Patriots Will Host Ravens in AFC Championship in Character-Defining Playoff Rematch

Patriots Will Host Ravens in AFC Championship in Character-Defining Playoff RematchAfter putting their four-year playoff drought in the rearview mirror Saturday, the Patriots can dispatch of another demon this week.

New England, coming off a victory against the Broncos, will host the second-seeded Ravens in the AFC Championship next Sunday at 3 p.m. Baltimore took down the Texans, 20-13, in Sunday's divisional round.

Two years ago, the Ravens handed the Patriots their most lopsided playoff loss during Bill Belichick's tenure as New England's head coach. The Ravens blew out the Patriots, 33-14, after building a 24-0 lead in the first quarter, and they handed quarterback Tom Brady his first home playoff defeat.

Through a continuous series of questions about their three-game postseason losing streak, the Patriots have maintained they're a different team this time around. There's no doubt that's true in the comparison of this group and the one that quickly bowed out in 2009.

After that season, Belichick cleaned house and reconstructed the locker room. Before long, linebacker Adalius Thomas, cornerback Shawn Springs, running back Laurence Maroney and defensive end Derrick Burgess, among others, were dispatched. And four games into the 2010 regular season, Belichick traded away wide receiver Randy Moss.

The team has been rebuilt at tight end (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez), wide receiver (Deion Branch) and defense by giving younger players like cornerback Devin McCourty and safety Patrick Chung more responsibilities as leaders.

Now, the Patriots have a chance to put the new look to work in a rematch with the Ravens that has been two years in the making.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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