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Rookies Playing Key Roles in NFL Conference Championship Games

Eli NachmanyCorrespondent IIIOctober 19, 2015

Rookies Playing Key Roles in NFL Conference Championship Games

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    While veterans like Tom Brady, Ray Lewis and Tony Gonzalez take center stage in the conference championships, rookie players also stand to make an impact.

    Some rookies have adapted to the pressure of playoff football and figure to be a large part of their respective team's success come the weekend.

    Look for each of the following young stars to help propel his team to victory when the games get going.

Bernard Pierce

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    Ravens running back Bernard Pierce has been an impressive backup to Ray Rice, efficiently spelling the latter ball-carrier when necessary.

    Pierce has a unique skill set and will certainly see time against the Patriots as the Ravens won't keep Rice in for the whole game.

    Look for the rusher to rack up carries on Sunday and continue to prove his worth as a rotational back in this offense.

Courtney Upshaw

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    While Paul Kruger has been getting all of the fanfare in Baltimore for his prowess in terms of rushing the passer (and deservedly so), Courtney Upshaw's quietly contributed for the Ravens.

    Upshaw is still coming into his own, but his 2012 is an encouraging sign of things to come as the former Alabama standout didn't do anything wrong on the field.

    This linebacker could attempt to clean up some backside plays and will certainly receive a boost from Kruger and a fired-up Ray Lewis.

Chandler Jones

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    One of the unsung heroes of this season's rookie class, Chandler Jones has made a name for himself early in his career in New England.

    The Syracuse pass-rusher is assimilating well to Bill Belichick's schemes and, outside of Vince Wilfork, it can be argued Jones is the team's most productive defensive lineman.

    Look for Jones to lead the attack on quarterback Joe Flacco as the Patriots attempt to bury the latter in the turf.

Dont'a Hightower

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    Another great pick for the Patriots, Dont'a Hightower has had a very solid year and maintained his spot in the starting lineup despite his youth.

    Elevating the play of the guys around him, Hightower has helped Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes find serious success this season.

    A tackling machine, this former Alabama middle linebacker will team with the rest of the Patriots and attempt to bottle up Ray Rice.

Peter Konz

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    Peter Konz hasn't made the switch from center to guard very well, but he'll still play a key role in Atlanta's success against the 49ers.

    The guard has been exploited all year, but he grades out decently as a run-blocker and could contribute there.

    Facing a very tough defense, this could be a bad game for the rookie.

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