Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE
For the second straight season, the Patriots and Ravens will square off in the AFC Championship. If the Patriots want to advance to Super Bowl XLVII, then they'll have to shut down these three Ravens.
Here's one reason why the NFL is the best league in all of professional sports: Storylines.
The storylines that have presented themselves regarding this week's AFC Championship game is just "media-gold." No other journalist, reporter or blogger could ask for much more.
This Sunday's AFC Championship will feature a rematch from a year ago between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots.
As you already know, the Patriots were able to pull off a narrow victory against the Ravens last year, as they advanced to Super Bowl XLVI, but ultimately lost against the New York Giants.
In order for the Pats to return back to the Super Bowl, they'll have to take care of these three players on Baltimore:
1. Ray Rice
I realize that the Ravens have talented players like Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith—but without Rice, this offense would be going nowhere.
Rice had a solid 2012 campaign as he rushed for 1,143 yards while averaging 71.4 yards per-game, scoring nine rushing touchdowns as well as recording 61 receptions for 478 yards and one touchdown.
Rice has had a solid showing throughout his first two playoff games, as he's averaging 4.4 yards per-carry while scoring one touchdown and accumulating 199 total yards.
When Rice and the Ravens first met with the Patriots back in Week 3, Rice exploded for 101 yards on 20 carries as well as punching in a touchdown.
If New England wants to advance to their sixth Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era, then they'll have to limit Rice—much like what they did in last year's AFC Championship, when he rushed for 67 yards on 21 carries.
2. Anquan Boldin
Out of the three seasons that Boldin has been a member of the Baltimore Ravens, this year has been his finest.
Boldin finished 2012 with 65 receptions for 921 yards while reeling in four touchdowns.
Boldin comes into this week's game with 11 receptions for 216 yards and one touchdown over his first two playoff games.
There's no debating that Boldin is Baltimore's go-to receiver, so cornerback Aqib Talib is going to have to shut him down in order to knock off the Ravens for the second year in a row.
3. Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis might be 37-years-old and might not be as productive as he used to be and might not be as healthy as he'd like, but he's on a mission: Win his second Super Bowl in his final NFL season.
Lewis has been a machine thus far in the postseason, as he's racked up 30 tackles in his two playoff games—that's rather impressive.
Lewis is not only a player that needs to be shut down, but he's the leader of the Ravens—he is the team's heart and soul.
Whether or not Lewis is able to be as productive as he'd like, he is still going to motivate his team to better their chances in beating the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.