NFL Playoffs 2013: X-Factors Key to Divisional Round Upsets

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 30:  Bernard Pierce #30 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled by Wallace Gilberry #95 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Unheralded players can win their team a Super Bowl.

Dexter Jackson wouldn't have come to mind going into Super XXXVII when thinking of the stars on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.

However, his two interceptions helped secure the victory over the Oakland Raiders and earned Jackson MVP honors.

There are plenty of other stories littered throughout the playoffs of unheralded players helping spark their team to postseason glory. This year will be no different.

Here are four players who could provide enough production for their team to pull off an upset in the Divisional Round.

Owen Daniels, Houston Texans

It's no secret that Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson are going to be key for the Houston Texans offense. The problem for Houston is that the New England Patriots will be keying in on those three players.

The Texans need some help offensively because the Patriots could turn this into a track meet, as evidenced by New England's 42-14 win in Week 14.

Getting Owen Daniels involved in the offense would alleviate much of the pressure on Schaub and Johnson in the passing game.

The tight end was the second leading receiver during the regular season. He was key in the Texans' 19-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Round. Daniels caught nine passes for 91 yards.

If he can do that against New England, Houston will be able to attack the Patriots defense much more efficiently.

Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens

Much like Daniels, Bernard Pierce had a huge playoff game. In the Wild Card Round against the Indianapolis Colts, Pierce carried the ball 13 times for 103 yards.

The Denver Broncos have one of the best defenses in the league. That's why it's imperative that the Baltimore Ravens get all the offensive help they can.

Joe Flacco has never set the postseason on fire, so if Baltimore wins the game, it will likely be on the ground.

Pierce and Ray Rice need to step up in a big way. Rice alone might not be enough to wear down the Denver defense, so if Pierce gets going, the Ravens will be able to move the chains much easier.

Erik Walden, Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers beating the San Francisco 49ers might be considered an upset, but it isn't a huge one. Green Bay might be a little down from their talent level of the past few years, but many are banking on Aaron Rodgers.

Sure the Packers need Rodgers to perform. They also need to find a way to stop Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore.

Clay Matthews will be coming off the edge, demanding the most attention. On the other side is Erik Walden.

Getting pressure on Kaepernick and keeping him in the pocket will be key. Walden doesn't need to record a ton of sacks, but if he can throw off Kaepernick for a split-second, he will have done his job.

Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks

Bruce Irvin was one of the most criticized selections in last year's NFL draft. He might not have started a game, but Irvin made his presence felt during his rookie season.

He recorded 17 tackles and amazingly eight sacks, at least amazingly when you consider his low tackle total.

The Seattle Seahawks' goal will be much the same as Green Bay's: get pressure on the quarterback.

The running game of the Atlanta Falcons has struggled to find consistency. If the Falcons are going to advance, Matt Ryan will need to have a huge game.

It's up to Irvin and the rest of the Seahawks pass rush to force Ryan into mistakes.