Chris Wesseling spotlights NFL players to watch during wild-card weekend
Reggie Bush, Saints running back
Though Bush has averaged a pedestrian 4.0 yards per carry and 7.3 yards per reception in 60 career regular-season games, those numbers skyrocket to 5.70 and 12.45 in Bush's five career playoff appearances. With lead backs Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas both lost for the playoffs, Bush will have to maintain that effectiveness while shouldering a greater share of the load.
Jamar Chaney, Eagles linebacker
Stewart Bradley won't return for this week's game, which leaves the seventh-round rookie as the Eagles' starting middle linebacker. A tackling machine with sideline-to-sideline speed, Chaney has averaged 10 tackles per game since taking over for Bradley. He can turn the Packers offense one-dimensional by shutting down Brandon Jackson and company.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs running back
While Thomas Jones faded down the stretch to the tune of 1.9 yards per carry, Charles fell just shy of Hall of Famer Jim Brown's NFL record of 6.40 ypc set in 1963. Easily the most explosive running back in the playoff field, Charles will need to touch the ball at least 18-20 times if the Chiefs are going to knock off Baltimore.
Joe Flacco, Ravens quarterback
The good news is that Flacco is set to join Otto Graham, Dan Marino, Bernie Kosar, and Pat Hayden as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to start a playoff game in his first three seasons. The bad news is that Flacco has yet to reach the 200-yard mark in five postseason contests.
Pierre Garcon, Colts receiver
Stranded on Revis Island in last year's playoff game, Reggie Wayne was targeted on just five of Peyton Manning's 39 attempts. Garcon, meanwhile, torched the Jets secondary for 11 receptions and 151 yards. He'll square off against Antonio Cromartie, who is far more susceptible to being burned.
Shonn Greene, Jets running back
Greene exploded for two 100-yard games and 308 total yards in last year's playoff run. Coach Rex Ryan reiterated last week that the postseason is the perfect time to expand Greene's role while using him as a "battering ram" against a Colts defense that stiffened against the run over the final three games.
Tamba Hali, Chiefs linebacker
Arguably the NFL's biggest Pro Bowl snub, Hali led the AFC with 14.5 sacks while keying the most improved defense in football. Though the Ravens' run blocking has improved of late, Joe Flacco has been under heavy duress over the final month of the season. Hali could be the difference maker against a gimpy Michael Oher at left tackle.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles receiver
A big play waiting to happen, Jackson is just the second player in history to score a rushing, receiving and punt-return touchdown in each of his first three seasons. Held to just four catches for 30 yards in the Eagles' Week 1 loss to the Packers, Jackson will need to take the top off the defense if his team is going to win the rematch.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks running back
The Seahawks managed just two wins in their final seven games. It's no coincidence that Lynch was saddled up for 20 or more carries in both of those games. Seattle will try to jump out to an early lead against the Saints and then put the ball in Lynch's hands to play keep away from Drew Brees.
Erik Walden, Packers defensive end
Who? A former sixth-round pick by the Cowboys, Walden was a one-man wrecking crew with 11 tackles and two sacks in last week's win over the Bears. Walden is likely to draw the start of his career opposite Clay Matthews. Coordinator Dom Capers could end up using him as a spy on Michael Vick.