It’s almost time for what some say is the best weekend of the NFL season – Divisional playoff weekend. With four great games on tap, here are some players to watch that maybe you are not familiar with or haven’t been keeping your eye on this season. Trust me, these guys could be playmakers this weekend.
Baltimore at Tennessee:
Ravens: Nose Tackle Haloti Ngata – This 340 pound bad boy can make it a long day for opposing centers and can clog up running lanes with one good move. He’s had another productive season with 55 tackles and one sack, and how about two picks from a nose tackle!? With Kevin Mawae out with an elbow injury, it will be up to second-year pro Leroy Harris to take on Ngata, and this could prove to be a huge advantage for the Ravens in the trenches.
Titans: Tight End Bo Scaife – He is listed as the backup to Alge Crumpler on the depth chart for the Titans, but make no mistake, Scaife is the favorite target for Kerry Collins. He leads the team that doesn’t have a lot of playmakers in the passing game with 58 catches for 561 yards and two touchdowns. The last time the two teams met he had 7 catches for 72 yards. He’s only had 8 catches the final three games of the regular season, but don’t kid yourself, if Collins gets pressured, which he will, Scaife is the guy he’ll look for in those tough spots.
Arizona at Carolina:
Arizona: Weakside linebacker Karols Dansby – This former first round pick of the Cardinals had a team high 119 tackles and four sacks this past season for minus 39 yards. He also had two interceptions and five passes defended, meaning he’s not afriad to drop back in coverage when called upon. With the Panthers using their two-headed monster of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart quite a bit in the running game, Dansby will be called upon to make plays in the running game early and often Saturday night.
Carolina: Cornerback Chris Gamble – The Cards will throw often, and it will be up to Gamble to keep those dangerous wide outs in check. He’ll likely be matched up with Larry Fitzgerald, and with Anquan Boldin being less than 100 percent, if Gamble can step up and play a solid game vs Fitzgerald, it can be a long night for Kurt Warner and the Cards offense. He’s also a solid tackler, as he racked up 93 tackles this year, a career-high to go along with three interceptions. He can change a game with a big play in the secondary.
Philadelphia at New York Giants
Philadelphia: Running back Correll Buckhalter – He’s the RB that no one knows about in Philly as Brian Westbrook gets all the press for his great game changing abilities. Buckhalter though is as good as they come, as he’s run for 369 yards on 76 carries with two TD’s and has 26 catches for 324 yards and two TD’s through the air. He showed what he could do October 12th vs the Niners with 93 yards rushing and 85 yards receiving, and again vs Dallas just two weeks ago he had 63 yards rushing and 59 yards on three catches. If Westbrook is not 100 percent or needs a breather, the Eagles won’t miss a beat with Buckhalter.
New York Giants: Center Shaun O’Hara – The Giants love to run the ball with big Brandon Jacobs right up the middle, and more times than not the truck opening up those holes is O’Hara, who is undervauled for his job on the O-line. The Giants run the ball for an average of 157.4 yards per game, and that O-line is going to want to quiet those that think that the Eagles will stop the Giants run game and get to Eli Manning. O’Hara will do his part as a difference maker to make sure that doesn’t happen.
San Diego at Pittsburgh
San Diego: Wide Receiver Chris Chambers – With Vincent Jackson making headlines for all the wrong reasons this week, it may be the time for the Chargers to turn to Chambers, who had four catches for 57 yards vs the Colts last Saturday. Chambers isn’t a game-breaker, as he hasn’t had a catch for over 25 yards since week four, but he is a guy that Philip Rivers can turn to when he gets in trouble, and he runs good routes and can get open in tight spaces. With the weather possibly being a factor in the Steel City Sunday, it will be important for Chambers and the Chargers to make sure handed catches.
Pittsburgh: Safety Ryan Clark – He’s been hampered by a shoulder injury, but he should be ready to go, and when he plays, Clark is a player that can make plays and gives big hits in the Steelers secondary. He’s 4th on the team with 88 tackles, and is not afraid to get his nose dirty getting in there on running plays as well. He’ll be a key player in stopping the Chargers screen plays and outside runs with Tomlinson (if he plays) and Sproles. Having Clark back is a key for this already great defense.