AFC Championship Game 2012: 3 Players Who Have to Step Up for a New England Win

Soven BerySenior Analyst IJanuary 20, 2012

AFC Championship Game 2012: 3 Players Who Have to Step Up for a New England Win

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    I am not the first to say that the New England Patriots are not the most complete team in these 2012 NFL playoffs. And I won't be the last. 

    Essentially, New England is turning into a one-trick pony. They rely on Tom Brady's arm to win every game they play. For the Pats to get back into the Super Bowl, they will have to play a complete game. 

    The Ravens have one of the best defenses in the game, and they know what's coming. New England has to attack from all angles to get the win. 

    To do that, these three players have to step up their game: 

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

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    Is the Ravens defense going to be focused on stopping the pass? 

    In the words of Sarah Palin, you betcha! That's where Green-Ellis comes into play. For most of the regular season, he was nonexistent, and last week, he was nowhere to be found. Green-Ellis mustered only 28 yards in a blowout win. 

    He has to surprise the critics and come out to play a complete game. If the Ravens figure out how to stop Tom Terrific, then this game could get really ugly really fast.

    But if Green-Ellis bursts onto the scene, then Baltimore will be more confused then a camel in Cuba. 

Devin McCourty

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    Whether McCourty is at safety or cornerback, he needs to step up in a big way. If 2010 was a coming out party for the Rutgers product, then 2011 was a somber retirement celebration. 

    He got burned on virtually every play this season and became the poster boy for a bad New England defense. He gave up 1,004 yards in coverage this season, and the Patriots resorted to putting him at safety in Week 17 against the Bills

    He looked good at safety, but his play versus Denver was forgettable at best.

    Whether McCourty suits up at safety or cornerback on Sunday, he needs to step up and not embarrass himself and this organization. 

Nate Solder

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    The rookie Nate Solder has started 13 games this year while playing in all 16.

    Solder has replaced the injured Sebastian Vollmer and Matt Light at left tackle. In this regular season, Solder has allowed just three sacks and four pressures on 880 snaps. 

    He's blossoming into a star on the offensive line, but the pressure he'll face against the Ravens is unlike anything before. Protecting Tom Brady is the first task for New England, and Solder will have his work lined up for him (no pun intended). 

    But blocking a defense such as the Ravens is much easier said then done. Solder will need to be on top of his game Sunday. If he can get the job done, then expect Brady to have time to complete throws and rack up points.