NFL players to watch: Divisional Round

NFL players to watch: Divisional Round

The Browns totally have a chance.
The Browns totally have a chance.
Image: Getty Images

The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs starts tomorrow, and man are there some amazing matchups all weekend long. I love this slate. In each game, there are game-breaking players capable of monster performances. The playoffs are where great players become legends, and I’m hoping for some truly legendary outing from this bunch. Let’s look at the key player for every remaining team.

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2 / 10

Cam Akers, Rams, Running Back

Cam Akers, Rams, Running Back

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Rookie running back Cam Akers has been a sensation when given a workload, and when the team needed him most, they leaned on him with 28 carries against the Seahawks in the Wild Card Round. He responded with 131 rushing yards and a touchdown. Going against the Green Bay Packers this weekend, I expect the Rams to try to play the same style – pound the rock, control the clock, and keep MVP frontrunner Aaron Rodgers on the sideline as much as possible.

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3 / 10

DaVante Adams, Packers, Wide receiver

DaVante Adams, Packers, Wide receiver

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One of the marquise battles of the weekend is going to be between two players that are arguably the best in the NFL at their positions - DaVante Adams and Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey has had a true resurgence to elite levels of play, and is a key reason why the Rams defense is playing lights out right now. The Packers offense doesn’t have much else in the passing game aside from Adams. He is going to have to overcome this heavyweight battle for their offense to have a chance in this game.

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4 / 10

Jimmy Smith, Ravens, Cornerback

Jimmy Smith, Ravens, Cornerback

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We know the Ravens are going to run the ball. We know Lamar Jackson is going to be a huge factor. We know J.K. Dobbins will be featured heavily. But, in order to combat what the Bills want to do on offense, Jimmy Smith will have the tall task of lining up opposite of John Brown. Brown has been a consistent, top-tier wide receiver capable of big plays at a moment’s notice. Smith will need to keep him in check to get the Bills offense off the field.

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5 / 10

Jordan Poyer, Bills, Safety

Jordan Poyer, Bills, Safety

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Poyer is the leading tackler for the Bills, and he will have his hands full with the constant onslaught that the Ravens offense will be bringing at him. Tackling Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards in the open field is going to be crucial to limiting their explosive play ability. Poyer will be asked to step down into the box to attempt to slow down an offense that seemingly can drop 200 rushing yards on anyone at will. It’s a tough ask.

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6 / 10

Everyone, Browns

Everyone, Browns

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Honestly, for the Browns to have a chance against the AFC #1 Seed, they need to have a perfect game. Their offensive line needs to open running lanes for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Their defensive front needs to get home and put pressure on Patrick Mahomes. Jarvis Landry needs probably 8+ catches, 100+ yards and a score or two. Baker Mayfield needs to be completely clean and have no turnovers. Their secondary needs to be opportunistic and turn Mahomes over probably multiple times. They need to be perfect. Other than that, they totally have a chance.

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7 / 10

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs, Quarterback

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs, Quarterback

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This might feel like a cop-out, but it’s really as simple as this. If Mahomes does Mahomes things, they’ll win. Earlier this year, we saw Mahomes force it a couple times in a game they lost against the Raiders. If he doesn’t do that, and he hits on the big plays that we’re accustomed to seeing from him, Kelce, and Hill, then they’ll be fine.

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8 / 10

Mike Evans, Bucs, Wide receiver

Mike Evans, Bucs, Wide receiver

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In his career, Mike Evans has been a consistent, top-tier wide receiver. He’s posted seven straight 1,000+ yard seasons since entering the league, but Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore has his number.

Lattimore also lives rent free in Evans’ head, as we’ve seen the two get into multiple fights on the field. Evans will need to control his emotions while also battling back to full strength, as Tom Brady is going to need all the help he can get against an aggressive defensive front.

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9 / 10

Trey Hendrickson, Saints, Defensive end

Trey Hendrickson, Saints, Defensive end

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While opposite end Cameron Jordan is normally absorbing double teams, Hendrickson led the Saints in sacks this year with 13.5, including 3 sacks against Tampa Bay. He’s had their number. One of the most surefire ways to rattle Tom Brady to get pressure on him. If the Saints can turn up the heat on Brady, they have a good chance at forcing turnovers and getting their offense back onto the field. Hendrickson isn’t a household name, but he could be one of the biggest deciding factors in this game.

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10 / 10