NFL Playoff Predictions: Top 25 Playmakers To Watch, Part 2
Due to popular demand here on Bleacher Report and with the playoffs fast approaching, this slide-show is a follow-up to my previous slide-show, NFL Playoff Predictions: The Top 25 Playmakers to Watch.
This slide-show will feature the other top 25 play-makers that were not only left off of the previous list but also for up-and-coming players who have shown that they can change or alter a game.
And much like the first list, this slide-show will feature players whom I feel can change or impact a NFL playoff game with a big hit, clutch catch, break-away run of timely interception.
The 25 players are just as deserving as the previous 25 in my other list, but did not quite make the cut, and this is no slight on them whatsoever as they are play-makers in their own right.
Without further adieu, here are the Top 25 Playmakers to Watch in the NFL Playoffs - Part 2.
#1 Baltimore Ravens FS, Ed Reed
Simply one of the best safeties in the game, much like his AFC North counterpart, Pittsburgh Steelers SS, Troy Polamalu, Baltimore Ravens FS, Ed Reed can possibly lay claim to being the best free safety of this current generation.
Although he has played only six games this year, Ed Reed has already snagged four interceptions and much like fellow Raven, Ray Lewis, Reed has a knack for making a big play in critical moments.
And while he was left off of the initial list, this is merely due to the fact that he has only played in six games this season since coming back from injury.
Regardless, Reed is truly one of the best play-makers at safety the NFL has ever seen and will once again be a force for the Ravens as they hope to go deep into the AFC playoffs.
#2 Philadelphia Eagles CB, Asante Samuel
A former two-time Super-Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback, Asante Samuel, has shown that he has a nose for the ball.
Samuel, currently leads the NFL with seven interceptions to go along with his 22 total tackles. Samuel brings his experience of winning and his instinctive ball-hawking skills to a ever aggressive Eagles secondary.
Look for Samuel to play a big part in the Eagles push into the NFC Playoffs.
#3 Atlanta Falcons RB, Michael Turner
The fifth-leading rusher in the NFL at 1,062 yards, Atlanta Falcons running back, Michael Turner, helps provide the NFL-leading Atlanta Falcons a complete and deadly running game.
Currently with eight touchdowns and averaging 4.3 yards per rush, Turner gives the falcons offense a perfect weapon to go along with their steady running attack.
Look for Turner to take some pressure off of Ryan and help the falcons make a real serious push to go to the franchise's second-ever Super Bowl.
#4 Kansas City Chiefs OLB, Tamba Hali
Not mentioned as much as fellow contemporaries such as Pittsburgh Steelers LB's Lawrence Timmons or even Baltimore Ravens LB, Ray Lewis, Kansas City Chiefs LB, Tamba Hali, is a real defensive force to be reckoned with.
The third-year player from Penn State leads the AFC West best Kansas City Chiefs with 10 sacks and has proven to be a devastating and disruptive force for opposing offensive lines.
Look for Hali to continue his disruptive style of play for the Chiefs in the playoffs.
#5 New Orleans Saints WR, Marques Colston
Solid, dependable and always called upon by fellow Saints QB, Drew Brees. Saints wideout, Marques Colston is Drew Bree's go-to guy.
The former Hofstra standout currently leads the New Orleans Saints in receiving with 875 yards and is second on the team behind Saints wide receiver, Lance Moore, in touchdowns with six.
If there is a big play to be made by Brees in the NFC playoffs, don't be surprised if Colston is on the receiving end of it.
#6 New York Giants WR, Hakeem Nicks
The second-year wide-out from North Carolina has really emerged as New York Giants QB, Eli Manning. Nicks has really exploded and become the Giants top playmaker on offense.
With the possible exception of fellow Giant running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, Nicks is probably the most dynamic and explosive play-maker for Big Blue.
Nicks currently leads the Giants in receiving at 800 yards and has nine touchdowns.
Look for Eli Manning to target Nicks downfield in the passing game as the Giants hope to make a run deep in the NFC Playoffs.
#7 Baltimore Ravens WR, Anquan Boldin
The former Arizona Cardinal who was acquired in a blockbuster trade during the off-season, Baltimore Ravens wideout, Anquan Boldin, has emerged as a key focal point for the Raven's passing attack.
Boldin is Baltimore's tough possession receiver and home-run threat as he leads all Raven receivers with 770 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.
Boldin looks like a real steal for the Ravens as they have added a true play-maker to go along with fellow running back, Ray Rice and veteran wide out Derrick Mason.
Look for the Raven's to be a real threat to go deep in the AFC playoffs.
#8 Chicago Bears WR/KR, Devin Hester
A true threat to break a game open every time he touches the ball, Chicago Bears wide receiver/kick returner, Devin Hester is a truly on of the most exciting and dangerous players every time he touches the ball.
