Time To Shine

By Zack Cimini

For whatever reason once the playoffs come it brings an excitement that is felt nationwide to avid sports fans. That extra adrenaline carries over to the players, and turns in some of the best performances of the entire season let alone playoffs. In so many past years we?ve seen players turn it up a notch, and carry their team on their back. Sometimes the athletes aren?t even a murmur of life that breakout on the radar in the playoffs. It?s happened every year, and some athletes that jump out are Zack Crockett (Chargers), and Lamar Smith?s incredible playoff record with 240 yards.

Maybe an athlete waits to turn it on until the playoffs, because it certainly seems like certain athletes choose when they want to step it up. How can an athlete all of the sudden go on a two to three week dominate run suddenly? You?d hope that?s not the case, but this year in the playoffs it is going to take that special athlete to carry his team. With all the talented teams in the playoffs, there will be a definite reshuffling of any individual?s playoff pool bracket. It?s amazing how 12 NFL teams can cause more confusion than 64 team?s in college basketball?s March Madness.

Here is a breakdown of the top five individual player?s that their respective team?s will be counting on (Manning, Brady, etc are obvious).

1. Randy Moss
The importance of Moss is the undeniable heart of the Vikings. Just take a look at how Culpepper tried to adjust without him for the stretch when Moss?s hamstring was hurt. The Vikings may have snuck into the playoffs with an embarrassing 8-8 record, but their record is misleading. They lost five games by four points or less, and two of them were against Green Bay. Moss?s integrity has been questioned often in his career, and it arose again this week when he walked off the field before the game was over. Moss just has a hard drive for winning games, and wants to do it. Lets not forget Moss was apart of the Vikings team that fell apart in the NFC championship game against Atlanta in 1998. Moss has been exposed to coming close, but that was seven years ago. This is a guy that?s hiding his anger extremely well, and lets it boil over on the field.

2. Donovan McNabb
McNabb is use to taking the weight on his shoulders, but this year it is more evident than ever. In the past he was able to do it with a weak supporting cast, but it was the same cast he dealt with from week one and beyond. Now without Terrell Owens, McNabb is being hounded daily with questions on how the Eagles are going to do it. With that fact being pounded in his head daily, and the Eagles getting rest it doesn?t bode well for McNabb. He may act in a professional manner in front of a camera, but behind it he knows that he is in an inopportune situation. The Eagles defense is solid, but it may not be strong enough to hold some of the NFC?s potent offenses.

3. Steelers Running Game
Throughout the entire season the talk has been about ?Big Ben?, but it has been the Steelers running game that has been the catalyst to this team. If Jerome Bettis or Duce Staley falter in the playoffs, than the Steelers are in trouble. To have to rely on Roeslinberger?s arm is a risk that Bill Cowher doesn?t want to take. Sure he has plenty of talented receivers, but you can bet defenses will throw different schemes to confuse him. The Steelers are 15-1 for a reason, but don?t be shocked if they are upset by the Colts in round two.

4. Ladainian Tomlinson
Drew Brees development has been 60-65 percent because of Tomlinson. When you have a running back that commands so much attention it?s only going to add confidence to your quarterback. The extra thoughts that are in the back of your head go away, because you always have that safety outlet in your star running back. The Chargers defense is improved especially on the defensive line, but if the Chargers are going to make noise they?ll need high offensive production. Every week Brees, Tomlinson, and Antonio Gates will need to have great outings. It starts off early for Tomlinson as he will be tested this week against the Jets solid defense. The Chargers built their franchise around Tomlinson five years ago, and it all comes full circle in the five year plan of where a franchise intends to be .

5. Mike Vick
Maybe the Falcons should have waited until the off season to offer Vick the biggest contract ever for a quarterback. On the flip side the Falcons may see it as an extra target for Vick?s attention to focus on. The pressure for Vick is old for him, as he has been facing it since his days at Virginia Tech. He shocked people a few seasons ago by defeating Green Bay at Lambeau Field, and that was suppose to carry over last year. Instead he was hurt, and that quickly faded off to be this season?s task. This Falcons team for the most part has the same players, and is ready to take on any opponent. Still Vick will need to showcase his arm more if the Falcons want to represent the NFC. If he can do that, the Falcons could have a great shot at winning the Super Bowl.


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