The Super Bowl is the game’s biggest stage, and it’s where the greatest performers do their best work. But football is the ultimate team game, and the “other guys” are going to have to step up also. Everyone knows that Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson will be major factors in the outcome of the game, but there are other less-heralded players that have big roles to fulfill.
Here’s some love for the guys who aren’t going to be high in the MVP voting but will be critical factors for their teams.
Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Percy Harvin is the biggest name on this list, but he’s also the biggest wild card. He’s only played 20 snaps this year and has the potential to be a deadly weapon for a Seattle offense that is lacking in playmakers on the outside.
He’s been cleared to play in the Super Bowl, but the extent of his snaps remains unclear.
Something else to consider with Harvin is that neither team truly knows how he’ll be used. The Seahawks haven’t gotten the chance to experiment with him on the field, and the Broncos have no tape of Harvin in Seattle—a fact that Champ Bailey is very aware of:
Champ Bailey calls Percy Harvin "a dangerous man" http://t.co/UiV2OczzQw— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 26, 2014
If he’s fully healthy, Harvin gives the Seahawks a lethal returner and a playmaker who can take it to the house any time he touches the ball. He could be one of the biggest factors in a potential Seahawks victory.
Chris Clark, LT, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos will go as Peyton Manning goes, and that means Denver’s chances of winning a ring will be pretty high if the offensive line can keep Manning clean and upright.
The most important position in that endeavor is left tackle, and the Broncos don’t have the luxury of their starter protecting Manning’s blind side.
Instead, that job will fall to backup Chris Clark. He’ll have his work cut out for him against a Seahawks pass rush that was rated the best in the league according to ProFootballFocus (subscription required).
If his regular-season performance is anything to go by, Clark is more than up to the task. He rated as PFF’s 21st-best offensive tackle this year.
Something that bears watching, however, is that he was completely outmatched by Robert Mathis when he played the Indianapolis Colts to the tune of three sacks (one of which resulted in a fumble), one hit and one hurry.
Because of their faith in the secondary, the Seahawks are going to send pressure, and Clark will be tested. Whether or not he stands up to that test will be a critical factor in the result.
Terrance Knighton, DT, Denver Broncos
In case you didn’t notice, the Seahawks like to run the football…a lot. Only the Buffalo Bills racked up more rushing attempts than Seattle, and Marshawn Lynch—not Russell Wilson—is the engine that drives the offense.
The ‘Hawks are going to be in a tough spot if they have problems running the ball, and that’s where big Terrance Knighton comes in.
Knighton has been an unsung hero of the Broncos defense, anchoring the defensive line and stuffing the run. He was dominant against the New England Patriots and was a large part of holding LeGarrette Blount to just six rushing yards.
Knighton has made his respect for Lynch known, and he should be up to the challenge. Another superb outing by the defensive tackle could wreck the Seahawks’ game plan.
These players aren’t going to draw a ton of media coverage, but they will be critical pieces that determine which team is hoisting the Lombardi trophy at the end of the game.