Ravens vs. Patriots: 3 Baltimore Sleepers to Watch in AFC Championship Game

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IJanuary 20, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 15:  Lardarius Webb #21 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates after a pass was interecepted by teammate Ed Reed #20 (not picuterd) during the fourth quarter of the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on January 15, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore Ravens won 20-13 in regulation.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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It is not easy to grab headlines playing with on a team loaded with superstars like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin.

But there are a few Baltimore Ravens outside of the household names that could play major roles in the AFC title game on Sunday. 


Lardarius Webb, CB

The Patriots have been prominently featuring tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez of late, but that doesn't mean Tom Brady is unwilling to throw to his wide receivers. 

Wes Welker will still be a terrorizing chain-mover and Deion Branch is quietly still a favorite target of the Pats quarterback.

It's almost like Brady slings one deep to Branch at the precise time you forget about him.

Due to the fact that Baltimore will attempt to disrupt the Gronkowski and Hernandez routes by being overly physical, I expect No. 12 to look for his wideouts more often than normal. 

Webb had two interceptions last week and has been a solid corner for the Ravens in 2011. He has the ability to completely shut down Branch and it'll be interesting to see how he fares if he lines up with Welker in the slot. 


Vonta Leach, FB

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 25:  Offensive lineman Michael Oher #74 of the Baltimore Ravens and fullback Vonta Leach #44 along with Johdrick Morris #84 block members of the Washington Redskins during a preseason game  M&T Bank Stadium on August 25, 2011 in Bal
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Leach is the player that springs many holes for Ray Rice, especially between the tackles. The Ravens have one of the better run-blocking offensive lines in the NFL, but the Pro Bowl fullback takes on playmaking linebackers on nearly every run. 

Brandon Spikes has recently received a ton of notoriety—though somewhat undeserving—and he'll face one of his biggest challenges this weekend when Leach frequently meets him head on in the hole.

If Leach wins the majority of the battles with Spikes and other Patriots linebackers, Rice could have another huge day in Foxboro, which would alleviate immense pressure from quarterback Joe Flacco.


Jarret Johnson, OLB 

Terrell Suggs is the team's best pass-rusher, no question. However, on any other team, Jarret Johnson would be a standout. 

He's definitely a guy that has to be accounted for, especially on passing downs.

Johnson is a smart and often plays off the extra attention that's typically paid to Suggs around the edge. 

I expect Baltimore to send their outside rushers on inside moves to pressure Brady as he steps up into the pocket, and Johnson is another relentless, big body New England's offensive line must stop in order to keep Brady upright.