NFL Playoff Schedule 2013: Unheralded Rookies Sure to Shine in Wild-Card Clashes

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 23: Bobby Wagner #54 of the Seattle Seahawks takes the field before a game against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on December 23, 2012 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

As difficult as it may be to believe, the rookie class in the NFL consists of more than just Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.

While all three rookie quarterbacks have set the football world ablaze—as has RGIII's running-mate in Washington, Alfred Morris—that foursome is not the end-all, be-all of rookies that have made an impact in the NFL this year.

A number of first-year players have made their presence felt in the NFL this season, and a number of them will be on display this weekend as the wild card games get underway.

Just like the more ballyhooed quarterbacks and running backs from their rookie class, the players that follow will have you in disbelief by the time Wild Card Weekend has come to an end, as you'll be convinced that you just watched a seasoned veteran at work.

Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals

When it comes to the Defensive Rookie of the Year, look no further than Cincinnati's Vontaze Burfict.

Cincinnati's leading tackler on the season with 127, no rookie defensive player has made a bigger impact on the overall success of his team's defense than Burfict, as Dan Hoard, the radio voice of the Bengals, points out via Twitter:

#Bengals defense allowed 2.4 fewer yards per play when Vontaze Burfict was on the…

— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) January 4, 2013

That's an amazing statistic, and it tells you all you need to know about the impact Burfict has on the game.

As B/R's NFL draft guru Matt Miller points out, every team in the league had a chance to land Burfict:

Remember when Vontaze Burfict didn't get drafted? That was stupid.

— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 30, 2012

Saturday afternoon, the Houston Texans and Arian Foster will become the latest team that wishes Burfict was on their side of the field.

Matt Kalil, LT, Minnesota Vikings

Matt Kalil has done exactly what we expected him to do: established himself as a fixture on the left side of Minnesota's offensive line.

All the evidence you need to determine how Kalil has done as a run blocker can be answered by looking at Adrian Peterson's MVP-worthy season, but it's as a pass blocker that Kalil has really shined.

Pro Football Focus' Trey Cunningham points out just how good Kalil has been:

Vikings rookie LT Matt Kalil hasn't missed a snap, giving up only 2 sacks (inc one to Clay Matthews last week), 2 hits and 19 hurries

— Trey Cunningham (@PFF_TreyC) January 4, 2013

For as many issues that Christian Ponder has had in getting the Vikings passing game going, getting nailed from the blindside isn't one of them.

Kalil has done an impressive job against far more experienced defenders, and he'll make it a point to keep Green Bay's Clay Matthews out of the Vikings backfield when the two NFC North rivals meet for the third time this season—and the second time in two weeks.

Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

Sitting in the middle of Seattle's base 4-3 defense, Bobby Wagner has been nothing short of exceptional.

While he only has two sacks on the season, rushing the passer isn't Wagner's game.

He controls the middle of the field, evidenced by his six games with at least 10 tackles and his 140 tackles on the season, a notable number as the team's official Twitter account mentioned:

.@bwagz54 had 10 tackles today and 140 for the season setting Seahawks record for most by a rookie (Terry Beeson had 136 in 1977). #NFLROY

— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) December 31, 2012

If his 140 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions and four passes defended don't impress you, consider this, courtesy of Trey Cunningham once again:

Seahawks MLB Bobby Wagner leads all inside LBs in our Run Stop % (74 tackles, 47 which are stops, only 3 missed tackles). He is a rookie!

— Trey Cunningham (@PFF_TreyC) January 4, 2013

When the Seahawks face off against the Washington Redskins on Sunday, you can be sure that both RGIII and Morris will be getting up close and personal with this dynamic defensive force.

Complete 2013 NFL Playoff Schedule

Wild Card Round        
Team 1 (ROAD) Team 2 (HOME) Date Time TV Info
Cincinnati Houston 1/5/2013 4:30 p.m. ET NBC
Minnesota Green Bay 1/5/2013 8 p.m. ET NBC
Indianapolis Baltimore 1/6/2013 1 p.m. ET CBS
Seattle Washington 1/6/2013 4:30 p.m. ET FOX
Divisional Playoffs        
Team 1 (ROAD) Team 2 (HOME) Date Time TV Info
Bal/Ind/Cin Denver 1/12/2013 4:30 p.m. ET CBS
GB/Wash/Sea San Francisco 1/12/2013 8 p.m. ET FOX
Wash/Sea/Minn Atlanta 1/13/2013 1 p.m. ET FOX
Hou/Bal/Ind New England 1/13/2013 4:30 p.m. ET CBS
Conference Championships        
Team 1 (ROAD) Team 2 (HOME) Date Time TV Info
NFC NFC 1/20/2013 TBD TBD
AFC AFC 1/20/2013 TBD TBD
Super Bowl XLVII        
Team 1 Team 2 Date Time TV Info
AFC Winner NFC Winner 2/3/2013 TBD CBS


    Breaking: NFL to Reportedly Ban Jameis 3 Games

    NFL logo

    Breaking: NFL to Reportedly Ban Jameis 3 Games

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report

    Baker Wasn't Taking Any S--t from Cowherd

    NFL logo

    Baker Wasn't Taking Any S--t from Cowherd

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Ranking Expectations for Rookie QBs

    NFL logo

    Ranking Expectations for Rookie QBs

    Brent Sobleski
    via Bleacher Report

    NFL Players Respond to Trump's Pardon Request

    NFL logo

    NFL Players Respond to Trump's Pardon Request

    Mike Chiari
    via Bleacher Report