Key players who could be game-changers
As the final four teams prepare for the NFC and AFC Conference Games this Sunday, we would like to point out some key players who could be game-changers.
This would include guys outside of the typical studs such as Kansas City Chiefs Tyreek Hill, or New Orleans Saints Michael Thomas. Digging a little deeper, there surely could be some players used in trick or situational plays who stand to make a big impact.
Whether this comes by way a huge special teams play, or a fancy formation shift, the following NFL players could become team heroes on Sunday.
Taysom Hill, quarterback, New Orleans Saints
We will kick this off with the Saints’ jack of all trades. Hill has been used on all kinds of fun plays on the team’s offense and on special teams. It was just a week ago in his divisional-round game that Hill hit up Alvin Kamara on a huge touchdown pass, only to have it recalled due to an offensive lineman penalty. His fake-punt conversion sparked the win, too. Hill is not done pulling trick rabbits out of his hat, either. One major play by Hill that helps the Saints advance to the Super Bowl would label him a hero in our book.
Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Kansas City Chiefs
While the Patriots are trying to figure out a way to slow down Tyreek Hill, it may just be Watkins who creates a game-changing moment. When on the field this season, Watkins averaged a career-high 72.7 percent catch rate. And, he last caught 6-of-8 of his passes against the Colts in the divisional round. As for speed, Watkins is no slouch in that department. He has averaged a career 15.4 yards per catch. If the Patriots focus their best resources on covering Hill, this will create more opportunity for Watkins to dazzle.
Tyler Higbee, tight end, Los Angeles Rams
Higbee could be that ace in the hole who makes a big impact against the Saints. The last time Higbee faced New Orleans, he turned two catches into an impressive 40 yards. And, we know that the Saints defense is prone to give up big plays through the air. It gave up 12 yards per catch on average in 2018 which marked the fourth-most in the NFL. Clearly, the stage is set for Higbee to impress with a huge play that will earn him more recognition moving forward.
Rex Burkhead, running back, New England Patriots
The Patriots never fail to befuddle when it comes to utilizing their running back committee. Just ask those who owned Pats running backs in fantasy football who got burned when guys like Burkhead stole away key touches. This might be the plan during the chilly temperatures at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. Burkhead is strong goal-line back and it would make sense with everything on the line to him involved in red zone plays. One bulldozing score by Burkhead could be a game-clincher.
Tre’Quan Smith, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints
If for some reason the Rams are able to stop Michael Thomas in his tracks, Smith could be the guy Drew Brees turns to. After all, it was Smith who made the incredible touchdown catch that helped Brees become the all-time passing leader back in Week 11. That game saw Smith make some magical plays when he turned 10 receptions into 157 yards and one touchdown. Smith has displayed some massive potential in his rookie year and averaged an impressive 15.3 yards per catch in 2018.
Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver, New England Patriots
In keeping with the topic of impact, Patterson is one fast dude. The Patriots have used Patterson in many ways on the field. He is on record with a 95-yard kick return touchdown as well as four other combined scores. Plus, Patterson averaged 5.4 yards per tote on the ground. The Patriots will need to pull out all of the stops to not let this game slip away on the road. Perhaps by way of kick return or on a sneak offensive play, Patterson saves the day.
Ben Watson, tight end, New Orleans Saints
Wouldn’t it be sweet seeing Watson catch one final touchdown from Brees before he sails off into retirement? Watson is on record for 12 career touchdowns and 1,587 receiving yards in his tenure with New Orleans. Since Brees loves to spread the wealth, Watson could end up being one of his key targets. Watson caught three balls for a total of 62 yards and one touchdown when he played against the Rams in Week 9. A similar repeat performance stands to be a difference maker.
Damien Williams, running back, Kansas City Chiefs
Williams has done a more than an adequate job since assuming the lead back duties in Week 15. In his four games leading up to this matchup against the Patriots, Williams has recorded a total of 476 yards and five touchdowns. For this, Williams deserves more kudos. Williams should be a crucial playmaker and he stands to make some significant gains against a Patriots defense that gave up 4.9 yards per carry in 2018. One of Williams’ big runs might just help send the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.