Super Bowl 2012: Complementary Players Who Will Play Huge Roles

Andrew KulhaSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 4, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 19:  Mario Manningham #82 of the New York Giants makes a reception against the St. Louis Rams at MetLife Stadium on September 19, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Everybody wants to talk about Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Hakeem Nicks and Rob Gronkowski, but it's the "little guys" that are going to be the key to winning the 2012 Super Bowl.

It happens all the time in every big game, it's just a question of whether you notice it or not.

The complementary players always play huge roles.

I'm not sure if it's the fact that all the attention and focus is on the stars, or the fact that the big moments just bring out the best in players no matter their star power—it's just one of those things.

Winning a championship takes a team effort, and fully expect a few of the "lesser" players to play huge roles in the Super Bowl.

Here's one player from each team I'll be intently watching:

Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots

If you haven't heard of Hernandez, he's the Patriots tight end that isn't named Gronkowski. That should help clear things up.

With Gronkowski dealing with an ankle injury since the AFC championship game, I expect he won't be his normal beastly self. Even if he is, the Giants are going to have to focus so much attention on stopping him, Wes Welker and somehow pressuring Tom Brady that they are bound to leave somebody out.

Hernandez is going to get a ton of open looks, and he's capable of making the Giants pay dearly.

If it weren't for Gronkowski on the roster, we'd be talking about Hernandez as the big-time tight end on the Patriots. In fact, he'd be a starter for most teams in the NFL.

He notched 910 yards and seven touchdowns this season as a No. 2 tight end, which goes to show you that he has that play-making ability.

He's not the biggest star on the field, but he may play the biggest impact for the Patriots.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants

Manningham isn't the biggest name on his offense—in fact he's the third option at wide receiver—but he's going to be the most important player in this game for the Giants.

The Patriots would be fools not to cover Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz with everything they have, and even with that I expect both players will make their fair share of plays.

Nicks has incredible hands and size, and Cruz is your typical speedy and quick play-maker. Both are extremely dangerous, and the Patriots are going to be mindful of where they are at all times.

This may leave some room for Manningham to get open, and he has the ability to make plays himself.

He only caught four touchdown passes this season, but at times he has the capabilities of a No. 2 receiver. He can make any catch the other two big names can.

Finally, factor in the fact that there are times when Patriots wideout Julian Edelman doubles as cornerback in the slot, and you're looking at quite a potential mismatch.

Don't be surprised when Manningham has a huge game.

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