Just like last season, the Ravens had to win their final regular-season game to clinch a playoff berth.
Following a 21-13 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday that vaulted them into the playoffs, the Ravens are looking to mirror last season's impressive run where they crushed the Miami Dolphins and edged out the Tennessee Titans to make it to the AFC championship game.
"Once we get in there, we know we can do damage," said running back Willis McGahee, whose season-high 167 yards and three touchdown runs provided a major boost to Baltimore in finishing off the Raiders. "And now we're in there."
The Ravens lost 27-21 to the Patriots earlier this season as wide receiver Mark Clayton dropped a pass on fourth down deep in New England territory with 28 seconds remaining. Baltimore has been installed as a four-point underdog.
"It's going to be a dogfight," cornerback Chris Carr said. "After that first game, I think they know they're going to have to play a lot better to beat us this time. So, hey, we'll see what happens."
After making the playoffs as the sixth and final seed in the AFC, the Ravens expressed confidence that they're the football team nobody wants to face.
"Honestly, I don't think anybody really wants to play us," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "We're a dangerous team. When you play a football game against us, you know you're going to feel it."
History suggests that the Ravens fare better when they're under the gun, as they were Sunday in Oakland.
When the Ravens won the Super Bowl, they were a wild-card team.
And when the Ravens won the AFC North division title in 2003 and 2006, they were promptly expelled from the playoffs.
Following an undefeated mark through three games, the Ravens endured a troubling three-game losing streak and have lost five games by six or less points.
"I've never had a pretty road to the playoffs," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "It's always been a grind, but there's no better think that having that grind and getting to advance. I like where we're positioned right now, and I like all the adversity we've gone through. I just like seeing this team fight.
"There's nothing better than having that grind and getting in the dance. Once you get in that dance, anything goes. We've been through so much, so many little ups and downs. There's nothing that affects us. And the bottom line is, once you get in, it's a whole new game."
The Ravens are hoping that the pressure they're accustomed to dealing with will serve them well in the one-and-done atmosphere of the playoffs.
In fact, they're counting on that being a positive factor working in their favor.
"I think that will all kind of shake out," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "There's something to be said for coasting in because obviously you've earned the right to do that. There's an advantage to that, and there's an advantage to fighting your way in. If you look at the history of who's won the world championship, you've seen it come from both places, right?"
Undefeated against teams with losing records, the Ravens' competition is about to get a lot tougher.
Even though the Patriots are banged-up with quarterback Tom Brady reportedly nursing broken ribs and a broken index finger and ultra-prolific wide receiver Wes Welker done for the season with torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, they're still a formidable opponent.
Especially in Foxborough where they're 8-0 this season and have outscored visitors by an average of 18.4 points per contest.
The Ravens are 1-6 against playoff teams this year, and are 3-5 on the road. Their lone win over a playoff team was against the San Diego Chargers, and that was during the second week of the season.
"That gives them an edge going into this game, I guess," Harbaugh said with a bit of sarcasm. "But every week stands on its own. If that's a factor, then they have an edge."
The Patriots aren't much better with a 2-3 record against playoff teams.
It has been three months since the Ravens and the Patriots squared off on Oct. 4 with multiple personnel changes and schemes altered since that meeting. It's practically an eternity in the NFL.
"It's a great opportunity to see how you kind of matchup personnel-wise, how this guy played against that guy, what you're capable of, maybe what you're not capable of doing," Harbaugh said. "They'll be looking at it, we'll be looking at it, but that was a long time ago. We've changed. They've changed. There are different players out there for both teams."
What hasn't changed, though, is the Ravens' approach and attitude.
And they definitely don't seem intimidated by the Patriots' collection of Super Bowl rings, or the fact that they've never defeated New England in five previous games.
"We can show what we're really about," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We are the one team they didn't want to get in. Nobody did. We're playing our style of football, and we're gonna be trouble."
Ravens look to do some "damage" in postseason
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