In a gripping battle full of shifting fortunes, indelible plays and strategic intrigue, the Patriots ended the Ravens' season, beating them 35-31 in the AFC Divisional playoffs. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco finally faltered in the postseason with two late interceptions after an otherwise superb performance. His Patriots counterpart, Tom Brady, declawed a fearsome Ravens defense.
Ravens players all know that if they are going to accomplish what they want -- and that's to be the final AFC team left standing -- they're probably going to have to beat the New England Patriots at some point to do it.
All eyes will be on wide receiver Steve Smith, who faces the organization he played with for 13 seasons. While Joe Flacco will undoubtedly look to get Smith the ball early, he needs receivers Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown to be more involved in the passing game.
For the past two seasons, Justin Tucker has been one of the NFL's best kickers and one of the league's biggest bargains. But the Ravens know that the time is coming soon where Tucker will get his big pay day and they are prepared to reward him.
Protecting a three-point lead with 6:44 to play, the Browns ran off all but the final 14 seconds before Billy Cundiff's field goal finalized Cleveland's 24-18 victory over the Ravens in front of an announced 71,513 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Ravens are well-rested, motivated and ticked off, not a good combination if you are a Browns team that is looking for its first win in the series since 2007. Cleveland is an improving team and they will pose problems for the Ravens in several areas.