Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots: 5 Key Ravens to Upset the Patriots
They go into this showdown as the underdogs, and rightfully so. The Patriots will be one of the best offenses the Ravens have faced all year long, and there are questions as to whether or not the Ravens defense has gone past their best years.
The Ravens are certainly talented enough to beat the Patriots, but they will need certain players to step up and have a major impact on the game.
Here are five Ravens who will be instrumental in a win.
Joe Flacco has taken some heat this year from several different angles.
The Baltimore fans have criticized him for not being able to win games on his own. They believe that their defense and rushing attack are still the meat of the Ravens' team.
Flacco has also received some harsh statements from teammate Ed Reed, who said that Flacco looked rattled by the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs (via USA Today). While the Texans did get to him at times, Houston was one of the best teams in the league this year.
Flacco has lashed out in several interviews trying to defend his role on the team, according to NBC Sports.
He will need to prove his worth Sunday against the Patriots, because Tom Brady and company are going to put up points. Flacco, at some point during the game, will have to drive the Ravens down the field in order to keep up on the scoreboard.
Joe Flacco may not have to throw for 350-plus yards and four touchdowns, but he will need to be an impact player for the Ravens to win this one.
While Flacco will be important, the offense still does run through Ray Rice.
Rice was once again one of the league's best running backs. He led the Ravens' Top 10 rushing offense this year, and will look to be a much bigger factor this week against the Patriots.
Rice was crucial in their last postseason victory against New England.
He ran wild on the Patriots' defense—going for 159 yards and two touchdowns. There is no denying that he was one of the biggest factors in the win over New England the last time these two teams met.
One of the best ways to stop a high-powered offense is to keep them off the field. Rice will be crucial in the time of possession battle. If he can't find the running lanes against the Patriots, the pressure could fall solely on the shoulders of Joe Flacco.
That is the last thing Ravens' fans want to see.
If you want to stop a great quarterback like Tom Brady, then having one of the best ball hawks in football will be important.
Ed Reed came up with a huge interception against T.J. Yates in last week's win over the Texans. Yates is obviously nowhere close to Tom Brady, but Ed Reed has always been a playmaker.
Reed only had three interceptions this year, which isn't one of the highest totals of his career, but he has made it clear that he is still an impact player. Brady has shown in the past that he isn't afraid to throw it at anyone, but he will definitely respect Reed's game.
It may not be necessary for Reed to come up with a big interception for the Ravens to win, but he will crucial to stopping downfield passes.
I mentioned earlier how one of the best ways to stop a great passing offense is to keep them off the field with a ball control offense.
Well, Terrell Suggs will play an important role in the second way to stop a great passing offense—the pass rush.
Suggs led the Ravens in sacks this year and tied for fifth overall in the league with 14 sacks. He is not only a great pass-rushing linebacker, but a force in stopping the run as well.
While he is versatile, his role will certainly be to get after Tom Brady.
We've seen in the past that a strong pass rush can throw off the timing of the Patriots' passing game. New England's passing attack is more timing based than many others in the league. Just a few seconds could be the difference and lead to a turnover.
Those are the kind of big plays that will win playoffs games. If the Ravens want to win this one, they will let Suggs loose on Tom Brady.
The Patriots' offense is no doubt driven by Tom Brady and the passing attack.
However, they have shown that they are willing to use their slew of running backs in the right situation. Even last week, we saw them use tight end Aaron Hernandez out of the backfield against the Denver Broncos. Hernandez led the Patriots in rushing with 61 yards in that game.
The Patriots have a variety of running backs that they can use in different situations at any point during the game. Whether it is a power rushing attack up the middle or a delayed draw from the shotgun formation, the Patriots have a running back capable of getting the job done.
Haloti Ngata is the dominant force on the Ravens' defensive line, and he will be a key contributor in stopping whichever running back the Patriots throw at them.
He is also capable of getting after the passer, which makes him one of the players New England will have to game-plan for this Sunday.
Ngata is one of the best defensive linemen in the league and he can take over a game if not watched carefully.