The rematch of the AFC Championship isn't going to happen under quite the circumstances fans of both teams were envisioning at the start of the season.
Joe Flacco and Tom Brady each had their issues getting the ball downfield against the Eagles and Cardinals respectively. For the Ravens, it could possibly be seen as a return to form for Flacco, who has always been maddeningly inconsistent.
The Ravens were putrid on offense the entire second half of the game against the Eagles. I don't need to tell Ravens fans that getting away from Ray Rice was a huge mistake by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Way too often it seemed he wanted to put the "new-look" Ravens offense out there instead of feeding his All-Pro running back.
The Patriots appear to have a lot more juice to their pass rush this year, starting with first-round pick Chandler Jones. To go along with this new-found pressure, you can expect the creative use of the dime formation we saw against the Cardinals. The Ravens were able to exploit the Patriots secondary in the AFC Championship game, but things could be very different this time around.
One thing to watch for when the Patriots have the ball is how the interior of the offensive line handles Haloti Ngata. Center Ryan Wendell along with guards Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly have looked shaky, to put it charitably, and this will be their biggest test yet in 2012.
For the Ravens, it will most likely come down to how they try to contain Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Look for them to use safeties Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed. They might also consider moving cornerback Lardarius Webb inside when the Pats go with tighter formations.
This will be a knock-down, drag-out fight and the loser will start to have some doubts creep in about their playoff hopes. It may be early for that kind of speculation, but every game within the conference takes on a bigger meaning as the year goes on.