With the NFL’s showpiece event only a day away, all eyes are, naturally, on Peyton Manning, Marshawn Lynch and co. but it’s time to take a look at the players who, for whatever reason, aren’t in the spotlight.
Overlooked and under-appreciated, these players are equally as crucial and I’ve picked out a handful below that, I feel, will need to be at their best on Sunday if they’re to emerge from the frozen MetLife Stadium with the Lombardi trophy.
Beginning with Broncos, we’ll start with Terrance ‘Pot Roast’ Knighton – a behemoth defensive tackle who led the way in the Championship winning game against New England a few weeks back.
Terrance Knighton, DT – A third round pick in the 2009 draft Knighton, nicknamed “mutton chops” or “Pot Roast” by team mates and the media, weighs in at 152kg and as we saw against the Patriots, knows how to use every last pound to disrupt offensive lines. A former receiver during his high school days, Knighton is remarkably athletic for someone of his size – something he will need to rely again on Sunday if he is to chase down Russell Wilson.
Quentin Jammer, CB – Taken by the San Diego Chargers with their first pick on the 2002 draft, Jammer has enjoyed a productive first season with the Broncos. A physical corner (he led the NFL in pass interference calls with eight in 2004), Jammer can be exposed in pass coverage and, with Percy Harvin cleared to play again, could be in for a long day if the Seahawks can isolate him in match-ups with quick receivers.
Nate Irving, OLB – Taken with the 67 pick of the 2011 draft, the Broncos’ outside linebacker should expect to be targeted early and often by a Seattle team that will see him as a weak-link. Filling in for star linebacker, Von Miller, Irving has been in and out of the Broncos defensive line-up all season and will need to be at his best if Denver’s defence is going to stop the relentless Seahawk ground game.
Tony Carter, CB – An undrafted free agent out of Florida State, Carter began his professional career with the Broncos before a 2010 release saw him head to New England where he featured sparingly before being released again. Re-signing with the Broncos again in 2011 Carter has barely featured but has seen his playing time increase in the playoffs. Look for Seattle to match him up against Doug Baldwin or Golden Tate, two of Russell Wilson’s most trusted targets.
Trindon Holliday, PR/KR – One of, if not, the smallest players in the NFL, Holliday is an electric yet slightly error-prone return man. Drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 draft by the Houston Texans, Holliday was claimed off waivers by the Broncos in 2012 and has since gone on to become the only player in NFL history with a punt and kick-off returned for a touchdown in a the same post-season game. With the Seahawks offense still struggling at times, Holliday figures to be a key man.
Affording similar consideration to Seattle’s roster now, we’ll begin with Russell Wilson who needs to be able to keep the Seahawks offense rolling in an effort to ensure Denver and their record-breaking offense remain on the sidelines.
Russell Wilson, QB – A third-round pick, Wilson arrived in Seattle and immediately established himself as their first choice quarterback before going on to become the 2012 Rookie of the Year. A dangerous pocket-passer, Wilson is elusive with his feet and equally as dangerous throwing on the run. Holding the NFL record for the most quarterback wins (24) in his first two years in the league, Wilson will need to play well to ensure his offense doesn’t lean too heavily on their ‘do-it-all back’ Marshawn Lynch.
Doug Baldwin, WR – a talented receiver who went undrafted prior to signing with the Seahawks, Baldwin has emerged as one of Wilson’s favourite targets. Unlikely to speed past opposition defenders, the former Stanford man has been a reliable constant since arriving at CenturyLink Field, becoming the first undrafted rookie to lead his team in receptions and receiving yards since the AFL-NFL Merger when he led the team 778 yards in 2011 - expect Wilson to look for him in key situations.
Bobby Wagner, ILB – Not exactly unheralded, but widely over-looked, Wagner is an extremely versatile linebacker and will remain on the field regardless of the situation. Capable in coverage and strong against the run, Wagner has racked up 259 tackles in his two seasons in the league so far. Head coach Pete Carroll never misses an opportunity praise his toughness and versatility, which is just as well seeing as he’ll need to display both on Sunday.
Kam Chancellor, S – A rangy and athletic safety, Chancellor is the perfect foil for Earl Thomas, his partner in the Seahawks secondary. Capable of playing as an extra man in the box, Chancellor’s aggressive nature and big hits are his trademark. Could, potentially, be responsible for covering Julius Thomas but will also play the run. Responsible for 278 tackles in the past three years, expect him to be all over the field.
Percy Harvin, WR/KR – Acquired in an off-season trade with the Minnesota Vikings, Harvin has rarely seen the field in his first season in Seattle but, as his 2009 Rookie of The Year award suggests, he is dangerous whenever the ball is in his hands. Holding the record for the longest non-scoring play in NFL history (his 104 yard return against Atlanta in 2011) Harvin missed nearly all of the season with a hip injury before returning to action against New Orleans at the start of their play-off run. Suffering a concussion early in that match, Harvin has only just been cleared to play on Sunday.