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Sunday, January 3, 2010
Quick Take: Ravens at Patriots

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Three things to know about this weekend's Ravens-Patriots wild-card game:

1. Baltimore knows New England well

Although it's outside the division, the Baltimore Ravens (9-7) are developing a good rivalry with the New England Patriots (10-6). This is the third meeting between Baltimore and New England in the past three years, and the Patriots won the first two by just nine combined points.

In 2007, New England won the infamous "flag toss" game, 27-24, where the Ravens believed controversial calls kept the Patriots' undefeated regular season alive. Baltimore also dropped a 27-21 meeting to New England this season on Oct. 4.

2. Welker's injury is huge

With a playoff berth already clinched, the Patriots will receive a lot of heat this week for playing their starters in a 34-27 loss to the Houston Texans. As a result, New England lost leading receiver Wes Welker (122 catches, 1,336 yards) Sunday to a season-ending knee injury in the first half.

Baltimore's biggest weakness this year has been its pass defense, but Welker's injury will help narrow the playing field. The Ravens still have to worry about Randy Moss, who will be much easier to double-team with Welker out of the lineup.

3. Is 'Joe Cool' ready?

A quarterback duel in the playoffs against Tom Brady can be intimidating. But if anyone has the even-keeled mentality to pull it off, it is Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

The second-year quarterback didn't seem fazed in his first meeting against Brady, who is a three-time Super Bowl champion. Flacco threw for 264 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a losing effort. Last year Flacco also became the first rookie quarterback to win two road playoff games.