Super Bowl Predictions: Michael Vick and 12 Players Key to Super Bowl Berths
With one more week left of NFL action, most of the playoff teams have been made clear. With that in mind, it's time for the wild Super Bowl speculation to start.
A lot of teams will be pushing to make the Big Show, but only two teams can, and most of the teams scrambling for the berth will be counting on all-star performances by some key players.
So, rather than predicting who is going to the Super Bowl or who is going to win it, let's take a look at 12 players whose performances will be key as their teams attempt to secure the Super Bowl berth.
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While Peyton Manning seems to have fixed his midseason problems, there is always a chance that that side of Peyton resurfaces during the playoffs.
The Colts are going to need another Hall of Fame performance out of Peyton Manning during this playoff if they want to make the push. Their defense can pick up some of the slack, but they cannot cover another three-plus interception performance, especially if one or more of them turn out to be returned for touchdowns.
We all know that the Patriots offense will be able to get it done. As long as Tom Brady is behind the wheel, they will score points. The questions all lie on New England's defense.
The defensive line has been playing well. With Vince Wilfork anchoring the middle, locking down the line of scrimmage won't be too difficult. With Jerod Mayo and breakout rookies Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes at linebacker, the middle of the field should be passable.
Then comes the secondary.
While both cornerback spots are questionable, it seems more likely that teams will try to attack the rookie, despite the fact that he has had quite a good season for himself.
If McCourty can hold his own, the Patriots defense as a whole should be able to hold its own.
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The Kansas City Chiefs managed to find good offensive balance down the stretch, and that is going to have to continue if they are to find success in the postseason.
The key to success in playoff games is a solid running game, but if Matt Cassel cannot keep defenders out of the box with his arm, Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones are going to have a hard going against six and eight men fronts in the box.
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The performance of Joe Flacco is going to be just as important for the Ravens in the postseason, but the push really starts with Ray Rice.
If the Ravens can establish a solid running game, that takes the pressure off of Joe Flacco, which should allow him to get comfortable and get into a rhythm.
The Ravens have struggled with offensive consistency all season, so it will be important to start establishing some rhythm right out of the gate.
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There was a time this season when Mark Sanchez was referred to as Mr. Clutch.
That seems like a thing of the past.
Mark Sanchez has been holding the Jets back over the past few weeks, and his play could easily determine how far New York goes in the playoffs.
Rex Ryan has done a fair job of cooling down and coaching up his star quarterback, and he is going to have to do it again, because the Jets running game just isn't going to cut it for them.
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Simply put, the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to need the Polamolecules.
Pittsburgh isn't the same on defense without their star safety.
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While it may seem like the Atlanta Falcons could use some offensive consistency, the biggest performance is going to have to come from their secondary, and that starts with Brent Grimes (or Thomas DeCoud).
The Falcons will be facing a lot of pass-oriented teams. They're going to need stellar performances in the backfield, and they could use the turnovers that Grimes has been able to generate.
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There was a time where a lot of people in Chicago were ready to give up on Matt Forte as a sort of one-hit wonder.
So much for that.
Matt Forte still has his bouts with inconsistency though, and that could spell danger for the Bears. Mike Martz has done a great job of working around the issues with the Bears offensively, but the consistency that they will need has to start with 100+ yard performances from Matt Forte.
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The Green Bay Packers have a couple of areas that could use improvement, but the big thing for them in the playoffs is going to be the performance of the one man sack machine that is Clay Matthews.
Defense wins championships, and the performance of Green Bay on defense will depend on the kind of disruption that Clay Matthews can cause.
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Michael Vick is the key to the Philadelphia Eagles. Teams have begun to figure out how to beat him, but he has still managed to find ways to work around different game plans, something he's going to have to continue in the postseason, because the Eagles are fixing to face some stout defenses.
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I can't harp on this enough: The key to winning in the playoffs is a good running game.
The Saints have struggled to find a consistently good running game this season, between the injuries to Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.
With both Thomas and Bush back in the lineup, the Saints are going to have to find ways to utilize both of them well, because Drew Brees isn't going to be able to carry them all the way through to the Super Bowl.
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I saved this one for last, because no one honestly knows how the NFC West is going to turn out. Let's assume, though, that the Rams beat the Seahawks this coming weekend and move on to the postseason as the NFC West representative.
The key will be the play of rookie Sam Bradford. Steven Jackson can be counted on to carry a good amount of the load, and the Rams are capable of coming up on defense when they need to, so it all rests on Sam Bradford. If he can keep the mistakes down, the Rams, surprisingly, could go places this year.