Some sports name three stars of the game after the game. I'll do that one better: I'm going to name them before the Ravens even play. These will be the three stars of the game when the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns in Sunday's regular-season finale.
1. Quarterback Joe Flacco
After one of the worst games of his career, quarterback Joe Flacco faces the league's seventh-ranked pass defense. But he's always been able to bounce back. Grantland's Bill Barnwell pointed out this week that in the five games immediately following the five worst games of Flacco's career, he's rebounded for a combined 66.2 percent completion rate and a passer rating over 100, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
For every game like last Sunday's in which Flacco frustrates, there are games like this coming Sunday when, with everything on the line, he finds a way to get it done. With emotions likely high in the must-win game, a steady Flacco will be imperative for the Ravens, and that's the one they're probably going to get.
The Browns' pass defense, is led by cornerback Joe Haden and safety Tashaun Gipson, who will be representing the team in this year's Pro Bowl. Cornerback Buster Skrine has been having success opposite Haden all year. But the Ravens had success against Haden in Week 3, and could use the run to open up big plays downfield. An even-keeled Flacco will complete north of 65 percent of his passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns to help the Ravens hold up their end of the playoff bargain.
2. Wide receiver Torrey Smith
Entering what could be his last game in a Ravens uniform, wide receiver Torrey Smith is quietly in the midst of one of the most productive stretches in the NFL. The free-agent-to-be went on social media after the Ravens' loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5 to express his frustration with his play.
To that point, he had 11 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown, and Steve Smith instead looked like the focal point of the passing offense. Since then, Torrey Smith has 508 yards -- not among the league's highest totals -- but his nine touchdowns since Week 5 place him near the top of that category among a who's-who of the NFL's most frightening receivers — New York Giants rookie Odell Beckham Jr., Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Mike Evans, and Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, among others.
Torrey Smith will want to keep that hot streak going, and with a rushing performance better than the last two weeks expected, Smith could get open on a play-action pass or two for big scores. A two-touchdown, 95-yard performance would be a nice cap to a strong second half.
3. Running back Justin Forsett
Forsett, the season's feel-good story in Baltimore and perhaps one of the best tales in the league, could put a bow on his regular season against the division-rival Browns. In doing so, he could help propel the Ravens into the postseason.
His playoff history is rather limited, with just a pair of postseason games under his belt in his seven-year career. He'll likely get into the Pro Bowl as an alternate when other players drop out, to go along with his media MVP and Ravens Roost Unsung Hero awards. All that's left to do is to help his team back into the playoffs.