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Sunday, January 6, 2013
Former Patriots in action today

By Field Yates

While the Ravens-Colts game no longer has a direct impact on the Patriots because of the Texans' victory on Saturday, the first of two more wild-card games to be played Sunday does have indirect ties to the Patriots.

The winner will, of course, travel to Denver for a matchup with the Broncos next Saturday night and trim the AFC playoff field to just four teams.

From a larger NFL perspective, the game carries substantial significance, as it is the final home game (and possibly final game ever) Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis will play, as he recently announced he will retire following this season. Both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady shared some thoughts on Lewis last week.

Said Belichick: "Tremendous player, tremendous career. I’ve known Ray since I went down and visited with him in 1996 prior to the draft in Miami. He’s had a great career, he’s a great player."

And Brady added: "He is still an incredible player and a competitor. I know so many people have said so many things about him and certainly the guys that have played with him can probably speak to him the best. But it was a privilege to play against him."

The Colts, meanwhile, will look to continue one of the remarkable turnarounds in NFL history, as it was at this time last year that the franchise was in the midst of an overhaul that eventually would lead to the departure of its team president, general manager, head coach and quarterback Peyton Manning, perhaps the greatest player in franchise history.

The game will also involve a sampling of former Patriots:

Ravens safety James Ihedigbo. Released at the conclusion of training camp in 2012, Ihedigbo has been a recent starter for Baltimore due to an injury to Bernard Pollard.

Colts cornerback Darius Butler. The former second-round pick never panned out in New England, but has found his way in Indianapolis. In just 11 games this season he had four interceptions, two of which he returned for a score.

Colts safety Sergio Brown. Another player released at the conclusion of training camp in 2012, Brown's role with Indianapolis mirrors his with the Patriots: a key special teams contributor with good downfield coverage skills.

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri. The veteran  continues to be a strong presence for the Colts, and had another solid season in 2012. His playoff credentials speak for themselves.