1.Familiar foe: The Patriots and Ravens are almost like division rivals in recent years. These two teams always seem to meet in the regular season or playoffs with a lot on the line. This will be the second meeting this season. Baltimore beat New England, 31-30, in Week 3 in a game with several controversial calls from replacement officials. The Patriots feel they owe the Ravens from that game in this rematch.
2. No Gronkowski: The Patriots must adjust again to life without Rob Gronkowski. The Pro Bowl tight end broke his arm a second time and will be out for the rest of the postseason. New England played five games without Gronkowski and went 4-1 in those games. The Patriots also scored 41 points in the divisional round against the Texans with Gronkowski sidelined for more than three quarters. New England has plenty of offensive weapons, but Gronkowski will be missed most in the red zone.
3. Youngs RBs: The Patriots have two emerging running backs coming of age in the postseason. Second-year players Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for four touchdowns in Sunday's victory over the Texans. Ridley led the Patriots with 82 yards rushing, and Vereen showed his versatility with 41 rushing yards and 83 receiving yards. Neither player contributed to last year's playoff run. With Gronkowski out, there will be more opportunities for others to step up.
4. Chasing history: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady set an NFL record with his 17th career postseason victories Sunday. He surpassed his childhood idol Joe Montana. However, Brady is chasing Montana in the most important record for quarterbacks: Super Bowl titles. Brady needs one more Super Bowl title to tie Montana and Terry Bradshaw with four. A win over Baltimore would give Brady his sixth Super Bowl appearance.
5. Cooling off Flacco: New England's defense will face a hot quarterback in Joe Flacco of the Ravens. He outdueled Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the divisional round and will be looking to topple Brady next week. Flacco has played well against New England in the past two meetings. He nearly upset the Patriots in the AFC title game last year, but had a key pass dropped in the end zone by former Ravens receiver Lee Evans. Flacco also beat the Patriots in their regular-season meeting in Baltimore. Flacco is 0-2 in AFC Championship Games.