Here come the Ravens. While no one in Foxborough might admit it, we're guessing they would have rather faced the Colts or Bengals, two teams that haven't had quite the history -- or success -- Baltimore has had in recent years.
In 2009, the Ravens beat the Patriots in the playoffs, and they should have won the AFC Championship Game in 2011 if not for a dropped Lee Evans touchdown and a honked Billy Cundiff field goal. They made up for it a year later when they got past the Broncos and the Pats on the way to a Super Bowl title. So, yeah, New England will have its hands full.
For what it's worth, quarterback Tom Brady isn't putting much stock in the recent matchups.
"Everything is different at this point," Brady said on Monday on WEEI radio, via ESPN.com. "We can never change anything that has happened in the past, and neither can they. You can’t bring players out of retirement and they can’t either. It’s the guys we’ve got versus the guys they’ve got, which is an entirely new team that we have versus an entirely new team that they have. ...
"There’s some carryover," Brady continued. "There’s some characteristics that are the same, but these teams have established their own identities. It’s going to be the Patriots’ 2014 version versus the Ravens’ 2014 version, and we go from there."
"We will be able to evaluate some scheme stuff they could possibly do -- that’s always helpful. But, it will be determined by what happens on the field on Saturday night, not anything in the past."
Fair enough, but "some carryover" includes the likes of Terrell Suggs on defense and Joe Flacco on offense, the two biggest thorns in the Patriots' side during these matchups. And Brady realizes that a few bad bounces could spell disaster for New England, because he's seen it before.
"I think every team is capable -- I think when you watch these games -- anyone is capable of anything," the quarterback said. "If you catch a team at the wrong time or you play sloppy football, your season is over. ... They know how to win, and that’s why it makes them a great matchup. That’s why I’m excited about it. You wouldn’t want anything handed to you. I think we’ve worked hard to earn where we are at this year. Now we have to earn it going forward."