A Look at the Best Players Playing in the 2013 NFL Championship Games

By Craig Ballard
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE


The 2013 NFL Playoffs conference finals are upon us, and as the Rant Sports Playoffs Insider I have detailed game previews (plus other playoff articles) RIGHT HERE. I thought we could have some fun and take a look at the Who’s Who of Sunday’s games as I take one player for every position that I think is the best at that spot for one reason or another.

The quarterback race was very tight as Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons) put together a season that rivaled the one that Tom Brady (New England Patriots) authored, but I took Brady as the top dog in this position. Ryan is slightly ahead of Brady in some categories, Brady slightly ahead of Ryan in others, but ultimately the production was slightly better for Tom Terrific. Of late Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens) is the hottest quarterback for throwing the ball, and Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers)is the best with running the ball, but overall I think Brady is the top signal caller playing this weekend.

The running back position was also very tight. Stevan Ridley had the best stats, and Frank Gore is annually a beast, but I went with Ray Rice as he is as good as those other two plus he is the hottest running back playing this weekend. In his last month or so Rice has had the most production despite Bernard Pierce coming on for the Ravens and I will go with Rice as the top running back.

The fullback spot required very little analysis as Vonta Leach (Ravens) is the best in the business.

Michael Crabtree of the Niners is in potentially hot water with the law (sexual assault allegation…innocent until proven guilty) but the due process will take some time so we will surely see Crabtree play on Sunday which means he qualifies for this list. His production has increased annually, and this season he had career-highs all across the board. Since Kaepernick took over at quarterback for San Fran his BFF has been Crabtree. My other wide receiver choice will be Anquan Boldin from the Ravens. Boldin had his best season as a Raven, and in the playoffs he has really come through for the Ravens offense. Crabtree and Boldin got my votes here, but I surely concede that guys like Torrey Smith, Roddy White, and Julio Jones are awesome but for one reason or another I went with Crabtree and Boldin.

Even if Rob Gronkowski was playing this weekend I still would take Tony Gonzalez as the top tight end playing on Sunday. I am enamoured with this stat – If you add up every NFL tight end’s season stats when they played as a 36 year old you would total 557 yards, but as a 36 year old this season T-Gon went for 930. Wow. This guy is doing things at the position that are unprecedented for his age and it impresses me. I am a fan of this guy!

Left tackle is 49er Joe Staley who did allow his share of sacks, but he is awesome. At left guard I will take Baltimore’s Marshal Yanda who had a massive season for the Ravens (zero sacks allowed by Yanda). Patriots center Ryan Wendell earned a starting spot this season, and I was impressed with his ability to help keep Tom Terrific upright all season. 49er Alex Boone gets my pick at right guard because he is good as a run blocker, and great as a pass blocker. In Hotlanta Tyson Clabo is really good and he is my pick at right tackle as he allowed just five sacks all season (he is a good run blocker too).

On defense I will go with somewhat of a 3-4 with John Abraham (Atlanta), Vince Wilfork (Pats), and Haloti Ngata (Ravens) on the defensive line plus a linebacker crew of 49ers Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis to go with Jerod Mayo (Pats) and Paul Kruger (Ravens). Smith and Kruger are animals as pass rushers, while Mayo and Willis can also apply pressure and are great vs the run.

My cornerbacks that I will pick as the best guys playing on Sunday are Tarell Brown (49ers) and Asante Samuel (Falcons). Brown is a great cover guy who does not take a ton of chances, while Samuel is a poor tackler who does take chances. The thing with Samuel is I like his aggressive style and when he takes chances he does get them to pay off more than he gets burned (opposing quarterbacks have a rating of just 60.3 when they throw at Samuel which makes him one of the best in the NFL)

I love the versatility of Devin McCourty so he will be a safety for me, and the other safety will be Dashon Goldson. These two players are very good at assisting teammates with coverage on opposing stud wide receivers and I value both of these players.

Thank you for checking out my work, and enjoy the games! (link on top of article will take you to all of my NFL articles if you are interested… craigballard77@myself.com

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