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AFC championship preview: Going gets tough in rematch with Ravens

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  January 17, 2013 01:42 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- It's deja vu all over again.

For the second consecutive year, the Patriots and Ravens will meet for the AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium.

Tom Brady will be looking to guide the league’s No. 1 offense to his sixth Super Bowl while the Ravens' Ray Lewis will bring his "last ride" to Gillette Stadium in hopes of avenging Baltimore's crushing 23-20 loss to the Patriots in this conference title game a year ago.

Brady is 1-1 against Baltimore in the postseason with a loss in 2010 and a victory last season in the AFC championship game. Brady suffered his first regular season loss ever to Baltimore this year in September at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Patriots have compiled a 7-1 record in AFC title games, including a 4-0 record at home overall and a 3-0 record at Gillette Stadium. Their only AFC championship loss was in 2006 at Indianapolis. With a victory, the Patriots would advance to their eighth Super Bowl, matching Dallas and Pittsburgh for the most Super Bowl appearances.

The Ravens have the NFL’s second-most total victories (61, including playoffs) since John Harbaugh’s 2008 Baltimore arrival (New England is first with 63).

The Ravens passing game has produced some big gains this season. Baltimore produced 72 offensive plays of 20-or-more yards this season, setting a franchise record and ranking third in the NFL. Additionally, the Ravens threw 41 passes gaining at least 25 yards, a figure that ranks as the most in Ravens single-season history and second in the NFL.

Baltimore pressure-tested quarterback Joe Flacco threw for a career-high 3,817 yards, 22 TDs and just 10 interceptions. In the Ravens’ last six playoff games, Flacco is 107-of-184 for 1,485 yards, 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions (101.4 rating).

On the defensive side, the Ravens tightened things up down the stretch. Over the final six games, Baltimore allowed the NFL’s fourth-fewest yards per game, posted the third- best third-down defense, and permitted the third-fewest first downs.

In this week's Patriots preview video above, the Globe's Shalise Manza Young gives us her keys to the AFC championship showdown and looks into what matchups to keep an eye on when the two familiar foes square off with a trip to New Orleans on the line.

We also hear from Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, and Jerod Mayo on the challenges Ravens quarterback Flacco presents. And Aqib Talib and Stevan Ridley chime in on what they expect to see in Sunday's showdown.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

NFL video

Watch Patriots analysis and commentary by CineSport

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