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An intriguing inter-conference matchup brings the Tampa Bay Bucs to Baltimore on Sunday. As 7-3 teams go, the Ravens and Bucs couldn't be much more dissimilar.

The Ravens are playoff veterans, an established team with 15 Pro Bowl players. The Bucs haven't won a playoff game since they won the Super Bowl in the 2002 season and have six rookie starters, four on offense.

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The Ravens have a classic pocket quarterback in Joe Flacco, a diminutive, all-purpose running back in Ray Rice and a raft of veteran playmakers at receiver. The Bucs have a scrambling quarterback in Josh Freeman, a massive runner in LeGarrette Blount and a rookie fourth-round pick in Mike Williams who is their playmaker.

The Ravens' defensive strength is right down the middle – Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed -- and their vulnerability is in the back end. The Bucs don't scare anyone up front, but they've got two Pro Bowl caliber corners in Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib, who have combined for eight interceptions this season.

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All of these clashing profiles will fade away today, though, when Tampa Bay tries to stalk a statement victory in M&T Bank Stadium. The Bucs haven't beaten a team in playoff contention this season and were mauled by the Steelers in Week 3, 38-13. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens have been upset-proof the last three seasons.

But the Bucs offer a hint of trouble in Freeman, who uses his feet to make plays in the pass and run game, and Blount, the disgraced former Oregon star who at 247 pounds is mindful of Cleveland's Peyton Hillis. The Ravens entertained the receiver Williams in the pre-draft investigation period. Could the Bucs' fresh legs and young hearts somehow trump the Ravens' veteran leadership and even composure?

It's almost the December stretch run, when a team's real profile emerges and its weakness become magnified. The Bucs will either take a dramatic step forward, or fall back to the team most thought they were at the start of the season. For the Ravens, it's time to make a statement of their own, and that means spoiling the Bucs' fragile playoff dreams.

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