore knows what it takes to win on the road as a lower seed in the playoffs, having made an improbable Super Bowl run just two years ago. The Ravens now have 10 playoff road wins, tied with the Green Bay Packers for the most in NFL history, and seven of those have come since 2008 with Joe Flacco under center and John Harbaugh at the helm.

The Patriots enter the postseason as the AFC's top seed, having won their sixth straight AFC East title in dominant fashion by winning 10 of their final 12 games after a sluggish 2-2 start. New England also earned a first-round bye for the fifth year in a row, the longest streak of any NFL team since the current playoff format began in 1990. Although the Patriots are synonymous with postseason glory under Belichick and Tom Brady, they are currently in the midst of decade-long championship drought. The quarterback-coach duo won the Super Bowl in each of their first three playoff trips, but are just 9-8 in postseason games since getting their last ring in 2004.

Digits

Nobody is more dominant at his position than Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots' star tight end known for bad dancing and great football was healthy this season and posted 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns. Brady is having another terrific season, throwing for 4,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. It is the fourth consecutive season that he has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and the seventh time he has done so in his career.

Baltimore leaned heavily on running back Justin Forsett, who came out of nowhere this season to provide a huge lift. The 29-year-old rushed for 1,266 yards and eight scores, leading the Ravens in both categories. Before 2014, Forsett had combined for 1,692 yards over his first five NFL seasons. On the outside, receiver Steve Smith put up another 1,000-yard campaign. Smith amassed 1,065 yards in the regular season before dominating the Steelers on Wild Card weekend with five catches for 101 yards.

Who To Watch

Torrey Smith - The speedy deep threat finished the year with his worst career season in terms of receiving yardage (767), but with a career-high in touchdown receptions (11). He added another touchdown on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was the fourth postseason touchdown of his career. One of those came against the Patriots in the 2011 playoffs and in four career games against New England, Smith has racked up 16 receptions for 347 yards with three touchdowns.

Rob Ninkovich - The veteran defender finished a third consecutive season with eight sacks after successfully transitioning from linebacker to defensive end in 2012. In his last two games against the Ravens, Ninkovich has managed to record three sacks, which isn't an easy accomplishment. Baltimore was one of only two teams to allow fewer than 20 sacks in 2014 and held the Steelers to one during the Wild Card round. Ninkovich will be key for the Patriots to put pressure on Flacco and slow down the Ravens passing attack.

The Venue

Gillette Stadium, located in Foxboro, just southwest of downtown Boston, opened in 2002 to replace the old Foxboro Stadium. The 68,756-seat stadium has also hosted several soccer matches, including matches of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Originally a grass stadium, the playing surface was switched to a synthetic surface called FieldTurf after weather caused damage to the original grounds in 2006. The stadium added a 20,000 square-foot pavilion over the summer to provide a lounge area for season ticket holders.

How to Watch

Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

When: 4:35 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth

Radio: Ravens Radio NetworkPatriots Radio Network

Online streaming: Verizon NFL Mobile NBC Sports Live Extra

Odds

New England is favored by 7 points at home against Baltimore, with an over/under of 47.5, per OddsShark.

Preliminary Judgment

The Patriots are the understandably trendy pick after securing the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Here at SB Nation, seven of the eight SB Nation panelists are taking the home team to win, with only Ryan Van Bibber going against the grain to pick the Ravens. It's a clean sweep at CBS Sports, where all eight experts went with New England.

Further Reading

For more on the Ravens, check out Baltimore Beatdown.

To keep up with the Patriots, head over to Pats Pulpit.