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Patriots vs. Ravens: Baltimore Players Who Must Step Up to Pull off Upset

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 15:  Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens passes against the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 15, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2012

The Baltimore Ravens are seven-point underdogs for a reason—they don't have as much talent as the New England Patriots.

That means certain players, most notably the three below, must take their game to the next level if Baltimore has any prayer of stunning the football world.

 

Joe Flacco

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01:  Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass during the NFL game against  the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Im
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Ed Reed comments about Flacco have gotten more play in the media than they deserve because he basically said what everybody was already thinking. If the Ravens are going to knock off the Patriots, Flacco needs to be better than he was last week.

It's been a forgettable season for the fourth-year quarterback, who has lost control of the offense and seems scared to take any chances. He's not going to be able to play it safe if Baltimore's offense is going to keep up with New England's high-powered group on Sunday.

He has enough weapons to make it happen, so it will all come down to his confidence level. If he comes up small, he'll deserve all the criticism that comes his way.

 

Torrey Smith

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 18:  Torrey Smith #82 of the Baltimore Ravens runs after the touchdown against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL Game on December 18, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Simply put, one catch for nine yards isn't going to cut it. He's reliant of Flacco to get him the ball, but he has to do a better job of using his terrific speed to separate from defensive backs. Even Flacco can get him the ball if he's wide open.

Perhaps you can chalk up his poor game against the Houston Texans to the jitters associated with his first playoff game. If that was the case, he needs to get over those issues before Sunday, because every possession is going to be crucial.

There's no reason he shouldn't have a monster game since the Patriots secondary is so weak. Now he needs to step up to the plate and make it happen.

 

Bernard Pollard

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 20:  Bernard Pollard #31 of the Baltimore Ravens defends against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bengals 31-24. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

Slowing down the tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez is the most important aspect of the defensive game plan for the Ravens. The linebackers aren't going to be able to pull it off alone, which means the safeties will need to help out.

Everybody knows what Reed has done during his career, but Pollard is more of a wild card. He'll be able to make a name for himself with a big game on Sunday. Taking away those two huge targets, especially in the red zone, would put Baltimore in position to emerge victorious.

There is literally no room for error. If the Ravens defense doesn't slow down Tom Brady and Co., they're toast. That means the heat is on Pollard to come up big.

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