Ravens vs. Patriots: Most Important Players on the New England Defense

David Daniels@TheRealDDanielsSenior Writer IJanuary 14, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 10:  Rob Ninkovich #50 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on December 10, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

If the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive stars play like they did against the Denver Broncos, several New England Patriots defenders must go off next week.

While the Pats’ 41-28 triumph over the Houston Texans was impressive, the Ravens’ effort against the Super Bowl favorites was more so. Baltimore proved it has the firepower to keep up with New England. And to dissipate that firepower, here are three Patriots who must have career days in the AFC Championship Game.


3. Rob Ninkovich

Ninkovich is a baller.

New England’s team leader in sacks failed to escort Matt Schaub to the ground on Sunday, but he picked off a pass that virtually clinched the contest for the Pats. If he can’t get his hands on another ball against the Ravens, getting his hands on Flacco would be a suitable Plan B. Baltimore’s QB was only sacked once vs. Denver and that’s one of the reasons why he was able to excel.


2. Vincent Wilfork

At 6’2”, 325 pounds, Wilfork has the size and strengths to almost shut down a running game single-handedly. Ray Rice is coming off of a 131-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Broncos and New England must prevent him from putting up similar numbers.

Who knows if the Ravens will even feed him the rock that often again? But if they do, Wilfork will play a huge role in making them rethink such an attempt.


1. Steve Gregory

Bill Belichick should give the Patriots’ free safety one job next week: to not let anyone behind him.

Torrey Smith only had three receptions on Saturday. But two were 59- and 32-yard touchdowns. Smith wasn’t the only Baltimore wide out who managed to beat the Broncos deep, though, as Jacoby Jones tied the ballgame with 38 seconds left on a 70-yard bomb.

If New England simply prevents the splash play against the Ravens, it’ll be in phenomenal shape.


David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.