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Catching up with … the Ravens

08.07.13 at 9:25 am ET
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As we count down to the start of preseason games, we take a look at all 13 opponents on the Patriots’ regular-season schedule and break down each one of them. We’ve already featured the Bills, Jets and Dolphins, as well as the Buccaneers, Falcons, Bengals, Saints, Steelers, Panther, Broncos, Texans and Browns. Now, we wrap up with the Ravens.

Joe Flacco and the Ravens will host the Patriots in a rematch of last season's AFC championship game. (AP)

Joe Flacco and the Ravens will host the Patriots on Dec. 22 in a rematch of last season’s AFC championship game. (AP)

Specifics: Christmas is coming early for Patriots fans, who get to watch the team visit the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens in another prime-time matchup on Dec. 22.

Say goodbye to … linebacker Ray Lewis, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, defensive back Ed Reed, defensive back Bernard Pollard, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, defensive end Paul Kruger, defensive back Cary Williams.

Welcome … defensive end Elvis Dumervil, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, linebacker Rolando McClain, safety Matt Elam, linebacker Daryl Smith, linebacker Arthur Brown, defensive back Michael Huff.

Recent history: The game most prevalent in everyone’s mind will be, of course, Baltimore’s 28-13 win in the AFC championship last January. The Patriots’ 13-7 halftime lead quickly evaporated as Joe Flacco threw for three second-half touchdowns en route to the Ravens outscoring the Pats 21-0 in the final two quarters.

Playoffs included, the teams have split their six games since the start of the 2009 season. New England last came out on top in the January 2012 AFC championship, when Tom Brady — who threw for 239 yards and no touchdowns — ran it in from one yard out for the eventual game-winning touchdown.

The Patriots should be worried because … well, you never want to discount the defending champs, right? Baltimore will be without a number of its biggest names on defense from a year ago — Lewis, Reed, Ellerbe and Pollard among them — but the Ravens re-tooled and could be even better this time around. They added Dumervil, a Pro Bowler, took Elam and Brown in the draft’s top two rounds and signed a reliable veteran in Huff. Just a few weeks into training camp, the defensive corps’ early showing has Ravens players and coaches alike clamoring about the potential.

The Patriots shouldn’t be worried because … in tearing apart its Super Bowl-winning core, the Ravens also lost significant contributors in its passing game. They traded Boldin to the 49ers, then lost Dennis Pitta for the year due to a hip injury, and now are facing Ed Dickson missing time with a hamstring tear. As it is right now, Torrey Smith is the No. 1 receiver with Jacoby Jones backing him up. Flacco, who despite signing a six-year, $120.6 million contract still is in the middle of the pack in terms of quarterback rating, completion percentage and yards per game, could have some trouble.

The skinny: The average margin of victory in the teams’ last nine games spanning the last decade is eight points, with five of those contests being decided by a field goal or less. The personnel has changed aplenty in that time, of course, but the message should be to sit back and enjoy the ride. January’s season-ending loss could serve the Patriots well in the motivation department.

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