NFL Playoff Bracket 2013: Star Players Set to Underwhelm in Divisional Round

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 06:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs the ball against Jerrell Freeman #50 of the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 6, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

With the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs now set, it's important to determine which players will make the difference between going home and staying alive.

The deeper a team gets into the postseason, the more important it is for that team's best players to step up and perform.

If Tom Brady or Peyton Manning struggles, then the New England Patriots or Denver Broncos will be looking at a major upset.

It's doubtful that the two will have a difficult time, with the Patriots meeting the Texans and the Broncos playing the Ravens.

Other teams aren't able to count on their best players in the same way.

Here are three players who will disappoint in the Divisional Round



Arian Foster, Houston Texans

For the second year in a row, Arian Foster rampaged over the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Round.

Last year, he ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries against Cincinnati. Foster was a workhorse again, running for 140 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries.

It's even more impressive when you consider the Bengals had the 12th best run defense in 2012 and the 10th best in 2011.

Foster's going to have to run through a gauntlet again, this time via a tough Patriots defense. The Pats might be porous through the air, but on the ground, they're tough.

New England only gave up an average of 101.9 yards a game, good for ninth in the league.

In addition, when the Texans met the Patriots in Week 14, New England won 42-14 and Foster only managed 46 yards on 15 carries.



Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

Ray Rice didn't have a Wild Card Round to remember. He ran for 70 yards, but Rice was overshadowed by Bernard Pierce, who ran for 103 yards.

On the whole, it's been a bit of a down year for Rice. He ran for and caught the fewest amount of yards since his rookie season.

Joe Flacco has always had a bit of a rough time in the postseason during his five-year career, so the Ravens are going to rely heavily on the run game.

That's a bit worrying, considering how strong Denver has been against the run. The Broncos are only giving up 91.1 yards a game, third in the NFL.

As the main focus of the offense, Rice will find yards hard to come by. Plus, if the Broncos get a big lead, John Harbaugh might have to resort to passing the ball more to get back in the game.



Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have perhaps the toughest matchup of the teams that received a bye in the Wild Card Round. Their reward for a 13-3 regular season is the white-hot Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle came into the playoffs on a great run, and they continued their blistering pace with a win, albeit a close one, over the Washington Redskins.

The Seahawks are a very daunting foe for the Falcons. Atlanta has struggled on the ground this season, so they'll have to get a big game for Matt Ryan.

That could be a tough proposition since the Seahawks have the sixth-best pass defense in the league. In addition, Ryan's biggest target, Roddy White, will have likely have Richard Sherman lined up against him.

Sherman intercepted eight passes, tied for second during the regular season, and led the league in passes defended, with 24.