FOXBORO, Mass. — Here we go again.
The Patriots’ biggest rival no longer resides in the AFC East, nor is it manned by Peyton Manning. It’s the Baltimore Ravens, the team New England is getting set to take on this weekend.
Since John Harbaugh took over for Brian Billick and brought Joe Flacco on board in 2008, the Patriots and Ravens have played six times. The teams are 3-3 against one another and four of those games have been decided by one score. New England is 1-2 against Baltimore in playoff games, and if the Patriots lose to the Ravens on Sunday, there could be a fourth postseason matchup on the horizon.
This game is a must-win for both teams. The two squads are still fighting for playoff spots, and New England could clinch the AFC East with a win. If the Patriots lose, it increases their chances to wind up with the No. 3 seed, rather than No. 2. If Baltimore gets in (it would take a Dolphins loss and a Chargers loss or tie), they would have the No. 6 seed and a possible Round 1 rematch with New England.
There’s typically no love lost between the two franchises, but Harbaugh showed the Patriots a great deal of respect in his weekly conference call with the New England media.
“Yeah, I hope so,” Harbaugh said when asked if the Ravens are rivals with the Patriots. “When you have — you’d like to think the thing that defines rivalries are great games played by great teams over an extended period of time, and there’s a lot of stake. I feel like that’s been the case in our rivalry with the Patriots. We feel honored to be on that, considered a rival with them, and I’m not sure how they feel about it, but we sure feel that way.”
Some of the familiar faces are gone from the rivalry, including Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, but as long as Flacco, Harbaugh and Terrell Suggs remain, this game will continue to be one circled yearly on New England’s schedule.