Physical game at Gillette Part Deux

Danny Woodhead scores vs Ravens

The AFC Championship game pits two familiar foes against one another for all the marbles. Patriots Insider blogger Shane Leketa is back with his take on the the big game.

You knew that it was bound to happen.  

The Baltimore Ravens vs. the New England Patriots will face off Sunday in the confines of Gillette stadium for a rematch of last year's AFC Championship.

When there were two games left in the regular season, would you have pictured the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots battling for a spot in the Super Bowl on championship weekend?

Most fans would have thought that the Houston Texans or the Denver Broncos would have been competing for the Super Bowl with the way that the season was playing out.  But the football gods had something different in mind.

This almost seems like it was meant to happen when last year, the Baltimore Ravens were a 32-yard Billy Cundiff field goal attempt away from beating the Patriots and facing the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

We can look at the stats overall in last year's championship game and see that the Patriots were beaten in almost all aspects of the game --  Passing yardage 282-234, Rushing yardage 116-96, Total plays 70-68, Time of possession 33:33-26:27 and Tom Brady threw for no touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

When push came to shove in the game, the Patriots squeaked into the Super Bowl on Cundiff''s kick --  normally a given –sailed wide left. .  Was it fate?  If one were to look at the overall game, it would be easy to say yes.

Fast-forward to 2013 and we are right back in the same venue with basically the same teams fighting on the gridiron for the title of AFC champion.

Last year's Patriots team was not much different personnel wise so; there is a lot of experience on the roster.

The Patriots top rusher in last year's showdown was BenJarvis Green-Ellis with Danny Woodhead coming in second.  This year, New England will be depending on Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen and possibly Danny Woodhead.

The receiving corps was basically the same last year for the Patriots except for the huge hole created by the absence of Rob Gronkowski but with the addition of Brandon Lloyd.  Gronk suffered a break in his forearm last week,  landing him on I/R.  In last year's conference championship game he had 5 receptions for 87 yards.  There may also be a sleeper to consider in this year's matchup,  Shane Vereen, who had against the Texans (124 total yards with 3 TDs).

There may be only a few differences on these two teams from last year but the intensity and passion will still be the same.  The Ravens will head to Gillette with a huge chip on their shoulder, looking for revenge and inspired by the need tohelp Ray Lewis play one more game before he retires.
Baltimore's' Terrell Suggs and Ray Rice were emotionally spent last year when they lost the game and will be looking to make a major impact on the game on Sunday.

The Patriots also have revenge on their minds,  after they lost to the Ravens 31-30 in week 3 in Baltimore.

This is what football is all about.  The storylines, the drama and the intensity all coming to a head where the loser goes home and the winner gets a ticket to New Orleans for the big game in early February.

It will be a fun game to watch for the adjustments made during the game on both sides of the ball.  Make no mistake about it, these teams know each other very well.  Ravens head coach, John Harbarugh stated, "We've got a lot of tape of us playing each other. I'm sure those will be integral study games for both teams. But, teams evolve, teams change, and you've got to take that into account as well."

Bill Belichick has plenty of game film on the Ravens to build a gameplan. Certainly the secondary will prepare for downfield passes to Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith.  The addition of Aqib Talib should make a difference this time.

Some football fanatics might have wanted to see a rematch of Brady vs. Manning but, this fan was hoping the Patriots would meet up with their AFC rivals in Gillette.  I should be a game of epic proportions.

Special teams captain, Matthew Slater said it best, "We do know that they are a tough football team<" Slater told reporters. "They know how to play us well. They compete and play the game the right way. That's why they've had so much success over the past several years and it's been no different against us. They've played us well every time we've played them, so we expect it to be the same kind of game this week."

Game on folks.

Shane Leketa is a lifelong Patriots fan that can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MyPatspace and also on twitter @MyPatsSpace

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