By: Lucas Kochevar
The Most Important Player In Every Game
It's officially the playoffs and this is where the legends are born. Every game will have a superstar that will play a big role, but sometimes it won't be the biggest name that has the biggest impact. In this LK League Notes, I'll be highlighting who I think will be the most important player in each game.
San Francisco 49ers vs Seattle Seahawks: DE Nick Bosa
The first game of Wild Card Saturday features a divisional matchup between two teams that have flipped positions during the season. The Seahawks led by Geno Smith started off on fire, but have cooled off considerably and the 49ers navigated a strange quarterback situation to winning ten straight games, five of those with seventh round rookie Brock Purdy. The world is waiting for Brock Purdy to come back down to Earth and he could be a big player in this game. Seahawks rookie Kenneth Walker III adds an element to the Seahawks offense that makes them threatening through the air and on the ground. For this game, I'm looking to the defensive side of the ball with DPOY favorite Nick Bosa. He is a game wrecker and I think he will derail this game for the Seahawks. The passing attack has been consistent for Seattle and the 49ers pass rush will need to get home to take pressure off the secondary and Bosa has to lead the charge. The Seahawks rookie tackles will have their hands full on Saturday.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Los Angeles Chargers: TE Gerald Everett
This game is my favorite one for the entire weekend. I think this is one of those games that we could see for years to come with these two young quarterbacks at the helm. The Jaguars have been playing playoff football for weeks now as they've been on the verge of being eliminated. The Chargers have, once again, endured an injury-riddled season, but they have made it to the playoffs for the first time under Justin Herbert. Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley had an indefensible decision in letting his starters play last Sunday as they were already locked in at the five seed. When he did this, stud wide receiver Mike Williams came down with a back injury and is status is up in the air. With the uncertainty of Williams, I think Everett will play a massive role in the passing game for LA. He's had great moments and bad moments this season and I think his athleticism at tight end will make him a vertical threat that they'll need if Williams can't go. His involvement will be big. Evan Engram for the Jaguars will also play a big role as the safety valve for Trevor Lawrence.
Buffalo Bills vs Miami Dolphins: CB Tre'Davious White
This should be a thumping. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is out with a concussion and the Bills are absolutely rolling, even after an emotional week with Damar Hamlin. I can't imagine a scenario where Skylar Thompson, Dolphins rookie quarterback, goes on the road and upsets this Bills team. With all that being said, he's going to be in a spot where he will have fantastic weapons with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle on the outside. The Bills defense sole focus has to be on both of those guys and that's where I think Tre'Davious White comes into play. Prior to his ACL injury, I thought he was a top five corner in man coverage. Coming back from the injury has yielded mixed results, as it should after a season off. Now is the time to come back and reset mentally for this stretch run. If White can survive this first test, then I think the Bills will be set up well for the rest of the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings vs New York Giants: QB Daniel Jones
The Vikings and Giants had a thrilling game a couple weeks ago with the Vikings winning on a game-winning field goal. Now, the G-Men get a chance to right their wrongs and try to upset the Vikings, who only play in close games. The Vikings have a number of impact guys on their team, but I think the quarterback for the Giants will be the most important guy. Daniel Jones has had one of the more interesting seasons that I can remember. He's in a contract year and I think he's played as a guy right near the top half of the league. He's limited his turnovers and has made plays with his legs, as well as his arm. Head Coach Brian Daboll has done a masterful job of making Jones into a winning quarterback and it'll be interesting to see how he game plans with the rise in stakes. For reference, Jones was 30-42 for 334 yards, one touchdown and one interception vs the Vikings a couple weeks ago. I think Sunday will be a big game for Jones and his entire future in the NFL.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Baltimore Ravens: FS Jessie Bates III
Our third inter-divisional matchup comes from the AFC North with a game between the Bengals and Ravens. This game went from exciting to a little lackluster with the announcement of Lamar Jackson being out with his sprained PCL. With Tyler Huntly or Anthony Brown at QB, I don't give the Ravens much of a chance in this game, however, the Bengals didn't blow them out on Sunday so you never know. The Bengals have a tendency to let bad teams stay in games, but they've been one of those squads that have been clicking for a couple weeks now. I think what makes the Bengals so threatening isn't just Joe Burrow, its defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. Their defense has been a very strong unit, dating back to last year. They have a number of very quality guys, but the one that stands out to me is safety Jessie Bates III. I think he's one of the most underrated guys in the league and one of the best at his position. His last playoff run was an unbelievable stretch including the big pass break-up and I think he'll need another run for the Bengals.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Dallas Cowboys: RB Rachaad White
The last game of the weekend on Monday night is a matchup between the biggest brand in football and the biggest figure in football. Tom Brady looks to keep the Bucs season moving along as Dak Prescott looks to get out of this funk he's in. The Bucs have struggled all year to look like a cohesive unit on offense and the defense has been fighting to keep them in games. The Cowboys have faltered lately with Prescott making dumb rookie-level mistakes. The bigger matchup I believe is between the Dallas defense and Buccaneer offense with White being a crucial figure in that attack. He's slowly starting to take over snaps for Leonard Fournette and I think he's been the better overall option, despite Fournette's consistent production in fantasy. I think if the Bucs get a big, breakout game from White they'll be in position to win this game. I also think he'll play a big role in pass protection against star edge-rusher Micah Parsons.
LK's Lock of the Week: Jacksonville Jaguars +2.5 vs Los Angeles Chargers
Taking the Jacksonville Jaguars in a bet seemed like a death sentence a couple months ago. Now, the AFC South champions look to pull of the upset as 2.5-pt underdogs at home. You might be looking at this bet like "How can you bet against Justin Herbert in a playoff game?" and I'm not, I'm betting against the Chargers. I think the Chargers get a pass for being one of the most incompetent organizations because they have awesome uniforms. It feels like every year the media falls in love with the Chargers and picks them as a dark horse, but they always end up showing their true colors and lose games in heart-breaking fashion. I'm not falling for it now. Not to mention, the Jaguars blew out these Chargers early in the year. I love the Jags getting points in this game and I think Duval will be rocking. The crowd got behind them last week and I think they'll be just as represented this week.