NFL fans would be hard pressed to find two more curious teams than the two set to square off inside M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.
The New York Giants (8-6) will visit the Baltimore Ravens (9-5) in a pivotal Week 16 matchup. And while the Ravens have lost three straight games to open the month of December, the Giants have dropped four of their last six to surrender the NFC East lead.
Both teams began the year with Super Bowl aspirations, but will need to find a spark sooner rather than later in order to avoid going home early.
In such a monumental showdown, one player's performance can make all the difference. Here we showcase a trio of game-changing talents sure to make an impact on Sunday in Baltimore.
Stevie Brown, New York Giants, S
New York Giants safety Stevie Brown is tied for No. 2 in the league with seven interceptions this season. Twice, Brown has picked off at least two passes in a game this season, most recently in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints.
The man Brown will be watching on Sunday, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, has thrown an interception in each of Baltimore's past three losses. Flacco even threw a pick-six in the waning moments of the first half last week against Denver. Flacco has thrown an interception in all but two of Baltimore's seven home games this season.
Assuming Flacco makes a few arrant throws this weekend, Brown will have an opportunity or two to make a game-changing play for the road team.
Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, WR
Anquan Boldin may not be putting elite wide-receiver numbers this season, but he's an elite talent nonetheless. Few NFL wideouts possess the strength and courage that Boldin does, and that's why he'll be a game-changer to watch for on Sunday afternoon.
The 32-year-old was held without a catch last week against Denver, marking the first time that's happened since October 2005, when Boldin was a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
But before you go writing Boldin off in Week 16, realize this: The Giants have the No. 28 pass defense in the NFL this season and are giving up more than 250 yards per game through the air. Plus, just two weeks ago Boldin caught three balls for 78 yards and two touchdowns at Washington.
After three straight losses, including two in a row at home, look for the Ravens offense to respond in what is being labeled by many as a must-win this weekend.
David Wilson, New York Giants, RB
The Giants would be foolish not to pound the ball on the Ravens' suspect defense on Sunday in Baltimore. The Ravens rank No. 26 against the run this season and are giving up more than 132 yards on the ground per week.
Expect New York rookie running back David Wilson to have a big day just one week after averaging 4.6 yards per carry in a loss to Atlanta.
Since Week 14, Wilson has carried the ball 25 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns. And that's phenomenal news for the Giants, seeing how Baltimore has surrendered 307 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns over the past two weeks in losses to Washington and Denver.
If the Giants can establish the running game early or at least stay within reach of Baltimore so that they aren't forced to abandon the ground game like they did last week in Atlanta, they should have a great shot to right the ship and earn a hard-fought road win in Week 16.
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