Super Bowl XLVIII: 5 Under-the-Radar Players Who Will Determine Outcome

Brandon AlisogluCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII: 5 Under-the-Radar Players Who Will Determine Outcome

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    If you've been following the mainstream media during Super Bowl XLVIII hype week, you may be shocked to learn there are 22 players on the field on any given play. 

    I understand. Everyone else is discussing the well-known stars and their impact on the game. It's not your fault.

    But what about the other guys? 

    Did anyone break down Tracy Porter before in Super Bowl XLIV? What about Desmond Howard in 1997? Those guys had a huge hand in their teams' championship victories. 

    Don't go chasing waterfalls. Let's give these gentlemen their due. 

     

    All stats, grades and rankings are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and require a subscription. 

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Kicker Matt Prater

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    Anytime you can lead off with a kicker, you do it. No questions asked. And it doesn't hurt when there are three particularly pertinent points backing up that assertion. 

    First, the spread is currently sitting at three points. You don't need me to explain the significance there.

    I hope. You do? Really? Fine.

    Field goals are worth three points. The oddsmakers are ridiculously good at their jobs, so three points will probably be very important in this game.

    I'm disappointed in you. Let's move on.

    Second, Prater has put together one of the most accurate seasons in NFL history. He missed joining the current group of four that have posted 100 percent field-goal conversion rates because of a solitary 52-yard miss. But when weighed against his record-setting 64-yarder, Prater's season still garners some consideration as the best ever. 

    Lastly, Super Bowl XLVIII is outdoors in the New Jersey winter. Take a peek at what that currently entails. 

    No pressure, Prater.

Wide Receiver Doug Baldwin

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Let's get this out of the way: I didn't trust Doug Baldwin to come up with a game-breaking play last week. I was wrong. 

    Baldwin's skills can sneak up on you. He had six games with one or fewer catches, but he averaged 15.6 yards per catch on the season. 

    He doesn't always have the quantity. He just makes sure they count.

    Like his big third-down catch against the New Orleans Saints or his 51-yard catch on the San Francisco 49ers. And he even matched that long catch with six balls for 106 yards, leaving his fingerprints all over the Seattle Seahawks' victory in the NFC Championship game. 

    Yet, he's still barely getting mentioned because everyone is more concerned with Percy Harvin's potential impact if healthy. That's the definition of "under the radar."

Nose Tackle Terrance Knighton

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Terrance Knighton is a big man. He would be difficult not to notice in any other setting.

    On the football field, however, he can be virtually invisible to the untrained eye.

    Knighton is a huge part of Denver's defensive success. While the unit isn't always a force, when it's humming, you can bet that the nose tackle is handing his business.

    His active big body allows the linebackers to flow freely to the running backs, and he can collapse an occasional pocket or two (34 quarterback hurries, hits and sacks this year). So if the Seahawks, who heavily rely on Marshawn Lynch and the running game, are going to move the ball, it'll be because they somehow neutralized the Knighton effect.

Defensive Tackle Brandon Mebane

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    At this point, you could point to any Seahawks defender not named Richard Sherman and he would be flying under the radar.

    Yet even a casual Seattle observer would know the names Bobby Wagner, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. They play the glory positions. Well, at least more glamorous than defensive tackle. 

    Brandon Mebane, much like Knighton, doesn't rack up the attention-grabbing numbers or top 10 highlight plays. He did rank as the third-best interior defender in the league, though. 

    Why? Because he does his job, which is to anchor the top defense in football. The Seahawks gave up 442 less yards this season than any other team. That's the equivalent of at least one entire game of offense in most circumstances.

    To put it simply, Seattle isn't in the allowing-yards business. They're in the turnover-making business. And cousin, business is a booming. And it all starts with Brandon Mebane up front. 

Offensive Guard Louis Vasquez

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Louis Vasquez is another dominant player who doesn't receive the public adulation he deserves. 

    Part of the reason for the dimmed spotlight is due to all the megawatts focused on his superstar teammates. The rest is due to making his living as an interior linemen.

    Offensive guards are the mechanics of the flight business. The pilots get the glory; the guards keep the planes from stalling and crashing.

    Despite Vasquez's lack of notoriety with the casual fantasy football participant, here's betting Peyton Manning is a huge fan. Not only has he not allowed a sack all season, he only let his man lay a hand on Manning twice.

    That's in 18 games. It's incredible.

    As Richard Sherman admitted, his job is made easier by his defensive line. For the Broncos to succeed in the Super Bowl, Vasquez and his line need to add as much stress to Sherman's duties by keeping the heat off of Manning.

    And that'll go a long way toward determining who will win this game.