On Saturday and Sunday, four games will determine the NFL’s final four. And while most eyes will be on the quarterbacks and other big-names like Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins, and DK Metcalf, the reality is that playoff heroes rise out of nowhere every January.
Here’s one player from every remaining roster who could make an unexpectedly large impact in the divisional playoffs…
Minnesota Vikings DT Linval Joseph: The 49ers’ interior offensive line is somewhat vulnerable. Joseph doesn’t get attention like Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, but he has the experience and ability to exploit that softness inside.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert: The 27-year-old has emerged as the 49ers’ top back in recent weeks, and he averaged 6.1 yards per carry in the last six weeks of the regular season. The Minnesota run defense struggled late in the season, giving up big December performances to Aaron Jones, Chris Carson, and David Montgomery. Mostert could go off.
Baltimore Ravens TE Hayden Hurst: The Titans have been lambasted by opposing tight ends this season- six have gone over 70 yards against them. And while they might go out of their way to stop Pro Bowler Mark Andrews, Baltimore has another talented tight end as an ace in the hole. Hurst caught 77 percent of the passes thrown his way this season, and he could have a big game in him here.
Tennessee Titans DT Jeffery Simmons: Nobody’s really talking about the rookie, but he’s been sensational in spurts since making his debut in October. He’ll have a chance to make a statement against the best rushing offense in the NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs S Daniel Sorensen: The veteran has a knack for making big plays in clutch moments, and he should have an increased role against the Texans now that Juan Thornhill is on injured reserve. Considering that the mistake-prone Deshaun Watson could force some throws if the Texans fall behind, Sorenson could have a chance to shine in the second half.
Houston Texans RB Duke Johnson: The Chiefs allowed a league-high 57.9 passing yards per game to the running back position during the regular season, and Johnson is one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL. This is an easy one.
Seattle Seahawks RB Travis Homer: He struggled in Seattle’s wild-card round victory over the Eagles, but Green Bay’s run defense is significantly softer. Homer is an intriguing, fresh option for a team that loves to establish the run, and he rushed for 62 yards on only 10 carries in the regular-season finale against San Francisco.
Green Bay Packers WR Allen Lazard: The second-year undrafted 24-year-old has flashed at times this season, and with Seattle likely to key on Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers could set him up for success against a weak D. Lazard quietly caught nine passes for 114 yards in the final two weeks of the regular season.