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In what has been recently a yearly matchup, the Ravens will play host to the Patriots this Sunday (4:25pm CBS).

I say “yearly” as the scheduling rules have allowed both teams to continue facing each other, along with during the playoffs as well. The schedule rules state that each team will play every division in the NFL at least once every 4 years, and that the particular home field will alternate in proceeding matchups. Also, every division will play every other division in its conference at least once every 3 years. This year, the whole AFC North played the whole AFC East.

However, last year the Ravens also played the Patriots, but that was owing to the other rule that fills the rest of the schedule. That rule is that a team will play 2 teams from the other divisions in their conference that matched the same finish (1st-4th) the previous season. As the Ravens and Patriots both won their prospective divisions in 2011, they played each other in 2012. This is the same as when they faced each other in the 2009 regular season, this was because they both finished 2nd in 2008.

This is in jeopardy of continuing next season, as both teams have yet to qualify for the playoffs and may impact each other’s standings.

The Ravens are in a great position to get to the playoffs as long as they win the next two games. The best case scenario is that they end up 10-6 and grab the 2nd playoff seed.  The worst case is, of course, finishing 8-8 and missing the postseason. What seemed impossible a month ago is becoming a real possibility for the Ravens to qualify for the playoffs a sixth year in a row!

Before their current 4 game win streak, they were 4-6 and around 10th in the AFC standings (out of 16 teams). Of course, parity is quite prevalent in the NFL and some teams who were sure locks have lost quite a bit and look mortal now.

For example, the Indianapolis Colts were riding high, having won high profile games against the Seahawks & Broncos (the two top teams according to most people, as well as by standings) and close to winning the division very early on.  Since then (after an injury to Reggie Wayne), they’ve endured a 3-3 streak that has knocked them down to a 4th seed.  If the Titans, Texans, or Jaguars had won more, the division wouldn’t have been already awarded to the Colts.  If the Colts continue their losing trend, which they could do in a way to rest for the postseason which they already qualify for, they will allow three teams to finish with higher seeds.

There are so many different possibilities for how the postseason schedule will be determined owing to the next two weeks of games. The Dolphins still have a chance to win their division. The Ravens, as mentioned before, can still win their division as well, which would be accomplished with 100% certainty with wins in their remaining 2 games. Even the Bengals or Patriots, both at times had records around 9-2, could end up missing the playoffs even after such good seasons.

I’ve been seeing a larger number of articles for this upcoming game (partly due to ESPN having a Boston-team section) than normal.  The beat writers for the Patriots are very concerned about this game, and, surprisingly, their fans aren’t too cocky about their chances to win. It’s an amazing turn of events in which the Ravens have scared Patriots fans enough to have them doubt their team’s performance.

This should be yet another exciting game, as the Ravens have shown the last couple of years (and especially the last few weeks!) to keep games close & interesting. Soon, all Ravens games will have to have a warning for people with heart conditions to advise caution when watching the 4th quarter.

In any rate, we’ll see another hard fought match between the two bullies of the AFC and hope that the Ravens have more tricks up their sleeve to pull out a win. Enjoy the game, happy holidays, and go Ravens!


P.S. If you’re going to the game, make sure to not overdress, as Sunday’s high will be around 70 degrees on the 2nd official day of Winter!