The fifth year player from Miami, Devin Hester has earned a reputation around the NFL as one who can change the tone the momentum of a game as evidenced by his opening kickoff return in Super Bowl XLI against the Indianapolis Colts.
Currently playing wide receiver, Hester has 371 yards receiving and two touchdowns, Hester has also scored two touchdowns on punt returns.
Hester is truly a play-maker and a dynamic player who makes Chicago a very dangerous opponent to face in the NFC playoffs.
#9 Philadelphia Eagles WR, Jeremy Maclin
Not as flashy and flamboyant as fellow teammate, Desean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles wide out, Jeremy Maclin is just as dangerous on the football field.
The former Mizzou Tiger had become know not only for his speed but for is ability to make clutch catches and gains yards after the catch.
Maclin currently leads the eagles in receiving with 820 yards receiving and also in touchdowns with eight.
Look for the Maclin-Jackson duo to be deadly for the Eagles in the NFC playoffs.
#10 Baltimore Ravens DE/LB, Terell Suggs
A truly devastating force on the formidable Baltimore defensive front, Raven's OLB, Terrell Suggs, has been on a real tear as of late.
After missing four games this year, Suggs has really come on as he has registered nine sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble, Suggs also has tallied 55 total tackles.
Alongside fellow Raven's linebacker, Ray Lewis, Suggs is not just a force but a vocal leader for the hard-charging and proud defensive unit.
Look for Suggs to come up big when the raven's need a big play in the AFC Playoffs.
#11 New York Giants RB, Ahmad Bradshaw
A true threat running the ball and receiving, Giants running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, is truly having a breakout year.
Since becoming the featured tailback in New York, Bradshaw has gained a combined 1,252 yards from scrimmage, 1,013 yards rushing and 239 yards receiving for seven touchdowns and a 4.6 yards per rush.
He is one of the big-time play-makers along with fellow breakout teammate, Giants wideout,Hakeem Nicks, that can carry the Giants deep into the NFC Playoffs.
#12 New York Jets RB, LaDainlian Tomlinson
One of the true legends playing the game today, New York Jets running back, LaDainian Tomlinson has seemingly revived his career in the bright lights of Gotham.
The All-Pro running back gives the jets a solid running back and receiver as he has accumulated a combined 1,130 yards from scrimmage, 788 yards rushing and 343 yards receiving for five touchdowns.
Tomlinson could be called on in the Jet's playoff push to make a big play and we all know that he is more than capable.
#13 Atlanta Falcons DE, John Abraham
One of the unsung heroes for the NFL-leading Atlanta Falcons, defensive end, John Abraham, has been a stout defensive presence for the Falcons this year.
Abraham, the former first round pick acquired in a trade in 2006 from the New York Jets, Abraham has really paid dividends this year as he is among the league leaders in sacks this year with nine.
For all the ink that the high-flying offense gets, it is the defense led by Abraham that makes key plays in the clutch.
#14 Green Bay Packers WR, Donald Driver
One of the most reliable and simply explosive wide receivers for his age, Green Bay Packers wide out, Donald Driver, is a testament of skill and experience over youth.
At the age of 35, Driver has shown that he still has it as evidenced by his remarkable 61-touchdown reception against the San Francisco 49ers.
Currently, Driver has 38 receptions for 437 yards and four touchdowns.
Look for Rodgers to find him for some big gains and big plays in the Pack's push for the NFC Wildcard.
#15 St Louis Rams MLB, James Laurinaitis
The former Ohio State Buckeyes standout, James Laurinatis has truly emerged as a human tackling machine for the 6-6 NFC West leading St Louis rams.
Laurinitis currently leads the Rams in total tackles with 79 tackles, and is second on the team with three sacks and has one interception.
While not the sack master that fellow defensive teammate, Chris Long is Laurinatis has shown a real nose for the ball has he is always around it as he has also recorded 12 assists.
Look for both Long and Laurinaitis to lead the Rams defense into the playoffs and for years to come.
#16 Atlanta Falcons KR/PR, Eric Weems
Not as known as Chicago bears kick returner, Devin Hester nor Cleveland Browns return specialist, Atlanta falcons kick returner, Eric Weems is making a name for himself this year.
Weems has given the Atlanta Falcons offense very good field position thanks to his 1,137 combined return yards on special teams, highlighted by a 102-yard kick return.
Weems has the ability to "flip the field" for the Falcons on his returns and along with his abilities as a receiver, Weems is a play-maker to keep a eye on in the post-season.
#17 New England Patriots ILB, Jerod Mayo
The NFL-leading leader in tackles at 144, Patriots ILB, Jerod Mayo, has shown that he is the new leader of a young and up-and-coming New England defense.
Mayo not only has a nose for the ball by tackling but also in picking off opposing QB's as he currently has three and has also recorded one sack for the season.
