This year in the CHEAP SEATS we I will be providing a number of countdowns of various subjects from the current, past and future of sports in the form of top 10 lists. Criteria will be listed, and debated I’m sure. This is the first entry in this new series.
The NFL Playoffs are on deck for the weekend, and as usual virtually every team has a chance to make some noise. However, for some of these clubs certain players will mean more to their success than others. Even teams that are on the bye this weekend will need to have particular guys come through, or they are just eligible for a “one and done” as any other club. Now it doesn’t take a genius to know that Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Ed Reed will have to play well for their teams to succeed, so they won’t be listed here. However, there are some players, a mixture of stars and role players, that have to show up more than any other to ensure they don’t have a quick stop in the Playoffs. Those are the guys were talking here.
****TOP 10 “MUST SHOWS”****
10. DeSean Jackson-Eagles: The game’s most exciting receiver, and threat to score from literally anywhere, in any way, every time he touches the ball. His big play habit alone is enough to win a game or two for Philly, where one touchdown in his style can make a big momentum swing in the Eagles’ favor.
9. Blair White-Colts: Indy is scraping the barrel of their offensive roster due to a plethora of injuries, but White has stepped up and been a big find. He must be a steady and effective option, in the mold of Austin Collie, to give Peyton both another option and to pull defenses away from the now swarmed Reggie Wayne.
8. Antonio Cromartie-Jets: All season, teams have targeted him as opposed to his All-World teammate at corner on the other side of the field, with varying success. Now is the time for Cromartie to deliver on the All-Pro reputation he brought to New York with him. If he makes a few QBs regret looking his way it could be all the difference between a short or long playoff stay for the J-E-T-S’.
7. BenJarvus Green-Ellis-Patriots: For years the Pats have used what seems like 20 running backs in rotation, per game. Green-Ellis ended any need for that this year, in route to becoming the first 1,000 yard rusher in New England since 2004. The running game is everything in the playoffs, and is crucial to keeping defenses honest to set up Brady taking advantage of them down field for the big play.
6. Dwayne Bowe-Chiefs: He has as much big play talent as any receiver in the league, but his chronically bad timed drops keep him from maximizing his potential consistently. There are some tough run defenses in between a possible KC run (literally) to the top of the AFC, so they will need Bowe ready to carry the weight of the offense. In order to do this he has to leave his iron hands at home.
5. Jay Cutler-Bears: He’s a huge wild card, as big of a question mark of any quarterback still playing at this point. If he doesn’t get into sync he could just as easily lose the game through erratic passes, as he could win it for the Bears. He MUST stay within himself and not try to win the game with every toss.
4. Reggie Bush-Saints: The running back spot seems to be cursed in the Bayou this year. First starting RB Pierre Thomas went down, now Christopher Ivory is on crutches. Bush’s role as a pure backfield runner, and his effectiveness in it, will be a huge factor in Saints attempt to add to their first Super Bowl title. If he can provide balance and pick up consistent yards, it will mean the world to the depleted Saints running game, as I doubt Julius Jones is the answer.
3. Troy Polamalu-Steelers: It obvious that he is a game changer, but its his health that is the biggest factor here. His presence changes EVERYTHING about the entire game plan for both the Steelers and their opponent. With a first round bye, he may be more rested and healthier than he has been in weeks, and when he is at full strength, no defensive player in the league has a bigger impact on their team’s fortunes than Polamalu.
2. Mark Sanchez-Jets: He had another rollercoaster year that didn’t exactly inspire unshakable confidence in his ability to lead this club. Even his Head Coach, Rex Ryan, doesn’t have absolute faith what he will be week t0 week. The bottom line is that a quarterback in control of his team is most valuable at this point, and the Jets can’t advance far if they have to protect their game planning against their own QB. He has to make it happen so they can play loose and with a real winner’s confidence.
1. Michael Vick-Eagles: With great power comes great responsibily…and controversy apparently. After an amazingly productive season, featuring a few classic performances & landing him at the heart of the MVP race for most of the year, he’s being questioned once again. Even his status as #1 QB on his club for the playoffs is being debated somehow. I don’t understand this, because no player has been a bigger boost to his team’s level of play than Vick this year. He’s the league’s most dangerous weapon again, and no player’s performance over the next month will have a bigger impact on how far his club goes.