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Five things to watch: Ravens v. Patriots

The 4-1 Ravens ride a three-game winning streak into Foxborough, where they play the 3-1 Patriots on Sunday. I think we all remember what happened the last time these two teams met.

Here's what I'll have my eye on from my sofa in Hampden:

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1. The revenge factor: The Ravens return to the scene of the crime, looking to pick up where they left off after their first-round beatdown of the Patriots in last year's playoffs. The Ravens "manhandled" the Patriots -- those are Tom Brady's words, not mine -- in a 33-14 win that still "sticks with all of us," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. Their mystique shattered, the Patriots are the ones looking for revenge for once -- not the Ravens, who are 0-5 all-time in Foxborough during the regular season. With the intensity and animosity ratcheted up, Sunday's showdown between two of the AFC's top teams should be a blast to watch.

2. The Brady rules: A pair of controversial roughing-the-passer penalties cost the Ravens in their regular-season loss to the Patriots a year ago, prompting linebacker Ray Lewis to ream out the officiating crew after the game. "It's embarrassing [that] Tom Brady is laughing," Lewis told reporters. "It wasn't no personal foul if he's still smiling." Hey, don't blame Brady. Blame the officials. But in the playoff win, the Ravens ignored the so-called Brady rules and went hard after Brady, drilling him numerous times and forcing him into four turnovers. Expect the Ravens to stick to that script Sunday, putting the bulls-eye directly on Brady's Bieber bangs. "Anyway I can get him down, I'm going to get him down," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "I'm a football player and I'm going to play football."

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3. Randy who?: The Patriots traded wide receiver Randy Moss, one of the game's premier deep threats, to the Vikings last week. While there is uncertainty when it comes to their plan of attack, there's no shortage of talent in their receiving corps, which means that for a second straight week, the Ravens secondary will be put to the test. "You say Moss isn't there, but I think [Brady] won three Super Bowls without Moss," cornerback Fabian Washington said. The Patriots have piled up a bunch of crafty pass-catchers in the Wes Welker mold, and receiver Brandon Tate has the wheels to beat the Ravens deep. Sure, Tate is no Moss, but you've got to assume the Patriots will get by just fine without him.

4. Avoiding interceptions: In the three games since Joe Flacco's four-interception performance against the Bengals, the Ravens quarterback has been picked off only once. He'll look to continue that trend against an enigmatic New England defense that ranks 28th in pass defense but has intercepted seven passes in four games. You can be sure that Belichick will mix things up and sprinkle in some zone coverage to try to confuse Flacco. "If they come up with something we haven't seen before, then we will be impressed by that," coach John Harbaugh said. I wouldn't rule it out.

5. A special teams showdown: Tate is tied for the NFL lead in kickoff return TDs with two, something that has the full attention of the Ravens' special teams unit. "Huge challenge this week," Harbaugh said. "Brandon Tate is emerging as one of the best kickoff returners in the league." The Ravens have a special-teams weapon, too: Billy Cundiff, who is tied for the league lead with 11 touchbacks. If the Ravens have their way, there will be nothing to see here.

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