NFL Playoff Predictions: 6 Defensive Studs Sure to Dominate the Divisional Round

Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIIJanuary 14, 2012

NFL Playoff Predictions: 6 Defensive Studs Sure to Dominate the Divisional Round

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    In a season that has been highlighted by great offenses, it's refreshing to watch a dominant defensive performance now and then.

    We'll take a look at six defenders who should have outstanding games in the Divisional Round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. These are the players who will help the saying, "Defense wins championships," ring true.

Terrell Suggs, OLB (Baltimore Ravens)

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    Terrell Suggs has had an outstanding season, collecting 70 tackles, 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions for the Ravens. He emerged as a leader for the team when Ray Lewis was out with an injury, and he was a big reason for the defense's dominance.

    This week, the Ravens will be up against the Houston Texans, and Suggs will be itching to lay the wood on rookie quarterback T.J. Yates.

    Texans left tackle Duane Brown will get all he can handle and more from Suggs, and Yates could be running from Suggs all game.

Johnathan Joseph, CB (Houston Texans)

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    Johnathan Joseph has been everything the Texans have dreamed of, helping the worst secondary in the NFL become one of the best over just one shortened offseason.

    Joseph was all over Cincinnati's A.J. Green in the Wild Card Round, and the Ravens don't have a receiver who stacks up with Green talent-wise.

    The former Bengal should stick to his guy like glue and make life difficult for Joe Flacco, who will be looking to get some type of passing game going. 

    And if Flacco tries to force the issue, Joseph might end up making him pay with his sixth interception of the season.

Roman Harper, SS (New Orleans Saints)

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    There has been a lot of talk about New Orleans' preseason win over the San Francisco 49ers, a game in which the Saints blitzed frequently and caused the Niners all kinds of problems.

    San Francisco will likely have some type of answer for it, but that might not stop Roman Harper, who has been New Orleans' best blitzer and leads the team in sacks on the season.

    Harper is strong against the run and is good at getting to the passer, so he could be heavily utilized in a game like this. Expect him to have a big day.

Haloti Ngata, DE (Baltimore Ravens)

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    Along with Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata has been a cornerstone for the Ravens' defense, and his 64 tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles prove it.

    The Texans will deploy a very strong running game, and Ngata will be one of the keys to stopping it. In their first matchup this season, Ngata had a big day, collecting eight tackles and a sack. He and Suggs can overload the left side of the line and make life very difficult for both T.J. Yates and Arian Foster.

Charles Woodson, CB (Green Bay Packers)

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    When the Green Bay Packers take on the New York Giants at Lambeau Field, many will be expecting an upset by the Giants, who are being compared to the Super Bowl-winning team of 2008.

    But if Charles Woodson has anything to say about it, the Giants' run will be stopped cold in Green Bay.

    Both teams have high-flying offenses, and both teams have struggled defensively this year, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see a high final score. But the age-defying Woodson has had an outstanding year, collecting 74 tackles, seven picks, two sacks and a forced fumble. I expect him to be all over the field again as he tries to make another Super Bowl run before his eventual retirement.

    Woodson is a ball-hawk who could end up sealing the deal by creating a turnover, but either way, I think he'll make Eli Manning work hard for his yards.

Patrick Willis, ILB (San Francisco 49ers)

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    Both Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman could have big days for the 49ers, but I think Willis will stand out in what I believe will be a losing effort against the Saints.

    Willis doesn't collect as many tackles as Bowman does, but he's a playmaker all over the field. He has 17 career sacks and 12 career forced fumbles, as well as 40 career pass deflections. If anyone can slow down players like Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles, Willis can.

    Even if the Niners lose at home to the streaking Saints, I doubt Willis' performance will reflect it.