The Ravens are in the AFC North. The Patriots are in the AFC East.
But they might as well be AFC Northeast opponents.
"Let's put it this way: They are definitely almost like a division opponent," quarterback Joe Flacco said.
On Sunday night, the Ravens and Patriots will face off for the seventh time in the six-year Flacco era.
They've split their six games. The Pats took three of the first four. The Ravens swept both meetings last year. Sunday will be a rematch of the past two AFC championships, which were split.
"They have got the better of us, and we have got the better of them a few times," Flacco said on Wednesday. "It's a game that has been consistent and been pretty good over the last few years, and we definitely have a bit of a familiarity with them."
Over their six games against each other since 2008, four have been decided by less than a touchdown. Last year's AFC championship game was one of the most lopsided affairs between the two teams as the Ravens shut New England out in the second half to pull away with a 28-13 victory.
The games have almost always been high-stakes as well. Three of the games were playoff contests.
However, this will be the first regular-season game played between the two teams in December during the Head Coach John Harbaugh era.
Last year, the Ravens and Patriots squared off in Week 3 with Baltimore notching a comeback 31-30 win on a last-second Justin Tucker field goal. After the Super Bowl, Harbaugh looked back at that Patriots game as a critical point in letting the Ravens know they could beat anybody.
"To me, rivalries – to use that term – are defined by how important the games are and what is at stake and how good the games are," Harbaugh said.
"They have always been big games, and fortunately, we have both been in the hunt all those years, so there has been a lot riding on it – this year as much as ever."
The Patriots are trying to hold onto their playoff spot after suffering a tough loss in Miami. If they lose their next two games, they could fall out of the postseason entirely after holding the No. 1 seed with three weeks to go.
The Ravens, on the other hand, are surging. They've won four straight games (tied for the longest streak in the NFL), and a win could clinch a playoff sport or at least force a Week 17 battle in Cincinnati for the AFC North crown.
Multiple Ravens players said they're looking at this game – just as they have the last several – as a playoff game. This one, however, is between two NFL titans.
"They're a great organization and they win," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "We win around here in Baltimore. It leads to some great games and I guess you could say* *a rivalry in a way."
Asked what his emotions are like whenever he steps onto the field to play the Patriots, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (who was on his best behavior for the media), grinned.
"I don't know," he said. "Don't get lit up – win the game. But, a lot goes through your mind – just not a lot of it is TV-rated."