We are just a couple days away from finding out who will be playing in Super Bowl XLVII as it is championship week and for the third time in the last five seasons, our Baltimore Ravens are in the AFC Championship game, and will face the New England Patriots for the second year in a row. Although New England got the best of them last year thanks to a dropped pass and missed field goal, but Baltimore is determined to rewrite the script this time around.
I know that any player at any time can ultimately decide the football game with one play, just ask Lee Evans, but here are my top five players that will determine the AFC Championship for the Ravens on Sunday.
- #5 Kelechi Osemele – In last year's AFC Championship game, Patriots DT Vince Wilfork caused havoc all game for the Ravens, consistently stopping the run and collapsing the pocket. Osemele, a rookie, will have to have a big game in keeping Wilfork in check if Baltimore wants to be able to run the ball consistently and give Joe Flacco a good pocket to throw from.
- #4 Jacoby Jones – A Pro Bowl selection as a kick/punt returner, Jones is going to have to make some big plays in the return game for the Ravens on Sunday. I am not saying he has to return one for a touchdown, but his ability to give Baltimore short fields on offense is going to be a huge influence in the outcome of this game.
- #3 Ray Rice – Rice was held to just 67 yards on 21 carries in last year's AFC Championship, and will need to be more productive this time around. His ability to break some tackles and be able to give Baltimore's offense second and third downs in manageable distances will be huge. He will not only need to run the ball well, but he will be equally as big in the passing game as he is Flacco's favorite check down target and will need to have a decent day receiving wise as well.
- #2 Ed Reed – Uncharacteristically, Reed has been very quiet this postseason, but if you ask any quarterback in the NFL, they will tell you that they still need to know where #20 is on the field on every play. If Reed comes up with an interception or forced fumble, I really like the Ravens chances in this game. Ed is a big game player, and I expect him to have a big game on Sunday and he will force the big turnover in the game.
- #1 Joe Flacco – Umm, duh right? Flacco showed last week that he is a big game quarterback, but we all know that if the Ravens do not win this game, all of the National media and Ravens fans alike will say "he can't win the big one." Flacco had a great performance last year in the AFC Championship game and easily out played Tom Brady, but as we saw last week, if Flacco is playing well and making the big throws, this offense can really put up some points. I think Joe is on a mission and I look for him to have a big game and lead this team to their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2000 season.
There are a few other players that just missed this list such as, Justin Tucker, Ray Lewis, Corey Graham, Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin as all of these guys will have a big role in the game as well, but I believe the five aforementioned Ravens will be the five most important players in the game that will determine the game for Baltimore.
Baltimore fans are extremely pumped for this game, our friends over at WNST have even sold out five buses full of Ravens fans that are making the trip up to Foxboro for the game. The Ravens have really done something special in making it to the AFC Championship game for the third time in five years, but just ask any player in that locker room, they are not satisfied and want to extend Ray Lewis's last ride all the way to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII!
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