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20 Players To Watch During NFL Divisional Playoffs Weekend

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20 Players To Watch During NFL Divisional Playoffs Weekend

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NFL playoffs are ready to kick off the second round this weekend as only eight teams remain in what has already been quite the wild ride. Wild Card weekend saw four incredible performances with three of the four games being decided by three points or less. One can only hope that the Divisional round of the playoffs will be just as exciting.

Obviously, the fans can’t wait for Saturday to come. My favorite team was eliminated last weekend and I still can’t wait to watch some football for two days in a row. That’s what makes the NFL playoffs so great. The fact that every contest is a single-elimination means that every player on the field is going to leave it all on the line. Even though the fans are ecstatic, it doesn’t even compare to what the players are feeling. Cornerback Richard Sherman can probably describe it best.

“Alright 12s, this is what we’ve been waiting for all year. We are in a position to achieve something special here in Seattle and it all starts tomorrow … Although the Playoffs present a bigger stage than the regular season, we are not treating it any different because we have always maintained a 1-0 mentality. This is going to be a dogfight that we are ready to welcome into Seattle,” Sherman wrote on his blog on his official website.

Make sure to click through the slideshow to see 20 players to watch during NFL Divisional weekend. Also, don’t forget to comment below on which players you are expected to see make an impact in the second weekend of the playoffs.

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20. Trent Richardson

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No, that’s not a typo. Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson is the first player on the list to watch this weekend. Even though Richardson only had one carry and one fumble last weekend, he’s a man the Colts aren’t going to give up on easy. Richardson has his back against the wall, which means he could just have his best game of the season against a horrendous New England Patriots rush defense.

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19. Cameron Jordan

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There will be plenty of defense in the showdown between the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks on Saturday. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson will be the main feature, but don’t be surprised if Cameron Jordan steals the show. Jordan recorded four tackles and 1.5 sacks during the Wild Card win.

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18. Percy Harvin

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Percy Harvin went from a player in doubt to a game-changer in less than a week. Look for the Seahawks to feature Harvin early and often to get him back in a groove where he can take over late in the game. The Saints will be ready for him. However, there’s no question his addition could prove to be bothersome.

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17. Greg Hardy

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If the Carolina Panthers want to slow down the San Francisco 49ers, they will have to get after Colin Kaepernick. Greg Hardy ranked third in the NFL in sacks (15) in 2013. With a NFC Championship berth on the line, except for the pass rusher to have his best game of the season.

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16. NaVorro Bowman

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NaVorro Bowman has been unbelievable this season. In fact, the 49ers couldn’t ask of much more from the linebacker. The fact that he recorded 10 tackles in the freezing cold against the Green Bay Packers last weekend means he shouldn’t have a problem heating up in Carolina on Sunday.

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15. Ronnie Brown

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

I had a friend not too long ago who was shocked to find out that Ronnie Brown was still in the league. It’s understandable why considering the running back hasn’t been much of a factor during the regular season. Brown had a big game (eight carries for 77 yards) last weekend, which means it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise if he put up another top-notch performance. Even though the Denver Broncos have been good at stopping the run this season, it’s always the players that people least expect who shine in the playoffs.

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14. Steve Smith

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Smith has been talking the talk this week in preparation to take on the 49ers. As of right now, Smith will be questionable for the contest, but I seriously doubt he wouldn’t be able to suit up. Smith is a game-changer, one that San Francisco really has to be worried about. I believe the contest could definitely come down to him, which means he’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.

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13. T.Y. Hilton

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I predicted that T.Y. Hilton would have a big game in the first round of the playoffs and the man didn’t disappoint. Hilton has that look of a player who is ready to make his mark on the NFL in the playoffs, which means the Patriots could be in big trouble. New England has struggled against the pass this season so expect another big day from Hilton.

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12. Mark Ingram

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It’s taken awhile for Mark Ingram to prove his worth to the Saints. The good news is it couldn’t come at a better time. Ingram was huge in New Orleans’ Wild Card win as he rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries. There’s no question he will need every single one of the yards and more if the Saints want to take care of business against the Seahawks.

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11. Robert Mathis

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Mathis is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Even though he only recorded two tackles in the contest last weekend, he did manage to get a sack as well. With 19.5 sacks during the regular season, the Colts will expect a big game from their best defensive playmaker.

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10. Jimmy Graham

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Jimmy Graham is the best tight end in the game. The numbers he puts up are flat out ridiculous. Graham caught just three passes for 44 yards last weekend and was held without a touchdown. There’s no way that can happen two weeks in a row if the Saints want to clinch a spot in the NFC title game. I fully expect Graham to be the biggest difference maker in the showdown on Saturday.

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9. Richard Sherman

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of difference makers in the Saints-Seahawks contest, Richard Sherman will definitely be someone to keep your eyes on. Not only does Sherman run his mouth but he backs up the talk with his play on the field. Eight interceptions is certainly no joke, which means Brees must keep an eye out at all times. If Seattle wins it will be because Sherman played a big role.

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8. Colin Kaepernick

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Now here comes the run of the eight quarterbacks who will be appearing in the four games this weekend. The first is Kaepernick, who has proven he has the necessary experience, leadership skills and raw talent to take the 49ers the distance. It won’t be easy on Sunday, but there’s no doubt Kaepernick will have to have a solid performance in order for San Francisco to win.

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7. Cam Newton

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All eyes will be on Cam Newton as the Panthers faithful will be interested to see if their favorite player will be able to deliver. Obviously, Carolina clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2008 is a huge deal. With that being said, the Panthers don’t want to be one and one. A large part of that will fall on Newton’s shoulders to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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6. Tom Brady

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Mr. Postseason himself will be looking to reach the Super Bowl once again. However, in order to do that he will have to get past Andrew Luck, which wasn’t an issue when the two teams faced off last season. Tom Brady may have one of the worst supporting casts around him in recent memory, but only a few would rule him out in the playoffs.

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5. Philip Rivers

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Philip Rivers proved last weekend that the San Diego Chargers are not a team to mess with. In fact, don’t be surprised if the pull off the upset against the Broncos. I know it’s crazy to think that Peyton Manning and the high-flying Denver offense will be eliminated in their game. However, stranger things have happened in the NFL postseason.

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4. Andrew Luck

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Luck will need some more magic if he wants to lead the Colts past the Patriots. However, after last weekend, I believe it’s New England that should truly be worried. If anything else, the Patriots must never take their foot off the gas if they do get ahead because clearly no lead is safe with Luck under center.

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3. Drew Brees

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The Saints may be the sixth seed in the NFC but that doesn’t mean anything anymore, especially with Brees being the captain of the ship. Seattle may have the top defense in the league, but New Orleans has an offense loaded with firepower. It will be a showdown no one will want to miss.

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2. Russell Wilson

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Wilson gets to play his idol again. After the thrashing in Week 15, it will be interesting if Wilson can lead the Seahawks to a similar victory. The game will be close, there’s no question about that. However, it will be up to Wilson and his superior ability to play the quarterback position to lead the Seahawks to victory. The best young signal caller in the league is ready to make a permanent name for himself.

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1. Peyton Manning

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Of course, the No. 1 person everyone must watch this weekend is Manning. The soon-to-be crowned MVP put up incredible numbers in 2013. At this point, it will simply be interesting to see what he does in the postseason, assuming he can lead the Broncos past the Chargers in the first round.