This New England Patriots team has been a real pleasure to watch this season. After so many years of the Patriots being the prohibitive favorites, they have outperformed all expectations to find themselves facing the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. The thing that has made them so fun to watch is that every week, a different unsung hero steps up his game and leads the team to victory.
In the Patriots’ first playoff win against the Indianapolis Colts, the surprise player was rookie linebacker Jamie Collins. Some may try to tell you that the surprise player was running back LeGarrette Blount, but that isn’t really the case. We all knew that Blount had that kind of game in him, but we didn’t know if Collins did.
Up to this point in the season, Collins had been kind of a mystery. He was almost non-existent in the early part of the season, but had been playing better of late as injuries to the linebacking corps gave him a chance. The Patriots would love to get another dominant performance from him against the Broncos.
But as it has been all season, there will likely be a surprise contributor who makes a big difference in the game. And as it was with Collins, chances are that player will come from the defensive side. My guess would be someone in the defensive backfield.
Rookie Logan Ryan could find a couple of Peyton Manning’s passes. He has shown a knack for the interception this season. If he can get his hands on one and maybe even take it back for a score, it would be a game-changing kind of play. If you’re looking for a deep, deep sleeper for the breakout performer, linebacker Dane Fletcher could be forced into action with all the injuries at the inside linebacker spot.
The Patriots are going to have their hands full against the Broncos this weekend, but if this year has taught me anything, it’s that they will get major contributions from someone unexpected.