Look for Mayo to lead the Pat's defense deep in the position and to always be around the ball.
#18 Baltimore Ravens RB, Ray Rice
While not as prolific as his sophomore breakout season, Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice, is still a key cog in the ever-evolving Raven's offense.
Rice currently leads the ravens in rushing with 844 yards and has also a deadly receiver out of the backfield as he has 410 yards receiving for a total of 1,254 total yards from scrimmage.
Rice is Flacco's check-down safety blanket and is used a lot on screens, watch for Rice to rise up and have a explosive showing in the playoffs for the Ravens.
#19 Pittsburgh Steelers ILB, Lawrence Timmons
Quiet, unassuming and virtually silent, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, Lawrence Timmons has been anything but that this year against opposing defenses.
While not as controversial as James Harrison, nor as spectacular as troy Polamalu, Timmons has quietly led the Steelers in total tackles this year with 103, 74 of those solo, Timmons has also recorded three sacks and had one interception this year.
Timmons has been the silent assassin on the devastating Pittsburgh defense, and look for him to quietly continue to be very efficient and make some big plays for the Black and Gold in the AFC Playoffs.
#20 New York Giants DE, Osi Umenyiora
Always one of the league leaders in sacks, New York Giants defensive end, Osi Umenyiora, is once again terrorizing and wrecking havoc on opposing QBS,
the English-born Osi Umenyiora has currently recorded nine sacks and forced eight fumbles this year for the G-men.
Look for the Giants always aggressive sack-happy defense to once again be led by Umenyiora to go deep in the playoffs.
#21 Atlanta Falcons TE, Tony Gonzalez
One of the all-time great tight ends to play in the NFL, Atlanta falcons tight end, Tony Gonzalez has emerged as a true play-making threat in the Falcons passing game.
Gonzalez is currently second on the team behind Falcons wide receiver, Roddy White, in receiving with 537 yards receiving and four touchdowns.
Look for Atlanta to target Gonzalez in key third-down conversions and attack the middle of the field while in the NFC Playoffs.
#22 Baltimore Ravens WR, Derrick Mason
Much like the above-mentioned Donald Driver from the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens wideout, Derrick Mason, is showing that age is just a number.
The veteran Mason has emerged as Raven's QB, Joe Flacco's go-to man in third downs and even the occasional deep ball and despite being 35, Mason is a force to be reckoned with thanks to his speed and good hands.
Mason is currently second on the team behind fellow wide receiver, Anquan Boldin with 598 yards receiving and four touchdowns.
Look for the Flacco-Mason combo to be in full effect for the Ravens this coming post-season.
#23 Philadelphia Eagles RB, LeSean McCoy
The former Pitt running back, LeSean "Shady" McCoy, he has been a beacon of light for the eagles and their running game after the loss popular veteran, Brian Westbrook who is now in San Francisco.
McCoy has gradually emerged as one of the best up-and-coming dual threat play-making tailbacks in the league.
Currently, McCoy has rushed for 823 yards on the ground for seven touchdowns and also has 534 yards receiving for two touchdowns.
A true dual-threat in the same backfield as MVP candidate, Michael Vick, will certainly make opposing NFC rivals sweat in their cleats.
#24 St Louis Rams DE, Chris Long
One of the up-and-coming pass rushers in the NFL, former 2008 #2 overall pick, Chris Long, is beginning to finally live up to his potential in the City of Arches.
Along with fellow St Louis Ram defensive stalwart, James Laurinatis, who was mentioned above, Chris Long is leading the way for a Rams defense that is not as well-known but has been making plays and getting to the QB in the Ram's upstart rise to the top of the NFC West at 6-6.
Long currently has record 6.5 sacks forced two fumbles so far this year for the young Rams defense.
Look for the Rams to be led by both Chris Long and James Laurinatis for a long, long time.
#25 New England Patriots TE, Aaron Hernandez
Although he is just a rookie, New England patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez is beginning to emerges on one of the big play-makers in the patriots pass-happy offense.
Hernandez seems like a perfect fit for the two-tight end spread offense that the Pat's are running and have used his athleticism and speed to stretch the field vertically.
Currently, Hernandez is second on the Pats behind Wes Welker in receiving with 513 yards and four touchdowns.
Look for Brady to utilize Hernandez often in the AFC Playoffs and for the young rookie to truly emerge as one of the next true play-makers in the NFL.
Conclusion : The Playoffs Will Be Defined By These Top 50 Playmakers
To conclude this Top 50 NFL Playmakers column, this has been a very fulfilling and through examination of projected play-makers based on what they have done this year as well as in the past and while not all of these players made the initial list, these 25 play-makers are certainly in a league of their own.
Playmakers can and will define how the NFL Playoffs unfold before our eyes and they will decide who will be playing in Arlington in February, so sit back and enjoy!
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