Come playoff time, all 53 players on every roster are going to be important and play some role. However, not all players are of equal importance. Some guys are going to do minor things to help a team win, while others are going to play major roles.
After a quick glance on the AFC side of the bracket, here are four guys that will play the biggest roles in their teams' success in the NFC Divisional Round.
Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott
The best remedy to limit Aaron Rodgers and the high-octane Green Bay offense is to keep them off the field. In similar fashion to what Dallas did in the regular season against the Packers, the wise strategy is to feed Zeke. Against a hot Packers team, Dallas will need to be hitting on all cylinders—especially in the running game. In seven games when Elliott has surpassed 100 yards, the Cowboys are 6-1. If he surpasses the century mark Sunday, it increases the Cowboys chances to make their first NFC title game since 1996.
Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman
The Falcons made the mistake in only giving Freeman 12 carries in their regular season contest against Seattle. In the playoffs, they can’t do that for a second time. Here’s why: a strong running game will allow Matt Ryan to use the play-action passing game. In addition to assisting the aerial attack, Freeman’s punishing style will wear down the Seahawks front seven. Despite boasting a top ten rush defense, Seattle is prone to give up big plays on the ground. If Kyle Shanahan commits to the ground game, it will permit Freeman to get in rhythm. If that's the case, it could bode well for the “Dirty Birds.”
Green Bay Packers DE Mike Daniels
The Packers defensive front will have their hands full going against the best offensive line and arguably the best running back in the league. It’s no secret that Dallas plays physical, and Daniels will have to play huge in an attempt to contain one of the league’s best rushing teams. As an illustration of Green Bay’s recent defensive surge, Green Bay hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher during their seven-game winning streak. While it’s obvious that Green Bay hasn't faced a running game that can rival the Cowboys, it’s an admirable feat. We’ve witnessed defensive linemen play unsung roles in the playoffs, so who’s to say that Daniels replicate the same success?
Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman
The chief of the “Legion of Boom” will be relied on against the pass-happy Falcons. Sherman will have to try to contain the electric Julio Jones. The two squared off in the regular season, and Jones won the head-to-head matchup, accumulating 139 receiving yards and a touchdown. Although Jones won the battle, Sherman won the war as the Seahawks walked away with a controversial victory. All things considered, Sherman can’t allow Julio to own the secondary again. In order for Seattle to make their third NFC Championship game in four years, they have to keep Jones under wraps.