Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/13/12
For most diehard Baltimore Ravens’ fans, there is one home game every season that matters more than the others. In fact, it goes without saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the one team they want to beat more than anyone else.

So, it might come as a surprise to many that the biggest home game for Baltimore in 2012 is not on December 2nd against Pittsburgh, but instead on September 23rd, the Ravens' third game of the season. This is a Sunday night game versus the defending AFC champion New England Patriots.

The reason behind this is simple: It was the Patriots who beat the Ravens last season in the AFC Championship to earn a spot in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants.

Joe Flacco, the often criticized and much-maligned quarterback for Baltimore, played the game of his life, passing for 306 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t good enough, however, as Ravens’ wide receiver Lee Evans would drop a potential game-winning TD, allowing New England to escape with a 23-20 win.

Fast forward to September 23rd, 2012, at M&T Bank Stadium, in Baltimore, Maryland. Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and company get yet another chance to prove they once again belong in the discussion of best teams in the AFC. And, what is more, they get to do it on a Sunday night in front of a nationally televised audience.

Finally, it has been mentioned by several analysts that a Raven defense missing Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs might have lost a step. Never mind that they still boast guys like middle linebacker Ray Lewis (95 tackles in 2011) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and they drafted one of the better collegiate linebackers in the country last season in Courtney Upshaw.

If the Ravens wish to squash any rumors their defense isn’t among the best in the league, shutting down Tom Brady and the prolific New England offense would be a great start.

So, while it may seem natural for Ravens’ fans to circle their home game versus the Steelers as the one to watch this season, they should make a point to go to the game on September 23rd. Because history has shown, in order to be the champ, one has to first beat the champ.

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