NFL Playoff Predictions: Players Who Will Shine in Their Postseason Debuts

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IJanuary 1, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 01: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a pass against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on January 1, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For some reason, postseason play in the NFL has a remarkably different effect on some players. It turns certain guys (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers) into legends, while it makes a mockery out of others (Tony Romo, Joe Flacco).

Here's a look at three players who will see their first postseason games this year and will shine in the spotlight. 

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Everyone was waiting for Stafford to break out, and it turns out that as long as he can stay healthy he can dominate.

In just his third season, the former Georgia Bulldog has thrown for 4,518 yards and 36 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. And that's not counting his huge day against Green Bay today.

The Lions have to travel to New Orleans for the wild-card round, but there's no question in my mind that game will turn into a shootout. Stafford may not get a win in his first career playoff game, but he'll put up some big numbers.

Arian Foster, Houston Texans

The Texans have stumbled into the playoffs, but that's partly due to quarterback Matt Schaub's absence. 

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 22:  Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans runs with the ball during the NFL against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 22, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Schaub won't be able to save the Texans in the playoffs, so they'll have to continue to rely on Arian Foster and the run game. 

Houston faces a tough Cincinnati defense in the wild-card round, but at least it's at home. Foster is an absolute workhorse, and the Texans will lean on him and his 4.4 yards per carry in this one. The third-year back will lead Houston to a victory in the first round. 

Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers

Willis missed a bunch of games due to a pesky hamstring injury, but he returned today and that's huge for the 49ers. 

If San Francisco is going to have any success in the playoffs, it will be because of its defense, and Patrick Willis is the unquestioned leader of the unit. 

There are a ton of other playmakers on the 49ers, but Willis, who is in his fifth year and has yet to see the playoffs, has always been the menacing figure in the middle. I have a feeling he's going to be itching for postseason play.

He's going to come up big.


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