Ravens-Pats a budding rivalry or just a tough match-up?

First of all, it’s worth noting that when evaluating Ravens rivalries, it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers, perhaps the Indianapolis Colts and then everyone else.

That being said, for a team that isn’t in the AFC North, a case can be made that the New England Patriots, Sunday night’s opponent, could be developing into a Ravens rival.

The last time these teams saw each other was a bitter moment for Baltimore fans - the heartbreaking AFC championship game that saw the Pats squeak out a 23-20 victory and a Super Bowl berth with some help from a couple of late-game flubs.

But that’s far from the only time these teams have met of late.

Surprisingly, this will be the sixth time Baltimore and New England have faced each other since 2007, a pretty high number for squads that aren’t in the same division. That total includes two playoff games and a whole lot of nail-biters.

Of the last five Ravens-Patriots games, just two were decided by more than three points and only one by more than six. The series has been a bit one-sided with New England winning four of those five meetings and seven of eight overall.

However, these teams have played close and meaningful football.

This run of tight contests began on Dec. 3, 2007 in Baltimore, when the Ravens seriously threatened New England’s run at an undefeated regular season. That was the infamous night when Bart Scott threw a late flag into the stands and the Ravens led 24-17 with less than nine minutes remaining. The Patriots then rallied to score the final 10 points of the game, scoring the winning touchdown with 55 seconds to go.

That lifted the Pats to 12-0 on the way to a 16-0 regular season.

Two seasons later, the Ravens lost 27-21 at the Patriots. Baltimore gained some revenge with the biggest rout in the recent run of games, and at just the right moment. On Jan. 10, 2010, the Ravens raced past the Pats 33-14 in the wild card playoffs.

New England followed with a 23-20 win in the 2010 regular season and finally, last year’s memorable AFC championship victory.

Although it’s easy to think the Ravens would look at Sunday’s contest as a chance to make themselves feel a little better about last season’s playoff loss, coach John Harbaugh isn’t.

“We just look at it as our game this week,” Harbaugh told reporters. “It’s a big game; they are all big. Every single game is big, because they all count. This just happens to be an AFC game. It’s a home game; those are important, too. It’s the next game up.”